Things to Do in Southeast Brazil - page 3
This rugged trail in the hills of Minas Gerais, once served as a train route for mining supplies, African slaves and exporting gold. But after numerous pirate attacks on ships loaded with the precious medal headed for port in Rio de Janeiro, the trail fell out of use. Today, despite the fact most gold has already been mined, the Gold Path has become a popular destination for travelers looking to explore scenic mountains, thick forests and a bit of Paraty history. Enjoy a ride on the natural rockslide into cooling crystal waters after a hike through the hills, then head to scenic Toboga Falls before stopping at the nearby distillery where strong sips of locally made cachaca—a sugarcane rum—round out the day.
Visitors looking to escape the sun and instead, soak up a bit of Paraty culture will enjoy exploring the cobbled streets of the town’s compact Historic Center(Centro Historico Paraty). Small enough to cover entirely on foot, the area if filled with a number of attractions unique to Paraty.
Spend an afternoon people watching in the grassy lawns of quaint Martiz Square or wandering through streets lined with old colonial architecture. A handful of churches are worth a visit, including Ingera Marriz Nossa Senhora do Rosario, the largest church in Paraty, and Capela de Nossa Senhora das Dores, religious home to Paraty’s well-heeled. After church-hopping, head to Rua do Comercio, where local merchants hawk handicrafts and Brazilian cuisine. Then unwind with incredible bay views at the Shambhala Asian Day Spa, just a 10-minute walk from the Historic Center.
Founded in 1905, the Art Gallery of the State of Sao Paulo (Pinacoteca do Estado) is one of Brazil’s most important art museums. Dedicated to 19th and 20th century Brazilian art, the Pinacoteca collection features more than 8,000 pieces, including works by Almeida Júnior, Pedro Alexandrino, and Oscar Pereira da Silva.
Tucked away near the base of the iconic Sugar Loaf Mountain and overlooking the Guanabara Bay lies the intimate neighborhood of Urca. Known for its Brazilian celebrity sightings, restaurant scene, art deco and Spanish colonial-style homes, and affluent beach vibes, this tiny region is hidden in plain sight, and a great spot for a quiet beach day.
Set in a striking modern structure with the Guanabara Bay as its backdrop, Rio’s Museum of Tomorrow (Museu do Amanha) is a science museum that focuses on ecology, sustainability and our planet’s future. This brand new, ultra-modern museum uses state-of-the-art visuals, simulators and carefully curated exhibitions to reflect on the past, present and future of life and the world. Visitors should note that despite the name, there isn’t any technology on display — the Museum of Tomorrow tots itself as “a museum of questions.”
A highlight is the entrance, where visitors enter a 360-degree, oval-shaped theater that projects a film that goes through billions of years of evolution and the creation of life. In the main exhibit, striking images and video of modern day environmental disasters and visual displays of ozone damages, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy consumption aim to make visitors reflect on mankind’s effects on the environment.
The Museum of Tomorrow and its commanding, recognizable structure is the flagship landmark of a massive revitalization effort in the city’s Port Zone. What used to be a decaying industrial zone is now a newly renovated cultural area of museums, restaurants, plazas and stunning views of the bay and the Rio-Niteroi Bridge.
A symbol of São Paulo’s race to modernity, this skyscraper, formerly known as Edifício Altino Arantes (as well as the Banespa Tower or Banespão), remains one of the most notable landmarks on the city’s evolving skyline, and recently underwent a renovation and rebranding—now known as the Farol Santander. It was originally built as the headquarters of the State Bank of São Paulo and named for one of the bank’s first presidents.
Flanked by the looming peaks of Sugarloaf Mountain and Papagaio Peak and dotted with over 100 islands, Guanabara Bay provides a dramatic backdrop to the city of Rio de Janeiro. Brazil’s second-largest bay, Guanabara is home to the cities of Niteroi and São Gonçalo, the Port of Rio de Janeiro, and Rio’s two airports.
Stationed between the electric metropolis of Sau Paulo and the lively city of Rio de Janeiro lies the 260,000 acres of rural forest and mountain peaks that makes up Serra da Bocaina National Park. This precious preserve is home to natural Atlantic Forest vegetation and some of the most diverse flora and fauna in the region.
Ecotourism and outdoor adventure prove the main attractions at Serra da Bocaina, which attracts avid hikers from across the globe. Travelers can embark on a 16-kilometer hike to Bacia Peak and enjoy incredible views of the Paraiba Valley from atop the second tallest mountain in the range. The slightly shorter, but equally popular, Cliff Trail winds through Enchanted Wood, passing hundreds of different indigenous plants, and ends at the Paredao’s Waterfall, where weary legs can cool off in chilly waters. The Stone House ruins, which were originally built in 1914 to house a visiting French doctor, lend a bit of interest to an otherwise easy trail marked by small river crossings and equally epic views (but without all the work).
