Ah, Rio de Janeiro! What other nickname than the Marvelous City befits a tropical metropolis set incomparably between the sparkling southern ocean and a verdant, undulating coastal mountain range? Alas, the sun doesn’t always shine in paradise and rainy days happen quite frequently, especially in winter, which runs from June until September.
Explore Rio’s Museums and Cultural Centers
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Situated away from the beaches – mostly in the city’s more historic central districts such as Centro, Santa Teresa and Flamengo – are Rio’s engaging and unique museums and cultural centers. Lovers of classical painting and sculpture can find artwork from Europe, West Africa, and Brazil at the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes (National Fine Arts Museum), whose collection dates back to the days when Rio was the capital of the Portuguese empire. These collections are housed in an elaborate, eclectic-style building that should be also considered a work of art. Admission to the museum is free.
While clouds and raindrops might dampen dreams of sun, surf, and sand; that’s no reason to stay locked up inside a hotel room until the gloom disappears. Here are a things to do indoors in Rio, including several options for outdoor travelers and culture vultures alike.
Located in a stately neo-classical bank building, the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB) offers a rotating schedule of exhibitions, including visual art, music presentations, films, lectures, and other cultural events – always free of charge. Sponsored by Brazil’s state bank, CAIXA Cultural is slightly more avant-garde but no less varied in its offerings. This vast cultural and educational space is also free to visit and occupies a sleek Modernist office block downtown.
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A foundation in honor of Raymundo Ottoni de Castro Maya – scion of old Rio and one of Brazil’s most passionate art patrons – founded this museum, which features a beautiful garden with breathtaking vistas of Corcovado and Sugarloaf Mountain – if the rain stops long enough for you to see these popular tourist attractions from afar.
Rio is also the home of several interesting private cultural institutes and art collections. The Instituto Moreira Salles – founded by banker and philanthropist Walter Moreira Salles – has a special mission to promote and develop Brazilian visual arts, literature and music by showcasing these elements of the country’s rich cultural heritage. Located in the district of Gávea, the institute is housed in a mansion (former residence of the Moreira Salles family) with a pool and tropical gardens. Another of the city’s more interesting art collections can be found in the Chacara do Ceau Museum located in the bohemian enclave of Santa Teresa.
Shop ‘til You Drop
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LuciAH via Flickr Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0
Serious shoppers on the hunt for authentic souvenirs skip the malls. Head to Granado Pharmacia, a local chain of pharmacies and cosmetics boutiques that feature soaps, oils, lotions, creams, and powders in vintage packaging and classically Brazilian varieties, such as (Brazil nut) and (the fabulous Amazonian super-berry). Meanwhile, well-read types might find their treasures at Livraria da Travessa, a temple to books and the written word.
Rainy days and shopping go hand-in-hand, especially when the opportunities to see the city’s tall and tan young lovelies move from the beach to the shopping center. Shopping Leblon, located in the beachside neighborhood of the same name, is one of the flashy in-town malls that includes cinemas, restaurants, and, of course, shops. Just through the tunnel in São Conrado is the equally bustling Fashion Mall. And further to the west in Barra da Tijuca is Barra Shopping, with Florida-style eateries, bars, and nightspots in the vicinity.
With 7 locations citywide, the Livraria da Travessa’s Ipanema bookstore attracts visitors with its unique décor such as its tiled floor and wood-paneled walls – the antithesis of bright and tropical Ipanema chic.
Stay Fit and Get an Adrenaline Kick
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Despite stormy weather, you can attain or maintain that beach body by participating in weight training, cardio, yoga or fitness classes offered at fitness centers or located around town. Some of the well-established chains sell day passes and are typically open during holidays, or they provide extended hours. Equipe 1 – an institution in Copacabana – has a weight room, swimming pool, sauna and offers a variety of classes, including street jazz, boxing, and tai chi. With 19 branches throughout Rio, Bodytech is a bit shinier and more expensive with personal training, spinning, martial arts and CrossFit on the menu.
The rocks and cliffs around Rio might be slippery and off limits in the rain, but there are a few indoor options for antsy travelers who need an adrenaline fix. Several indoor climbing gyms, usually affiliated with outdoor outfits that scale Sugarloaf Mountain, are based in the Botafogo district and offer climbing opportunities at various skill levels. Limite Vertical and Evolução both provide rain-free climbing at affordable prices.
With all these activities, there should be plenty of diversions to keep you dry until the storm clouds pass over Rio de Janeiro.
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