A heady mix of architectural wonders and unusual attractions await the adventurous and the frustrated when Rio's great outdoors is off-limits. The perfect opportunity to really understand a city that has much to offer beyond the superficial, seize the chance and get to grips with a touch of history and a few golden nuggets of trivia to wield over a couple of caipirinhas later on.
When the weather is refusing to play ball with your tan plans, take the opportunity to try something a little out of the ordinary. The Rio Planetarium definitely falls into that category, with 16,000 square metres of museums, observatories and exhibition space dedicated to the endless blackness above. The telescopes might be off limits if it’s too cloudy, but the 263 stargazer-capacity Carl Sagan dome recreates the night sky beautifully (Saturday and Sunday afternoons only). Head to nearby 00 for a sushi-fest afterwards, and watch on - then join in - as the restaurant becomes one of the city's better clubs as things get warmed up.
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Forte de Copacabana
At the Arpoador end of Copacabana, built into a small headland jutting out into the Atlantic, the Copacabana Fort is an impressive feat of construction and an important slice of Rio’s early 20th Century military history. Completed in 1914 to protect the bay from attack, lurking underground at the far end are the corridors, storage depots and digs of a fully functioning fortification, most, if not all, of which can be explored under the mindful gaze of naval officers. The munitions dump is eye-opening, the dorms depressing and the office impressive, but it is well worth braving the rain to stick your head out onto the furthest rocks where the 305mm Krupp guns, capable of firing a shell over 20 kilometres, sit in wait. The Confeitaria Colombo also has a branch here for a long, lazy lunch.
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Churches and religious buildings
The beauty of the city’s religious buildings might not be Rio’s raison d’etre in many eyes, but it is hard to deny there aren’t some unusual gems to be found. Take the Igreja da Penha, for example, which stands on the top of a 69 metre-high rock (not to mention 382 stone steps) in the middle of Zona Norte. A little easier to access, are the opulent São Bento monastery and historic Candelária church in Centro and nearby, on the edge of Lapa, the brutalist Metropolitan Cathedral (pictured) is as opinion-dividing as it is imposing.
- see all churches and religious buildings in Rio
Originally conceived by Emperor Dom Pedro II in 1882 to be used a customs house, what was supposed to be a simple government building was turned into something considerably more extravagant after the Emperor insisted that any building with such a setting must be a 'dazzling jewel' to befit the 'dazzling jewel box' in which it sat. Guanabara Bay may no longer glisten quite so brightly, but the baroque building – home to the last ever Imperial Ball - is well worth a visit. Stunning architectural details from the columns to flooring and carvings remain, and guided tours last over two hours with a trip around the naval museum thrown in.
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