São João Fort Urca

São João Fort in Urca

Located in Urca, the São João Fort is a true insider tip for tourists and residents alike. The free walking tour on the grounds offers insights into the founding history of Rio de Janeiro and is a unique opportunity to enjoy the great views over the skyline of Botafogo, Flamengo and Centro; featuring Pedra da Gávea, Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers), Corcovado and the Christ Statue and the Tijuca Forest.

The São João Fort is a great choice for sightseeing in Rio de Janeiro if you’re tired of repeating the same tourist attractions over and over again.

Visit São João Fort

São João Fort Urca

São João Fort Urca – Entrance Gate

The fort is located next to the “Morro Cara de Cão” (Hill of the Dog Face) in Urca, which is why it is also known as the Forte da Urca or Fort of Urca. It is home to the Military Physical Training Center, the Military Athletes train on the grounds for the Military Olympics and other competitions. Visitors are allowed on the grounds but only with prior appointment and with a tour. Tours are for free and can be arranged via phone:

Address: Av. João Luiz Alves, s/nº – Urca (the very end of the street)

By Bus: 511 from Leblon, Ipanema, Copacabana; 513 from Botafogo

By Car: You can ask for permission to park on the grounds of São João Fort but this needs to be arranged before the visit. Usually there are also parking lots in the side streets close by.

Website: www.cml.eb.mil.br/index.php/fortes/rio

Phone: (21) 2543-3323

Opening hours: Mondays – Thursdays: 9am – 4pm, Fridays: 9am-12pm

Group Size: Starting with 2 persons

Entrance fee: for free

What to bring: Comfy shoes and clothing, water, sunscreen. The tour takes ca. 1.5h and most of it is outside.

The Tour

São João Fort Urca

Founding Square of Rio de Janeiro

The visit includes a lovely walk on the grounds of the São João fort with lots of interesting facts about the early beginning of Rio de Janeiro. In those times the city was a point of interest for Portuguese as well as French settlers. At the beginning of the tour you’ll see the birthplace of Rio de Janeiro, now a beautiful square located next to a small beach and the Morro Cara de Cão. The walk then takes you through the entrance gate of the fort along a street with a beautiful view over Botafogo and Flamengo. It’s similar to the view from the Sugarloaf only that you’re much closer. When reaching the actual fort, you will also see the Guanabara Bay and Niteroi. Together with the Santa Cruz Fort in Niteroi and the Laje Fort in the middle of the Guanabara Bay, the São João Fort used to secure the entrance to the bay and therewith the city of Rio de Janeiro. Huge canons are witnesses of the old disputes over the bay.

There’s also a small museum which tells the history of those times and displays canon balls and other items that were found on the territory of the fort. Before the tour comes to an end, you will be able to visit another exhibition space with focus on the current usage of São João Fort: Countless trophies and medals bear testimony to the successes of the Brazilian Military athletes who nowadays use this beautiful place to train for the Military Olympics and other competitions.

Tip: After visiting the São João fort, you might want to eat at the restaurant of Bar Urca, a small restaurant on the first floor with great view over the bay. It might be a good idea to call in advance and reserve one of the tables next to the window.

If you’re looking for more insider tips in Rio de Janeiro, check out our Sightseeing section.