Following the Olympics Around Brazil: A Traveler’s Guide

With the games spread around Rio and beyond, here's what you need to know about top destinations where Olympic events are being held.

Millions of people from all over the world will converge on Brazil for the 2016 Olympic Games from Aug. 5 to 21. The Olympics take place mostly in the state of Rio de Janeiro, and some events in the city of Rio. For a guide to Rio, including things to do while in town for the Olympics, go here. Events will be spread out all over the state, and soccer will take place all over the country.

The majority of events will take place in Barra da Tijuca. Other competitions will be held across Copacabana, Deodoro and Maracanã. Soccer matches will be played in Brasília, Belo Horizonte, Sao Paulo, Salvador and Manaus, in addition to Rio de Janeiro, where the gold-medal match take place.

Barra da Tijuca

Barra da Tijuca is a neighborhood in the west zone of Rio de Janeiro. Boasting just more than 11 miles of sands, Barra’s beach is "an undisputed highlight of Rio’s sprawling west zone," says the Brazilian Tourism Board. "The sea’s powerful waves draw surfers and bodyboarders, while its wide, fine, whitish sands are ideal for playing footvolley and beach volleyball." Walkers, joggers and cyclists enjoy its promenade.

Olympic events in Barra da Tijuca: Basketball, handball, judo, wrestling, taekwondo, tennis, synchronized swimming, swimming, artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline, water polo, diving, track cycling, golf, badminton, boxing, weightlifting, table tennis

Barra da Tijuca
A beach in Barra da Tijuca (©Iuliia Timofeeva/Shutterstock)


Copacabana's world-famous beach, in Rio's south zone, attracts tourists throughout the year. Its 2.4 miles of sand offer a wide range of activities: from swimming and sunbathing to beach volleyball and tennis, from bike riding or skateboarding along the cycle path to jogging on the iconic promenade, according to the tourism board. "Or you can just chill out, sip fresh coconut water and watch the world go by."

Olympic events in Copacabana: Beach volleyball, open-water swimming, triathlon, paratriathlon, marathon, canoeing, rowing, road cycling, racewalking and sailing

Copacabana (©marchello74/shutterstock)


Deodoro Olympic Park will be the second-largest concentration of competition venues during the Olympics, says the tourism board, promising a vibrant mix of traditional and newer sports. Located in the west of Rio, the neighbourhood of Deodoro played a prominent role in the 2007 Pan-American Games, when a number of venues were built there.

"This resulted in increased participation of young people in several sports, and the aim is to build on this achievement through the Rio 2016 Games," the board says. A sporting legacy will be left in the shape of the X-Park, which will include the Whitewater Stadium and Olympic BMX Centre, along with a 500,000-square-meter public leisure area, the second biggest in Rio.

The region has a strong military presence thanks to a large barracks and two of the venues built for the Pan-Am Games—the Olympic Shooting Centre and Olympic Equestrian Centre—being used by the army.

Olympic events in Deodoro: Fencing, field hockey, shooting, equestrian, modern pentathlon, mountain biking and BMX

The field hockey stadium in Deodoro (©Wilson Dias/Wikimedia Commons)


The Maracanã Zone is in the northern part of of Rio, close to the city center. It includes two of Rio's most famous landmarks: the Maracanã Stadium, which will stage the opening and closing ceremonies and soccer matches, and Sambódromo, the home of the carnival parade that will play host to the Olympic marathon and Olympic and Paralympic archery events. The Olympic Stadium, built for the 2007 Pan-American Games and known locally as the Engenhão (after the Engenho de Dentro neighborhood in which it is located) will stage the athletics track and field events during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, plus group-phase Olympic soccer matches.

Olympic events in Maracanã: Archery, marathon finish, athletics (and possibly rugby sevens), opening and closing ceremonies, soccer, volleyball

Maracanã Stadium
Maracanã, including Maracanã Stadium (©A.RICARDO/Shutterstock)

Outside of Rio: Early Soccer Matches

All competitions, with a few exceptions to some of the earliest summer soccer matches, will be held within the neighborhood zones of Rio de Janiero. Cities that are hosting those early soccer events include; Brasília, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Salvador and Manaus; each make for fascinating trips, even were it not for the world-class soccer competitions.

Soccer in Brazil
Soccer in Brazil (©A.RICARDO/Shutterstock)

About 725 miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro is Brazil's capitol, Brasília. It was built in just 41 months, from 1956 to 1960. Brazil’s capital for the longest time was Rio de Janeiro, but then the government decided it was essential for the capital to be moved to the center of the country. So Brasília was planned and built.

São Paulo is located in the southeastern part of Brazil between Curitiba and Rio de Janeiro. It is a major business hub, but its people, the “Paulistanos,” know how to enjoy the diverse pleasures of life through food, art and music, according to the tourism office. Given the city’s diversity of immigrants, there’s also more familiar food such as pizza and sushi available. Even the Paulistanos enjoy a good pizza in São Paulo’s Italian neighborhood of Bixiga. Wheretraveler's guide to São Paulo.

Belo Horizonte means "beautiful horizon" in Portuguese, which is fitting for its magnificent landscape. When the city was first built, it was planned to house only a few hundred residents. Now it has more than 5 million inhabitants.The sixth-largest city in Brazil, Belo Horizonte is the capital of the state of Minas Gerais. The city is built on several hills and is completely surrounded by mountains.

Salvador is known as Brazil’s “capital of happiness” because of its countless number of popular outdoor parties. In reality, it is the capital city of the northeastern state of Bahia. The Barra Lighthouse in Salvador was the very first lighthouse ever built in the Americas. The Pelourinho neighborhood is its historic heart, with cobblestone alleys opening onto large squares, colorful buildings and baroque churches.

Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas, on the banks of the Negro River in northern Brazil, is a major departure point for the surrounding Amazon Rainforest. East of the city, the dark Negro River runs side by side with the Solimões River in a phenomenon called the Meeting of the Waters, which converge to form the Amazon River. Manaus is in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, and access to the city is primarily by boat or airplane. Manaus was one of the host cities of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It was the only host city in the Amazon rainforest and the most geographically isolated, being further north and west than any of the other host cities.