100 Riveting Facts About Rio de Janeiro

Interesting Rio de Janeiro facts

Discover fun and interesting facts about Rio de Janeiro in this article.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s trademark city, is known for Christ the Redeemer, Copacabana Beach, Carnival, and much more.

General Rio de Janeiro Facts

1. Rio de Janeiro is 2nd largest and arguably the most famous city in Brazil, but it is not the capital (that would be Brasília!)

2. However, Rio de Janeiro was the capital of Brazil for just under 200 years.

2. It is now the capital of Rio de Janeiro state, one of the 26 states of Brazil.

3. Rio de Janeiro is located on the southern half of the country’s Atlantic coast, about 350 km (217 mi) east of São Paulo, the country’s largest city.

4. The city lies mostly to the west of Guanabara Bay, the second largest bay in the country. The iconic Sugarloaf Mountain marks the entrance to the bay. The city also includes some 100  small islands, the largest being Governador Island.

5. Rio de Janeiro is at the same latitude as Alice Springs, Australia.

6. The Tropic of Capricorn passes just below the city.

7. Rio is antipodal to (on opposite sides of the world from) Guangzhou, China.

View from above of Christ the Redeemer statue and city far below
Christ de Redeemer looks over the city

8. With a population of 6.72 million, Rio de Janeiro is the 4th largest city in South America, after São Paulo, Lima (Peru), and Bogotá (Columbia).

9. The city’s metropolitan area has 13 million people, the 3rd largest in South America after São Paulo and Buenos Aires (Argentina).

10. Metropolitan Rio de Janeiro is similar in size to Metropolitan Los Angeles or Metropolitan Lahore (Pakistan).

11. Around 6% of Brazil’s population live in the Greater Rio de Janeiro Area.

12. Rio de Janeiro is the country’s most densely populated state (not counting the Federal District). It has 370 people per km2 (950 per mi2).

A very colorful painted staircase in Rio de Janeiro
Colorful steps in Rio

13. The highest temperature ever recorded in Rio de Janeiro was 109.4 °F (43°C) in January 1984, while the lowest was 35.6°F (2°C) in July 1928.

14. Rio de Janeiro was named after the January River (“Rio de Janeiro” means “River of January” in Portuguese), which the Portuguese first saw in January 1502. Fun fact, though: it wasn’t actually a river, but the mouth of Guanabara Bay!

15. The official abbreviation for Rio de Janeiro is RJ, while the Galeão International Airport code is GIG.

16. Some common nicknames for Rio de Janeiro are Rio, Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City), and Carioca.

17. People from Rio de Janeiro are called Cariocas.

The Rio de Janeiro flag
The official flag of Rio de Janeiro

18. Tourism slogans for Rio de Janeiro have included “Rio de Janeiro: A cidade maravilhosa” (Rio de Janeiro: The Marvelous City), “Rio de Janeiro: The rhythm never stops”, and “Emoção é o que nos move” (Emotion is what drives us).

19. Approximately 48% of Rio de Janeiro residents identify as white, while 47% identify as mixed-race.

20. The Rio de Janeiro flag features two blue crossing stripes on a white background with the city’s seal in red. The seal shows 3 silver arrows on a sphere, with dolphins at the sides and a crown on top.

21. Rio de Janeiro has 35 sister cities, including Beijing (China), Liverpool (UK), Istanbul (Turkey), and Atlanta (USA).

Interesting Facts About Rio de Janeiro Places

22. The Christ the Redeemer statue is Rio de Janeiro’s most famous and recognizable sight. It is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It stands with arms outstretched at the 700 m (2300 ft) peak of Corcovado mountain, overlooking the city.

23. Although it is shorter than the Statue of Liberty in New York City, it is 2.8 times heavier than it.

24. In the original design, Christ was supposed to be holding a globe in one hand and a cross in the other.

the Christ the Redeemer statue on a mountaintop viewed from above with city and harbor of Rio below
Christ the Redeemer

25. Copacabana Beach is Rio de Janeiro’s most famous beach and one of the most recognizable beaches in the world. The 4 km (2.5 mi) beach has a fort at either end, row of buildings lining it, and coastal mountains rising behind both ends.

26. In 1994, the world’s largest concert took place on the beach. 3.5 million people turned up to see Rod Stewart perform.

27. Copacabana neighborhood is considered one of the best in the country.

28. There is a Copacabana Beach in Australia (just north of Sydney) and a Copacabana town in Bolivia.

29. The most iconic peak visible from Copacabana Beach is Sugarloaf Mountain, named so because its shape resembles how sugar used to be packed, in large “sugarloaves”. A series of cable cars lead to its peak.

30. Besides Copacabana, there are 373 other beaches in Rio de Janeiro, including Ipanema, Barra da Tijuca, Arpoador, and many more.

