Letting your inner culture vulture take flight is probably the most rewarding way to deal with bad weather. Long considered secondary to São Paulo in such things, Rio is now catching up and even hosting exclusive events ahead of its illustrious neighbour like the recent GIacometti show at the MAM. Explore for yourself and discover what all the fuss is about as cariocas swap their trunks for trousers and hit the museum.
Free-R$8. Flamengo Park
Rio’s Museum of Modern Art is a brutal behemoth of 1950s construction, whose huge pillars and trusses might look ungainly but allow for beautiful views of the bay and surrounding Flamengo Park. Recent exhibitions of national and international greats like Angelo Venosa and Alberto Giacometti have kept the public flocking, and the permanent collection on the top floor is well worth a browse. If art is not your bag, the excellent on-site design store and next-door café are well worth a visit. The small lunch spot does a reasonably priced all-you-can-eat buffet, too, which is always worth dawdling over.
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It might technically be in a different city (take a bow, Niteroí), but Oscar Niemeyer’s flying saucer of a museum is still an iconic slice of Rio to most foreigners. The boat trip across the bay from Praça XV is less impressive in the wet, sure, but grab a cab at the other side (or walk if weather allows) and it is the easiest and most rewarding quick trip out of town. Deep in the museum’s belly lies a great café, too, with sandwiches and milkshakes that are unusually affordably priced, particularly given the view of Sugarloaf out of the windows.
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Museu Histórico Nacional
Rio’s National History Museum is the perfect starting point for anyone keen to get under the skin of Brazil's history, with a permanent collection of paintings telling stories of some of the most important events in the country’s history including an enormous recreation of a naval battle during the war with Paraguay in 1865. A heavy emphasis on the military, from the patio of canons to the arms collection, there are nevertheless some other intriguing collections like the pharmaceutal display from the mid-1800s and an enormous currecy archive. Not terribly well located for other downtown amenities, there is, however, a decent café and the terminal for ferries to Niteroí is just a ten-minute walk away.
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Memorial Getúlio Vargas
On the unsung (indeed largely deserted) Praça Luis de Camões stands a memorial to fallen President of the Republic Getúlio Vargas, the man who took his own life in nearby Catete Palace in 1954. Beautiful in the sunshine, it doesn’t require too much analysing in the rain, but underneath, down an innocuous-looking set of steps, is an impressive, circular museum chronologically telling the history of the ‘People’s President’. The Palace - now called the Museu da Repúbica - is itself only a ten-minute walk away and well worth a trip to complete the history lesson.
- read more about the Memorial Getúlio Vargas