Vista Chinesa, Rio de Janeiro’s Chinese-Style Viewpoint

The city as viewed from the Vista Chinesa

photography by: Omri Westmark

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It goes without saying that Rio de Janeiro is reputedly Brazil’s most beautiful city, so much so, that each year, millions of tourists huddle in its famous scenic points, forming a perpetual human traffic jam. That is, unless you are talking about Vista Chinesa. Perching on the verdant hillsides of Tijuca Forest, the Pagoda-like observatory offers breathtaking views coupled with a dash of traditional Chinese aesthetic.

During the 19th century, Rio de Janeiro and its surrounding countryside experienced an incessant influx of Chinese immigrants, the majority of whom arrived as part of a concerted effort to cultivate tea across the region. While to large extent, the local tea industry never matured to become globally successful, the Chinese community still left a significant mark on the local culture and history.


At the very beginning, when a series of tea plantation were established around the city, a group of migrants from China paved a curvy road across Tijuca rainforest, connecting Alto da Boa Vista with Jardim Botânico. The road, which was built to facilitate the movement of goods, was originally embellished with a thatched roof structure nicknamed “Casa das Chinas” (the house of the Chinese).


In 1903, the then mayor Rio Periera Passos together with the office of forestry tasked architect Luís Rey with replacing the makeshift shed with a brand-new oriental style gazebo that paid a tribute to the Chinese coolies. Nestled atop the wooded foothills of the Serra da Carioca cliff, the pagoda features a couple of slender beams and columns reminiscent of bamboo culms. Perhaps its most striking part though is its pair of light roofs, whose gutters are beautifully decorated with a gargoyle-shaped spout.


Thanks to its scenic location, about 380 meters above sea level, Vista Chinesa is blessed with some of Rio’s most spectacular views. Among the notable places visitors can see are the Christ the Redeemer statue, the Sugarloaf Mountain, Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, the golden beach strip of Ipanema and Leblon, Morro Dois Irmãos as well as Rocinha, Brazil’s largest favela. Since the lookout is situated within the confines of Tijuca National Park, it is regularly frequented by hordes of monkeys, competing for attention with the sweeping vistas.