Copacabana Beach with buildings lining it and mountains behind
Copacabana Beach

31. Christ de Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain, and Tijuca National Park (considered the largest urban forest in the world) are a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site called “Rio de Janeiro: Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea”.

32. A world-famous venue in the city is the Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí, or simply “Sambadrome”. It is where samba schools have parade competitions during the Rio Carnival.

33. Rio Carnival is sometimes called the “biggest show on Earth”. The event takes place every year before Lent and dates back to 1723. Besides the samba competitions, over 10 million people take part in balls and street parades during the festival.

A costumed dancer at Sambadrome in Rio
A performer at Sambadrome

34. New Year’s Eve is the city’s second largest festival after Carnival. Copacabana Beach stages one of the largest fireworks displays in the world, usually attracting 2 million people.

35. Copacabana Palace Hotel facing Copacabana Beach has hosted the likes of Walt Disney, Miley Cyrus, Madonna, Janis Joplin, and Princess Diana.

36. Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian, or Rio de Janeiro Cathedral, is modeled on a Mayan pyramid. Inside it has 4 stained glass mirrors that measure 64 meters (210 ft) tall. It has seat 20,000 people.

37. The tallest building in Rio de Janeiro is Rio Sul Center, which has 50 floors and stands 538 ft (164 m) tall.

38. Rio has been found to have the bluest sky in the world.

Rio de Janeiro Economy and Society Facts

39. Rio de Janeiro has the 2nd largest economy in Brazil, after São Paulo.

40. Some of the largest and most famous companies that started in Rio de Janeiro include Petrobras, Vale, and Odebrecht.

Batafogo Beach in Rio
Batafogo Beach in Rio

41. There are 20 colleges and universities in Rio de Janeiro, with the largest being the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ).

42. The crime rate in Rio de Janeiro is relatively high compared to other cities in Brazil, but it has improved in recent years due to increased police presence and other measures.

43. The GDP of Rio de Janeiro is $201.8 billion, which is the 2nd highest in Brazil.

44. Rio de Janeiro is served by two major airports: Santos Dumont Airport and Rio de Janeiro–Galeão International Airport, with a combined 16 million passengers per year.

45. Rio de Janeiro is the country’s top tourist destination, for both domestic and international visitors.

46. With over 700 stores, BarraShopping in Rio is the largest mall in Latin America by number of stores.

47. Rio de Janeiro is home to 20 billionaires, according to Forbes.

A cluster or houses built on top of one another in a slum (favela) is Rio
A typical favela (slum) in Rio de Janeiro

48. The richest person in Rio de Janeiro was once Eike Batista, with a net worth of over 35 billion, but he has lost most of it and is currently facing jail time for bribery.

49. 24.7% of people in Rio de Janeiro live below the poverty line. The city is known for its sprawling favelas (shanty towns). Around 1.5 million people live in over 1000 favelas in Rio. The are known for the crime and gangs, but are also currently undergoing a resurgence and starting to attract tourists. The largest one is Rocinha.

50. The most popular newspaper in Rio de Janeiro is O Globo.

51. Samba music and dance were invented in Rio de Janeiro and neighboring Bahia state.

52. The beach is considered the lifeblood of Rio. Locals gravitate there and are known for wearing skimpy bathing suits – both men and women, that is.

53. The Brazilian bikini wax also originated in Rio de Janeiro when thongs became popular in the 70s.

Some women relaxing on the beach in Rio
Rio is known for its beach culture

54. Brigadeiro, a kind of fudge ball dessert popular in Brazil, was invented in Rio de Janeiro.

55. Rio is home to 5 Michelin star restaurants (3 with 1 star and 2 with 2 stars). The two 2-star ones are Oteque (seafood) and Oro (regional cuisine from around the country).

56. Jogo do Bicho (Game of the Animals), an illegal gambling game popular throughout the country, was invented in Rio de Janeiro.

57. Movies and TV shows filmed in Rio de Janeiro include City of God, Elite Squad, and Fast Five.

58. Ever since 2014, street art has been legal in Rio de Janeiro.

Rio de Janeiro Sports Facts

59. The most popular sport in Rio de Janeiro is football (soccer).

60. Rio de Janeiro has hosted the FIFA World Cup (1950 and 2014) and Summer Olympics (2016 – the first host ever in South America).

Aerial view of Rio with circular Maracanã Stadium visible
Maracanã Stadium

61. Maracanã Stadium, which hosted the final game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, is the 3rd largest stadium in South America, after ones in Buenos Aires and Lima.

62. When it first opened for the 1950 World Cup, it was the largest stadium in the world. Over 200,000 people squeezed in to watch the final game – the most attended football game ever in the world. The crowd was silenced when Uruguay won, known as the Maracanaço or “Maracanã Smash”.

63. Some of the most famous football clubs from Rio de Janeiro include Flamengo (who have the largest fan base of any football club in the world), Vasco da Gama, and Botafogo.

