Rio de Janeiro is famous for its sun, sea and samba, but its rich cultural underbelly is not something to miss. Rio’s museum scene showcases incredible tradition and exciting contemporary talent through a wide range of exhibition spaces. Take some time for a little indoor culture with these ten must-visit local museums.
Museum of Tomorrow (Museu de Amanhã)
Ever since its establishment, the Museum of Tomorrow has quickly become one of the city’s go-to attractions. Characterized by a rather arresting organic building with an elongated roof jutting out over Praca Maua, this science museum focuses on sustainability through ideas rather than objects. The main exhibition space is largely digital, and leads visitors down a hall that explores our origins and potential futures. One of Rio’s most enlightening museums, the Museu de Amanhã comes highly recommended.
Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro | Courtesy of Museum of Modern Art Rio
The Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM) exhibits a selection of Brazilian and international modern art from the 20th and the 21st centuries, surrounded by stunning Modernist gardens designed by Roberto Burle Marx. After a tragic fire in 1978 that destroyed 90 percent of the museum’s works, it managed to rebuild its collection, and continues on with its program of dynamic exhibitions.
The Museum of the Indian is small but informative, allowing visitors to explore the various indigenous cultures throughout Brazil. This museum explores how aspects of the modern culture have developed from the indigenous societies and how their customs are reflected in contemporary life, making it a revealing exhibition into Brazil’s society and culture.
Museum of Telecommunications (Museu das Telecomunicações)
The Museum of Telecommunications explores the various ways of human communications through digital exhibitions, images and interactive displays. Over several floors, it unfolds communications of the past, present and dabbles in the future possibilities. Given the museum’s small size, visitors can see and do everything within a short time; however, the hands-on approach of the displays and an upstairs cafe makes it a fun way to spend an hour or two.
The National Museum of Fine Arts is a beautiful museum that holds one of the most important and complete collections of Brazilian art in Brazil, with a total of around 20,000 different forms of painting, sculptures and prints on public display. Brazilian paintings and sculptures from the 1800s make up the bulk of the collection, whilst smaller exhibitions are dedicated to Brazilian folk art and African art.
With a dazzling architectural design, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Niteroi is one of the region’s most distinctive landmarks. Designed by legendary architect Oscar Niemeyer, visitors flock from all over the world to see the building as well as its collection of contemporary art.
National History Museum (Museu Historico Nacional)
The National History Museum is one of the most prominent of its kind in Brazil. With enormous archives that span across two huge buildings, large exhibitions are out on display with approximately 349,000 different artifacts. In addition to permanent exhibitions, the museum informs while entertaining with new and temporary displays, too. This one is a must-visit for history buffs everywhere.
The Museum of Art exhibits traditional and contemporary Brazilian works of art, from sculptures to photographs and works on paper. There are always some temporary exhibitions on display, allowing visitors to reflect on a wide variety of topics and see images from a new perspective. A trip to this museum is a fantastic way to spend a few hours.
This museum was once the government house between the years 1897 and 1960. Nowadays, its emphasis lies in informing visitors about Brazilian political history through displays, art and cinema. In addition, there are also various exhibitions with documentaries, films and debates that are stimulating and informative.
It may not have a telescope, but the Museum of the Universe is a perfect way for science-lovers to spend the afternoon. Through a series of displays, models and experiments, the Museum of the Universe attempts to briefly explain various scientific phenomena, narrates the development of astronomy from past to present and explores the theories around space travel and life on other planets.