How to visit the Corcovado – Rio’s most famous landmark

It was a beautiful 4th of July morning – perfect blue sky, not one cloud anywhere to be seen. We wanted to visit the Corcovado and it was the best day to do it since our arrival, clear, clear, clear. As soon as I got up I went to the official website to buy the tickets for the Corcovado train. It was early in the morning and there were still lots of tickets available throughout the day. I bought our tickets for the 12:40 PM train – two adults, since kids under 6 are free. The website is pretty lame, but we got our tickets and printed out the voucher (I used the English version to see how good it was – it worked, expect a lot of English mistakes though). Be warned – the website says the ID and credit card used online will have to be presented at the will call booth when you show up to retrieve the actual tickets (not that they’ll actually do it, they didn’t ask us to show anything, but they can).

We were coming from Niterói, across the bay, so we had to drive there. If you can, take the subway, bus or taxi to avoid driving. We found a free parking spot on a dead end street next to the Corcovado station, which was incredibly lucky (anyone who lives in Rio knows how difficult it is to park on the street, even crazier if it’s free). We arrived at the station and it was fairly organized, different lines for people who had bought the tickets online, a priority line for families with little kids, pregnant women, disabled people and the elderly and another line for people buying tickets on the spot.

Arriving at the Corcovado station

Arriving at the Corcovado station

We retrieved our tickets quickly and went to the back of the station to get in line for the train. There are some cute souvenir shops (they have improved the selection quite a bit since my childhood days, and so did the prices) and a snack shop selling some salgados (Brazilian finger foods) for a lot of money (and cash only). Julia said she was hungry, I bought a cheese quiche that she tried and said she didn’t like it, but then our train showed up and we had to board. I had one upset little girl on the way up…

Getting in line to retrieve our tickets at Corcovado station

Getting in line to retrieve our tickets at Corcovado station

The ride up the mountain is pretty, the tracks go through the forest, and at some points, the trees open up and you have a wonderful view of the bay or the lagoon down below (try to get a seat at the platform side – right side when going up, left side going down) to get the best views. The train stops 5 times on the way up (and down), not sure why because nobody gets in or out, and after 20 or so minutes you reach the top.

The Corcovado train (this photo was actually taken from the station at the top, shhh)

The Corcovado train (this photo was actually taken from the station at the top, shhh)

At the top you can climb the stairs to the statue of Christ or use the elevator and then the escalators to go up (there are not escalators going down, so you have to use the regular stairs and then the elevator). We climbed the stairs, stopping to take in the amazing views.

Gabe, Eric and Julia stopping to take a look at the Lagoa (lagoon)

Gabe, Eric and Julia stopping to take a look at the Lagoa (lagoon)

It was CROWDED! And some people were saying it wasn’t even THAT crowded. It was hard to find a spot to take a picture, since everyone was standing in front of the statue to take a picture, and at the end of the walkway it was even harder to get a picture of the Sugar Loaf, since loads of people were trying to do the same.

Downtown Rio and the bridge seen from the Corcovado

Downtown Rio and the bridge seen from the Corcovado

Julia thought it was pretty cool, but had enough quickly, and Eric is too little to roam free safely (even less so with the crowds), so we had to put him in the baby carrier which he hated – he wanted to run around badly.

Eric checking out the Sugar Loaf mountain  (Pão de Açúcar) and the bay

Eric checking out the Sugar Loaf mountain (Pão de Açúcar) and the bay

The statue is smaller than I remember, but still huge of course, and the views are stunning.

Family photo with the famous statue

Family photo with the famous statue

I still haven’t visited this place at night, they light up the statue and I’m sure the view is also amazing. Gotta go back one day to do that.

We told Eric to open his arms up but he didn't get it

We told Eric to open his arms up but he didn’t get it

There’s a restaurant and a snack bar at the top, and a souvenir shop, none of them accepted credit cards at the time, which made things a bit difficult for us since we didn’t have enough cash (after almost 11 years coming to Brazil and withdrawing money at ATMs easily, the main ATM network called Banco 24 Horas doesn’t take our US banks credit cards any more). We bought a hot dog which the kids split and had no more cash to buy anything. Don’t ever walk around anywhere in Brazil with too little cash – my husband needed the reminder. Considering the price of the snacks (R$6-7 a piece plus R$2-4 for one drink such as juice, ice tea or soda) and that a parking lot next to the station was charging R$20, a family of 4 like ours would need R$64 to pay for parking and one snack + one drink each.

Anyone seen the movie Rio? Classic photo of the Sugar Loaf mountain (Pão de Açúcar)

Anyone seen the movie Rio? Classic photo of the Sugar Loaf mountain (Pão de Açúcar)

We lined up to wait for the train going down, a monkey showed up on the power lines to say hello and disappeared before Julia could see it. The train showed up, we sat on the platform side this time, and we choose the wagon with the samba group so the kids could enjoy some music on the way down. Everything was going fine until the first train stop, at Paineiras.

Lagoa seen from the top of Corcovado mountain

Lagoa seen from the top of Corcovado mountain

We were there for a few minutes, the train didn’t move. Then we were waiting for 10 more minutes, nothing. The conductor came to say there was a power outage and we had to wait for the power to be restored. We ended up being there for 1 whole hour until that happened. Meanwhile, they unloaded most of the families with little kids and boarded them in vans to go down. We were about to board a van when the power was restored so we went back to the train. I asked if this happens often and the conductor said no. Later, I heard from my friends that indeed this has happened before. Maybe it’s faster to take the vans instead (although I still think the train is safer, considering how the folks drive these vans).

The Corcovado is definitely worth it, I wish they had a more reliable train service.

Useful information:
Official website of the Corcovado train
Corcovado train station is located at
Rua Cosme Velho, 513, Rio de Janeiro – RJ
Phone: 55 21 2558-1329
Prices (as of 7/4/2013): Adults R$ 46,00, Children (6-12) R$ 23,00, Under 6 – free
Hours: Monday through Sunday 8 AM – 7 PM, every 30 min.

Brazil Destinations Rio de Janeiro

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