Time Out Rio de Janeiro

Rio's best parks

As Madureira's impressive, modern park marks its first birthday, we run down the ten best places in Rio to savour a little greenery.

Parque do FlamengoParque Ecológico Chico MendesQuinta da Boa Vista
Bosque da Barra | Parque GuinleParque da Catacumba
Parque da República  | Parque Madureira
Parque da CidadeParque dos Patins

Parque do Flamengo

Open: Does not close

Covering 1.2 million square metres and home to the Museum of Modern Art and Glória Marina at one end and the famous Porcão Rios restaurant at the other, Flamengo Park (also known as the Aterro) is the biggest public open space in the city. Early in the morning it fills with walkers, joggers and cyclists, while weekend afternoons see couples cosying up under the palm trees and huge families unwrap sprawling picnics. The beach's sands are clean, too, although the water is not recommended for swimming, and the views from here across to Niteroí and the Serra's mountains away in the distance are breathtaking. Be careful as the sun goes down as security after dark can be a problem.
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Parque Ecológico Chico Mendes

Open: Tue-Sun 8am-6pm

One of Recreio's hidden wonders, the Chico Mendes eco-space has more in common with a wildlife sanctuary than somewhere to go and fly a kite. Jacaré (caiman), snakes, rare butterflies and monkeys can all be safely seen in their natural habitats, while 5km of straightforward hiking trails get you closer to the flora and fauna. An observatory tower offers spectacular views across the swamps and lagoons, and the facilities are mostly in good condition.
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Quinta da Boa Vista

Open: Daily 7am-5pm

As well as the city's zoo, São Cristóvão is home to the second largest park in Rio de Janeiro and the stunning, neo-classical former royal palace-turned-National Museum. A favourite playground for locals from the surrounding neighbourhoods, the wide boulevards are also home to hoards of four-wheel family cruising mobiles which can be rented by the half-hour (R$8). Alternatively, take to the lake on a swan-shaped pedalo, or simply retire to the grassy hill and settle back with a book looking out across the sculpted gardens towards the Maracanã.
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Bosque da Barra

Open: Daily 8am-8pm.

Sandwiched between Jacarepaguá Airport and the Cidade da Música, the rich green bosque officially known as Parque Arruda Câmara is a well-maintained escape from the maddening buzz of Barra, protected from the din of Avenida das Américas by thick vegetation. The bike path is a favourite for locals looking to get off-road, whilst football pitches, volleyball courts and barbecues are all available. The lake segment, meanwhile, is perfect for a more sedate stroll amidst rare flora and fauna.
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Parque Guinle

Open: Does not close

Now severed from the Governor's Palace of which the park was once part, this small but pretty Laranjeiras hill captures a cooling breeze even in the midst of stifling summer which, along with climbing frames, slides and the occasional trampoline at weekends, make it a popular family hang out. The paths follow fish-filled streams to the main lake where ducks and swans battle it out, and the steep hill to the rear twists and turns into some eminently explorable residential roads. Here, too, resides the BOPE Special Police headquarters, where the eye-popping skull logo and slogan 'Welcome, but don't make any sudden movements', tells you all you need to know about the nature of their work. Rua Gago Coutinho 66, Laranjeiras.

Parque da Catacumba

Open: Tue-Sun 8am-6pm

One of the lesser-known delights of the Lagoa region, the small park on its eastern bank climbs up the side of Morro dos Cabritos (Goats Hill), where the local Indians were said to once bury their dead. Today, the area houses an open-air sculpture trail featuring works by famous names like Sergio Camargo and Franz Weismann, and a brisk fifteen-minute hike puts visitors on a fine viewpoint overlooking the lake. Ziplines and canopy walks will keep children happy, too.
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Parque da República

Open: Daily 7am-5pm

Officially recognised in 2012 as a protected site of national heritage, the park, also known as Campo de Santana, is the largest green space in Centro, found on the western edge of the SAARA shopping district. Sadly, this is no Central Park, however, and instead of lunching office-workers the largest population here are the abandoned felines that have been adopted by local cat-lovers who feed them daily. Of more interest, however, are the unusual-looking pacas - large, burrowing rodents that patrol the gardens like they own the place. Campo de Santana, Centro

Parque Madureira

Open: Tue-Sun 5am-midnight

In the middle of 2012, the historic northern neighbourhood of Madureira celebrated the inauguration of a brand new park - the third largest in the city in a region notably bereft of such open spaces. Inside, fountains, squares, football pitches and popcorn vendors are all present and correct, but the likes of a well-equipped skatepark, wi-fi, open-air cinema and live music stage add a welcome dose of modernity, too. Rua Soares Caldeira 155, Madureira

Parque da Cidade

Open: Tue-Sun 8am-6pm

The little-known City Park created in the 1940s nudges up against the edge of Tijuca Park, its extremities offering hikers access to the famous Vista Chinesa. Its proximity to the occasional violent flare-ups in neighbouring Rocinha left the area somewhat unsafe for several years, and the Museu Histórico da Cidade has sadly now closed for the foreseeable future, but safety has improved, and the well-kept gardens are ideal for a picnic and offer stunning views. One of those corners of Rio that makes you forget you are in a city at all. Estrada Santa Marinha, Gávea

Parque dos Patins

Open: Does not close

On the opposite bank of the Lagoa from Parque Catacumba is the city's 'official' skate park. A circular rink surrounded by benches sits in the middle with Saturday morning classes frequented by all ages. The area is taken over for one weekend of the year by the professional skate circuit's 'Vert Jam' competition, when the view across the lake towards Cristo Redentor provide the perfect backdrop to the extreme action. Avenida Borges de Medeiros, Lagoa

Also worth a visit:

Parque Garota de Ipanema
Arpoador's small park is home to an elevated skate bowl with one of the best views across Ipanema you'll find. Avenida Franciso Bhering, Arpoador.

Parque Lage
The scruffy neighbour of the botanical gardens, the lawn of the main building is the perfect place to unwind, or hike from here up Corcovado. Rua Jardim Botânico 414, Jardim Botânico

Parque Dois Irmaõs
Above the Mirante do Leblon, the park gives direct access to a hike up the iconic hills. Rua Aperena, Leblon

Words by Time Out Rio de Janeiro editors

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