Published on July 1st, 2014 | by Mark Chesnut
Carioca Culture: 6 Must-See Museums in Rio de Janeiro
The 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics are responsible for bringing thousands — or perhaps millions — of travelers to Brazil. But what are the big attractions when the games aren’t happening? In Rio de Janeiro, there is no dearth of engaging things to see and do (Sugarloaf and Christ the Redeemer come to mind, as well as several miles of beaches lined with scantily clad sun worshippers). But don’t forget Rio’s growing array of top-shelf museums and cultural institutions.
During my most recent trip to Rio, I checked out some of the best places to enjoy art, and put together this list of the very best museums in Rio de Janeiro — and the ones to watch out for. Whether you’re planning a Brazil vacation or a quick business trip, these should be on every art-and-culture lover’s itinerary.
New Museums in Rio de Janeiro
Museu de Arte do Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro Art Museum): Explore Rio’s cultural and artistic traditions in this interesting new venue, which is housed in a 19th-century royal mansion linked by glass-enclosed walkway to a modern new building. Located in the city center, this institution — usually referred to as the MAR — is the first big attraction in the area called Porto Maravilha (Marvelous Port), a waterfront area slated for major redevelopment.
Museu do Amanhã: The Museum of Tomorrow, which opened in 2015, attracts as much attention for its architecture as for its curatorial mission. Housed in a structure designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, its profile dominates the downtown waterfront, and houses audiovisual displays, interactive installations and games that are designed to connect science to everyday life.
Casa Daros: A Swiss organization called the Daros Latinamerica Collection uses this handsome venue — a historic former orphanage — to exhibit rotating collections of contemporary art by Latin American artists. The neoclassical building was designed by Francisco Joaquim Bethencourt in 1866 and was designated a historic heritage site in 1987.
DON’T MISS: Saude! Toast with these Brazilian Cocktails
Long-time Favorite Museums in Rio de Janeiro
Museu de Arte Moderna (Modern Art Museum): Sitting at one end of Parque do Flamengo, the MAM (as it’s often called) is housed in an attractive, postmodern building designed by Alfonso Eduardo Reidy. It’s home to thousands of modern and contemporary works by Brazilian artists, including sculpture, photography, paintings and pop art. Be sure to stop for lunch at Laguiole, the stylish on-site restaurant, where one of the desserts is designed to replicate the museum’s own architecture.
Museu de Arte Contemporânea (Museum of Contemporary Art): The MAC is probably the most easily recognizable museum in Brazil, thanks to Oscar Niemeyer’s UFO-style architecture, which sits on the edge of Guanabara Bay, in the nearby city of Niteroi. But when you’re not enjoying the views and photo opps, you can admire the exhibits of contemporary and modern art.
DON’T MISS: Touring the 5 Coolest Churches in Latin America: Holy Modern Architecture!
Soon-to-open Museums in Rio de Janeir
Museu da Imagem e do Som: The Museum of Image and Sound is gearing up to open along the Copacabana beachfront in 2016, at the site of a once-legendary nightclub called help (which has been torn down to make way for the brand-new construction). The eye-catching venue will allow visitors to learn more about the region’s rich musical and visual creativity, and it will also house the collection of the Carmen Miranda museum.
WHERE I STAYED: During this visit to Rio de Janeiro, I was a guest at the JW Marriott Rio de Janeiro, an upscale hotel in Copacabana. Read my review of the JW Marriott here.
RIO DE JANEIRO TRAVEL INFO: Rio Convention & Visitors Bureau