Far less crowded than Rio hot spots such as Copacabana or Ipanema, the art deco Flamengo neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro’s Zona Sul offers a comfortable downtown alternative to the more trendy beaches and resorts. While there, visit Flamengo Park, a grassy section of reclaimed shoreline that faces Guanabara Bay.
This architectural highlight was built in 1820 and once served as a customs house for the region. Today, Casa Franca-Brasil is home to rotating exhibitions that showcase the nation’s political and cultural history.
Travelers say the building is worth a visit because it’s an impressive example of neo-colonial architecture that’s anything but typical of Rio de Janeiro. And while the on-site restaurant offers some pretty delicious local eats, the gallery shows can be hit or miss. For this reason visitors suggest checking out the calendar before planning to venture inside.
More Things to Do in Southeast Brazil
Many of the colorful hang gliders soaring over the city of Rio de Janeiro launch from the top of Pedra Bonita, a granite peak located within Tijuca National Park. From an elevation of 2,283 feet (696 meters), the views are stellar even for visitors who choose to forgo the hang gliding. Unlike some of Rio’s other peaks, Pedra Bonita has an easy trail to the top.
A mile-long (1.5-kilometer) trail climbs steadily toward the peak, and while there’s a significant elevation change along the way, there are steps on the steeper parts, so it’s no more difficult than climbing a staircase. Barra da Tijuca, Sugarloaf Mountain, Rocinha favela and Christ the Redeemer are all visible from the top.
Standing guard over the southern shores of Copacabana Beach and affording views of both Copacabana and Ipanema, Copacabana Fort is a former military base. Built in the 20th century, the fortress now houses a military museum and historic artifacts, but the main draw is the fort’s two cafés with sweeping beach views.
Red Beach (Praia Vermelha) is one of Rio’s smallest beaches but also one of the most scenic. Tucked inside a protective cove that keeps the waves at bay, the beach is covered in coarse sand with a slightly reddish hue. Flanked by the spires of Morro da Urca and Morro da Babilonia, Vermelha Beach offers ground level views looking up at Sugarloaf Mountain. To reach the top of the iconic peak, ride the cable car from Vermelha Beach to the top of Morro da Urca, before transferring over to a second car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. Or, to combine a hike with the ride to the top, a steep trail ascends Morro da Urca from the sands of Praia Vermelha, which is accessed by walking the paved walking trail that leads away from the beach. Known as the Pista Cláudio Coutinho, the trail offers stunning vistas and photo ops looking back at the reddish-hued beach, and for a Rio moment you’ll never forget, visit the beach in the hour before sunset to watch as the fading sun illuminates the cliffs and the shoreline in red.
Standing 168 meters tall, São Paulo’s Italian Building (Edifício Itália) is the second-tallest structure in the city after Mirante do Vale. Built between 1956 and 1965, it’s famous for its 360-degree-views which you can see for yourself on a trip up to the Terraço Itália restaurant and piano bar, or even further to the 41st floor rooftop viewing terrace. With the city spread out 500 feet below, and soft jazz playing in the Noble Room piano bar, this is most definitely the spot for celebrating a special occasion.
The rest of the floors are given over to offices, and there's a theater and gallery on the ground floor. Another interesting spot in the building is the Circolo Italiano — a nonprofit that preserves the traditions of Sao Paulo’s Italians. The surrounding downtown area isn’t all that safe at night, so if you’re having dinner here it's a good idea to ask the staff to call you a cab to take you back to your accommodation.
Rio de Janeiro’s Museum of Modern Art (Museu de Arte Moderna) offers one of Brazil's foremost collections of modern and contemporary art, with roughly 12,000 works housed within its concrete and glass-fronted facade. Highlights of the permanent collection include works by Di Cavalcanti, Maria Martins, and Bruno Giorgi.
Named for its double peaks, Rio de Janeiro’s Morro Dois Irmaos translates to the “Hill of Two Brothers.” The city is famous for its views, especially from above, and from the top of the two peaks it is possible to see Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, Arpoador, São Conrado and the Tijuca Forest. Sweeping vistas provide a near 360-degree view of the scenic surroundings. With the Vidigal favela located just below, it is also a fascinating place to view the expansive communities of the city from above.
The hills have become a symbol of Rio and are great at any time of day, but most recommended in the golden light of sunset.