64. Famous football players born in Rio de Janeiro include Ronaldo, Zico, Thiago Silva, Carlos Alberto Torres, and Jairzinho.

Some people playing ball on the beach at Copacabana at sunset
Playing ball on the beach at Copacabana

65. Olympic athlete Rafaela Silva, who won a gold medal in the -57kg category in Judo, was born in Rio de Janeiro.

66. Rio was one of the first urban centers of Capoeira, while the city was also home to the first jiujitsu club run by Carlos Gacie, one of the founders of the Brazilian style of the martial art.

67. Beach volleyball is also very popular in Rio de Janeiro.

Famous People from Rio de Janeiro

68. Actors Rodrigo Santoro and Wagner Moura, Actresses alice Braga and Sonia Braga, were born in Rio de Janeiro.

69. Other famous people born in Rio de Janeiro include football player Neymar, beach volleyball player Emanuel Rego, and fashion designer Oskar Metsavaht.

70. Singers and musicians Tom Jobim and Roberto Carlos were born in Rio de Janeiro.

71. The famous bands Sepultura and Los Hermanos are from Rio de Janeiro.

72. Some of the most well-known artists from Rio de Janeiro include Beatriz Milhazes and Vik Muniz.

73. The writers and poets Paulo Coelho and Clarice Lispector were also from Rio de Janeiro.

74. Nobel Prize winners Mario Schenberg (Physics), Carlos Chagas (Physiology or Medicine), and Peter Medawar (Physiology or Medicine) were from Rio de Janeiro.

Rio de Janeiro History Facts

75. The mountains of Rio de Janeiro were formed around 120 million years ago from the stress caused by the separation of South America from Africa.

76. The Tamoio people were the original inhabitants of the Rio de Janeiro area.

77. In 1502, Portuguese explorers led by Gonçalo Coelho arrived at Guanabara Bay and named it Rio de Janeiro (River of January).

Some wooden fish trapping enclosures sticking out of the water in Guanabara Bay, Rio
Fish traps in Guanabara Bay

78. In 1565, the city of Rio de Janeiro was officially founded by Estácio de Sá, a Portuguese soldier.

79. In 1763, Rio de Janeiro became the capital of Portuguese Brazil, replacing Salvador.

80. In 1808, the Portuguese royal family fled to Rio de Janeiro to escape from the invading French army led by Napoleon Bonaparte. This made Rio de capital of Portugal until 1821.

81. The Botanical Garden, one of Rio de Janeiro’s most famous attractions, was opened in 1808.

82. In 1822, Brazil declared its independence from Portugal and Rio de Janeiro became the capital of the new country.

83. In 1832, Charles Darwin visited Rio de Janeiro and described the rock composition of Sugarloaf Mountain.

A row of tall trees in Rio's Botanical Garden
Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro

84. In 1835, the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts was founded in Rio de Janeiro, becoming an important cultural institution in Brazil.

85. The population of Rio de Janeiro reached 100,000 in 1850.

86. In 1904, the electric streetcar system started operating in Rio de Janeiro, becoming an important mode of transportation for the city.

87. During WWI (and again in WWII) the Rio Carnival was put on hold.

88. Copacabana Palace hotel was built in 1923.

89. The Christ the Redeemer statue, one of the most iconic landmarks in Rio de Janeiro, began being constructed in 1922 and was inaugurated in 1931.

Flags outside of Copacabana Palace hotel
Copacabana Palace

90. The 1950 FIFA World Cup final came between Brazil and Uruguay took place in Rio and was the most attended football game ever in history. Brazil was defeated and the game came to be known as the Maracanaço or “Maracanã Smash”.

91. The Galeão International Airport first opened in 1952.

92. Petrobras, the largest company in Brazil, was established in Rio de Janeiro in 1953.

93. In 1960, the capital of Brazil was moved to Brasília to create a modern capital at the center of the country. Rio de Janeiro remained an important cultural and economic center in the country.

94. Around 1950, São Paulo’s population surpassed Rio de Janeiro’s.

Exterior of Tiradentes Palace is Rio
The Chamber of Deputies used to meet at Tiradentes Palace when Rio was capital

95. From 1960 to 1975, Rio became its own state, called Guanabara State, the smallest in Brazil, before it was merged with Rio de Janeiro state.

96. The Rio metro first opened in 1979.

97. In 1992, Rio de Janeiro hosted the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, also known as the Earth Summit.

Lines of Brazil flags hanging above a street in Rio for World Cup 2014
A street is Rio decorated for World Cup 2014

98. Rio de Janeiro hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics in 2016, attracting millions of visitors to the city.

99. In 2015, the expansive new Museum of Tomorrow opened in the city.

100. In 2017, the city obtained a second UNESCO World Heritage Site: Valongo Wharf, where African slaves arrived in the city until 1831.

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