Rio museums can be more than just good rainy day attractions, thanks to their quality. Rio de Janeiro is very much a cultural center, and this is evidenced by its number of museums. The best museums in Rio de Janeiro focus on a range of subjects, so you just might find yourself adding more than one to the itinerary while in town. In addition to the museums, cultural enthusiasts who are traveling to Rio will also have a number of landmarks to choose from. Some of these landmarks are essentially living museums, mostly offering insight into the city's rich history.
As far as art exhibitions go, the best museums in Rio de Janeiro include the Museum of Modern Art and the Contemporary Art Museum. Both of these museums focus on art that was created relatively recently, and their consistently changing exhibits help to keep the museum fresh for repeat visitors. The former can be found in Flamengo Park near the downtown core, while the latter can be found in the nearby city of Niteroi. Both occupy curious buildings that help to make them popular places to visit. The Contemporary Art Museum, for example, looks like a UFO that is set to take off from the Niteroi coast. In addition to showcasing relatively new Brazilian and Latin American art, these Rio museums also play host to traveling exhibits of the international variety.
When art enthusiasts aren't spending some time at these museums during their trip to Rio de Janeiro, they might check out the International Museum of Naive Art or the National Museum of Fine Arts. The former showcases art by self-taught practitioners that is primitive and often very colorful in nature, while the latter highlights both Brazilian and European Art that is mainly from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A most beautiful building that looks as if it were plucked right out of Paris houses the works at the National Museum of Fine Arts and is alone worth the visit. At the International Museum of Naive Art, the best pieces are arguably those that come from local artists. These pieces tend to deal with the subject of everyday life. You might see a painting depicting a soccer match at the famous Maracana Stadium, for example, or a work that strives to capture the mood at Ipanema Beach.
History buffs aren't left out of the picture when it comes to the best museums in Rio de Janeiro. Both the National History Museum and the Museum of the Republic at the Catete Palace can satisfy hours on end if history is your thing. The National History Museum is found in the busy Center (City Center), and it offers terrific insight into the complete history of Brazil, starting with the arrival of explorers from Portugal. As for the Museum of the Republic at Catete Palace, it focuses mostly on the political history of Rio de Janeiro and Brazil on the whole. The Catete Palace itself is a museum. A lovely baroque palace, it officially housed the country's presidents between the years of 1897 and 1960.
The Rio museums offer something for virtually every interest. Take the Carmen Miranda Museum, for instance. Movie buffs and those who are interested in the entertainment business in general should enjoy the exhibits at the Carmen Miranda Museum. They feature pieces that relate to one of the main international stars from Hollywood's early days. Another interesting museum is the Museum of the Indian, where the many native cultures of Brazil are the focus. After you learn about the country's native inhabitants at the Museum of the Indian, you might check out the genuine handicrafts that are for sale in the onsite shop.
Another cultural center that deserves mention among the best museums in Rio de Janeiro is the National Museum. Part of the city's Federal University, this museum covers a range of interests. The landmark baroque palace that houses the National Museum formerly serves as a home for the royal family, and the majority of the pieces were collected by royal members. A skull from a saber tooth tiger and a large meteorite are just two of the things that are on display at this eclectic museum, and there are plenty of other interesting displays to see. Six main science departments are highlighted at the National Museum, and its worth noting that the surrounding Quinta da Boa Vista area is also home to the city's zoo and a museum that highlights local fauna. The Quinta da Boa Vista area, it should be noted, is the part of Rio that Royal Family called home for most of the 1800s.
Between these Rio museums, cultural enthusiasts should have little trouble filling their time while in town. Add in landmarks such as the Copacabana Fort and the Ilha Fiscal, and the options only increase when it comes to cultural pursuits. Looking outside of the city is also recommended when looking for cultural things to do on a Rio vacation. Two side-trip destinations of choice that are found outside of town are Petropolis and Paraty. The former was the preferred summer vacation destination for royals and rich merchants during the latter half of the 1800s, and it features some excellent museums of its own, including the Imperial Palace Museum. As for Paraty, it is a lovely colonial town whose historic core was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1966.