A rectangular eye at the center of the urban hurricane that is São Paulo, Republic Square (Praça da República) might have seen better days, but the plaza still holds on to its importance as a focal point for cultural life in the city. Built in 1889 to commemorate a new era in the city’s expansion and development, the square served as the primary location for concerts, political protests, and other gatherings.
With its towering spires, grand dome, and baroque details, La Candelaria Church (Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria) stands out among more modern surroundings in central Rio de Janeiro. It was originally established by a group of Spanish settlers in 1609, and today, the Catholic church still holds mass and community gatherings.
Located inside Estádio Municipal Paulo Machado de Carvalho (a soccer stadium located in the Pacaembu neighborhood of Sao Paulo), the Sao Paulo Football Museum (Museu do Futebol) is a 6,900-square-meter museum dedicated to the history and importance of soccer in Brazilian culture.
The museum is located underneath the bleachers, and was constructed over 13 months and inaugurated in 2009. Valued at USD $12 million, the Museum du Futebol has 16 rooms of permanent exhibits, as well as several temporary exhibitions. Permanent exhibitions give visitors an opportunity to see the history and importance of soccer in Brazilian culture, download their own “goal” moments, and view the soccer pitch. Much of the Museum’s content is multimedia, and written content is provided in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Audio guides are also available in these languages.
Those who have already been enchanted by the Jardim Bôtanico, but are looking for a less popular venue, will find a tranquil paradise at Lage Park (Parque Lage). The small park at the foot of Corcovado Mountain was once the residence of the rich industrialist Enrique Large and his wife, the singer Gabriella Besanzoni. Surrounded by monkeys and birds hopping from branch to branch in the Atlantic rain forest, the park resembles an oasis and it is easy to see why the couple decided to settle down here. The mansion was built in the colonial style, but was later remodeled by Italian architect Mario Vodrelan and enclosed by a perfectly landscaped English-style garden. Today, the building hosts the Escola de Artes Visuais – the visual arts school – as well as a café, both of which are open to the public.
Behind the turquoise pool in the courtyard, the wooden benches of the café and the embellished facade, Christ the Redeemer rises into the sky and creates the perfect backdrop for a day away from busy Rio. Apart from the nice view of the Christ, the delightful pastries at the café and the occasional exhibition or event, the Parque Lage also offers nice walks through the lush landscape with lots of things to discover. Visitors can enjoy fish tanks holding a variety of Brazilian species, admire fountains, ponds, caves and a tower and find plenty of benches to sit and take in the scenery.
Holding more than 9 million volumes, Brazil’s National Library (Biblioteca Nacional do Brasil) is the largest of its kind in Latin America. Founded in 1810 and relocated to its current Greek Revival-style building in 1910, the library maintains an archive of the country’s most important publications, periodicals, photographs, films, and music.
Glória Marina (Marina da Glória), with its coastal views and epic mountain scenery, is one of Rio de Janeiro’s most popular waterfront destinations. Nestled between the Sugar Loaf and Corcovado Mountains, the marina offer visitors a picturesque place to take in live music performances, public and private boat parties and ship tours of the city. Visitors say the cuisine at nearby Barracuda Restaurant is some of the best in town (and so are the views!) but travelers agree it’s the reasonably priced diving certification classes and personalized sailing lessons that make Glória Marina truly worth the trip.
This Catholic church in the heart of Paraty’s Historic Center is not only the largest in the town—it is also the most popular. Travelers flock to this impressive example of colonial architecture that stretches over an entire block and was built on donated land. Despite it’s beauty, the bell towers and temple of Our Lady of the Remedies remain incomplete. In addition to exploring the chapels, visitors can partake in local festivals during Holy Week and wander the halls of upstairs art galleries year round.
Don’t let the name fool you—Ruins Park (Parque das Ruínas)—isn’t just some abandoned relic of a bygone era. Well, the venue had been the mansion of a well-known Rio socialite, Laurinda Santos Lobo, whose early 20th-century balls were legendary. After her death in 1946, the house fell into disrepair, only to be salvaged by the city government in the 1990s and turned into this increasingly popular exhibition space and live music venue, complete with an al fresco café and one of the best views in the city.
Perched high atop one of the quieter hillsides of Santa Teresa, the restored complex features a beguiling mash-up of 19th- and 20th-century architecture, with an exposed brick façade and colonnaded veranda standing warmly next to Modernist metal and glass accents. During the summer, the outdoor concert series includes local jazz and samba bands, as well as children’s performances that add a decidedly familial air to an otherwise romantic ambiance. Be sure not to miss the marvelous weekend brunch served up with a stunning panorama of the marvelous city.
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