Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil

Take an aerial tour of two of the most popular cities in Brazil.

This story was created for the Google Expeditions project by ePublishing Partners and AirPano, now available on Google Arts & Culture

Christ The Redeemer (1931) by Heitor da Silva Costa e Paul LandowskiRio de Janeiro Department of Conservation

Rio de Janeiro is sometimes called the Marvelous City, and the name suits it very well. São Paulo doesn’t have Rio’s beaches and magnificent nature, but it has a very unique atmosphere, with interesting local color, distinctive neighborhoods, and a melting pot of cultures.

Rio de Janeiro

 With a total area of 1,260 square kilometers, Rio lies on the western shore of Guanabara Bay on Brazil’s Atlantic coast. Valleys, hills, mountains, and beaches create an unusual and often beautiful cityscape.


Every tourist wants a picture of Rio de Janeiro’s 396-meter-high mountain familiarly called Pão de Açúcar, meaning "sugar loaf." It truly resembles a traditionally shaped block of sugar. The mountain is located at the mouth of Botafogo Bay, and some of Rio de Janeiro’s famous beaches lie behind it, protected as if they were behind a stonewall.

President Costa e Silva Bridge

Record-setting locations in Rio de Janeiro include the President Costa e Silva Bridge, which connects Rio to the city of Niterói on the other side of Guanabara Bay. The bridge has a 72-meter-high passing point for ocean-going vessels. The span of 13.29 kilometers (8.25 miles), makes it the longest bridge in South America.

Rio de Janeiro – Cristo Redentor

Every great city has its iconic landmark. Paris has the Eiffel Tower, New York has the Statue of Liberty, Vienna has its famous Opera House, and London has Big Ben. Rio has a statue called Cristo Redentor—Christ the Redeemer. Atop the 700-meter high Mount Corcovado stands a giant figure of Christ, his arms outstretched above the city and the bay, as if he were blessing the land.

Mount Corcovado

Mount Corcovado and its neighbor Dona Marta Hill together comprise one of the biggest forests within a city’s boundaries in the world.  An electric train goes to the top of the mountain, and you can also drive up. Once you arrive at the summit, you must climb 220 steps to the foot of the monument.

Christ the Redeemer by NdphotoSanctuary of Christ the Redeemer

The statue

Nearly 2 million tourists visit Christ The Redeemer every year, and it was chosen as one of the 7 New Wonders of the World not long ago. The statue is 38 meters high (including an 8-meter-tall pedestal), with a 30-meter span across the outstretched arms and weighs 1,145 tons.

Rio de Janeiro – Copacabana and Ipanema

South of Botafogo Bay lies the bairro (neighborhood) of Copacabana. The hills rise up fairly close to the shore here, defining a 4 to 5 block wide strip of land between hills and sea that is densely packed with mid-rise hotels and apartment blocks.

The neighborhood is famous for its bars and clubs featuring live music, and locals will argue that the bossa nova was born here.

South of Copacabana is the neighborhood of Ipanema. You’ve probably heard someone singing about a girl from this neighborhood.  "Girl from Ipanema" was written in 1962 by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes. The 1964 recording by singer Astrud Gilberto and saxophonist Stan Getz made Ipanema famous around the world.

Copacabana Beach

At 4 kilometers (about 2.5 miles) long, Copacabana is Rio’s longest beach. It’s a favorite, not just of tourists, but also of Cariocas—residents of Rio—who think of it as the city beach, and it’s crowded most days of the year. For many years, the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup games have been played on this beach. It’s also the site of major New Year’s celebrations. 

The Promenade at Copacabana Beach

The mosaic promenade that runs along Copacabana Beach for almost its entire length was designed by Roberto Burle Marx and completed in 1970. It’s made of black and white stones set in a wave pattern to mirror the sea.

Ipanema Beach

The beach in Ipanema is Rio’s second longest sandy beach after Copacabana and just as popular with tourists. The beachfront here is known for its upscale hotels, clubs, and restaurants, and the yearly Carnival draws thousands of revelers.

The Lagoon

The Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon lies inland from Ipanema, defining part of the neighborhood’s northern border. It’s hemmed in by hills and parks to the east and west and overlooked from the north by Mount Corcovado and the Christ the Redeemer statue. The drive around the lagoon is 7.5 km (4.6 mi.).

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian (Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião) is one of the most interesting architectural landmarks of Rio de Janeiro. Built in 1979, the conical structure is often said to resemble a Mayan pyramid. Located in the Centro neighborhood west of the Rio de Janeiro Airport it faces Republic of Chile Avenue. St. Sebastien is the patron saint of Rio.

