We've partnered with the best tour guides in Brazil to bring you this awesome three hour walk in Rio's historic downtown and includes some of the best things to do in Rio de Janeiro, traveling through the city's 450 years of fascinating history.
Chart the city's course from colonial outpost to Imperial capital and from birthplace of the Republic to hub of modern South American culture. You’ll see why Rio de Janeiro, dubbed the “Marvelous City,” proves true to this title with its breathtaking natural setting, regal plazas, gilded churches and thriving cultural scene.
The Gilded Jungle
The starting point of your walk is Rio’s first convent and church of Santo Antonio, its sober exterior hiding a precious golden chapel on the inside. It is an excellent place to begin Rio’s story, first a quiet outpost of the Portuguese Empire, then a busy port for the Empire’s gold exportation.
Next you'll see Praça XV which houses the Imperial Palace, the former Cathedral and other notable colonial era buildings, thus marking another milestone for the city: the arrival of the Portuguese royal family fleeing the invasion of Napoleon in 1808, and the ensuing transformation of Rio into the Empire’s capital.
Grandeur of a New Republic
You will then walk through the narrow streets, lined with decorated late 19th century buildings, towards Confeitaria Colombo, Rio’s cafe for the elite, to discuss the social side of this growth and the country’s transformation into a Republic. Continuing this thread, you will find yourself in Cinelândia, or “Movie Land,” where you'll see the new Republic’s grandeur displayed in the National Library, the Municipal Theater, City Hall, and the Museum of Fine Arts.
This ushers in modern Rio, the introduction of Haussmann style large boulevards (for both urban and political motives), taking us to your last stop, the Cathedral of Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of Rio. Designed by Edgar Fonseca and completed in 1979, its massive brutalist structure resembling a Mayan temple bringing together both Brazil's history and modernity.
By the end of the walk your docent will have drawn a vivid portrait of Rio’s founding and connected it to the larger context of Brazil’s history as a whole. We will witness history unfolding as we view architecture from each important political, social and economic moment in Rio de Janeiro.