Stained-glass windows

The four stained glass windows are placed at the cardinal points and represent the 4 characteristics of the Catholic Church: unity in faith, holiness, catholicity (universality), and apostolicism (following the teaching of the apostles).

The Bell Tower

If you’re facing the cathedral from Republic of Chile Avenue, you can see the bell tower to the right of the portico, or main entrance. The bell tower was erected in 1985 in honor of Pope John Paul II. It was designed to hold 6 bells and is topped with a cross.

The Museum of Sacred Art of the Archdiocese of St. Sebastian

Beneath the cathedral is the Archdiocesan Museum of Sacred Art. The museum exhibits some of the more than 5,000 artifacts and works of art in its permanent collection, including paintings, sculptures, devotional objects, medals and decorations, and liturgical books.

São Paulo

São Paulo was the most populous city in Brazil and in South America in 2013. Here we explore key areas of this large sprawling city.

São Paulo, Brazil

A population of over 20 million people makes São Paulo the largest city in South America and one of the largest cities in the world. It is also one of the most multicultural cities in the world: home to more than 100 distinct ethnic groups. Each community has brought different elements to the appearance and traditions of the city.

São Paulo – Urban Density

In São Paulo, one finds tightly intertwined streets where cars have barely enough space to squeeze through, business districts made of glass and concrete, slum areas called favelas where dwellings have been erected in every possible space, and ultra-modern industrial complexes. 

One thing you won’t see in São Paulo is outdoor advertising. A law banning it was passed in 2006 and has been strictly enforced. There are no flickering screens, commercial banners, billboards or hoardings plastered with flyers. 


You might have noticed that the air over the city is hazy. São Paulo has a serious smog problem. The main culprit is emissions from the city’s approximately 6 million cars and light trucks. In recent years, the shift from use of petrol to ethanol has contributed to rising levels of ozone pollution.

São Paulo – Octavio Frias de Oliveira Bridge

São Paulo’s Octavio Frias de Oliveira Bridge, which crosses the Rio Pinheiros, opened in May, 2008, after 5 years of construction. It’s a true engineering wonder. A 138-meter-tall (453 feet), X-shaped mast is strung with cables that hold up two separate curved roadways that cross each other below.

São Paulo - The Bridge

At 290 meters (about 317 yards) long, the bridge is one of the longest curved cable-stayed bridges in the world. Not all of São Paulo’s citizens love the bridge. Rather than connecting two neighborhoods, the bridge connects two freeways. It lacks a pedestrian walkway and bicycle lanes.

São Paulo Se Metropolitan Cathedral

The São Paulo Se Metropolitan Cathedral is located right at the heart of the city on Praça da Sé (Cathedral Square). Designed by Maximilian Emil Hehl, the cathedral was inaugurated in 1954. Construction had begun 40 years earlier but had been stalled by 2 world wars. 

Italian Marble

It is a traditional Latin cross church with a 5-aisle nave and domed apse. The overall style is neo-gothic, but the dome is classical. To create the sculptures, mosaics, and some of the furnishings in the cathedral, 800 tons of rare marble were brought into Brazil from Italy. 

The cathedral stands on the site of a small church that that had been there for almost 300 years when it was torn down in 1910.

São Paulo – Ibirapuera Park

Ibirapuera Park was created in celebration of São Paulo’s 400th anniversary. Many well-known architects and designers worked to create the buildings and landscape features. The park covers an area of almost 1.6 square kilometers. Stroll through and enjoy the winding paths lined with benches, lakes with romantic bridges, fountains, picnic spots, and museums.

Obelisk of São Paulo

The Obelisk of São Paulo was erected in 1970 and symbolizes the Constitutionalist Revolution of 1932. This was a popular uprising against Getúlio Vargas, who had assumed the role of President of the state of São Paulo through a coup d’état 2 years earlier.

Lucas Nogueira Garcez Pavilion – Air Force and Folk Museums

The Lucas Nogueira Garcez Pavilion, also known as the Oca Pavilion, was designed by Oscar Niemeyer and completed in 1951. This building houses the Airforce Museum and the Folklore Museum.

Cicillo Matarazzo Pavilion

The Cicillo Matarazzo Pavilion is a large auditorium that hosts many events, including the yearly São Paulo Fashion Week and the São Paulo Art Biennial. The building was named after the Biennial’s founder, Francisco (Ciccillo) Matarazzo Sobrinho. It was also designed by Oscar Niemeyer.

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