It's true: People really do come out and applaud the sunrise and sunset. Which seems hard to believe until you climb out onto this sloping rock formation justting into the sea at the junction of Copacabana and Ipanema beaches and think, ah, yes, applause well earned.
Originally built as the private residence for Walther Moreira Salles, who was the Brazilian ambassador to the United States twice in the 1950s, the museum embodies the best of Brazilian modernism. The house has entertaining rooms that open to covered verandas and the garden is modeled with lily ponds and a beautiful modern tile mural.
The botanical gardens of Rio support 1,500 species of indigenous flowers, tropical trees, and bushy plants. The green space is worth a stroll, especially for the beautiful and dramatic allée formed by royal palms near the main lodge.
Oscar Niemeyer's contemporary art museum, which looks like a spaceship straight out of Star Trek, will reopen in 2016 for its 20th anniversary. Its prime location offers the best view of Rio and easy access to low-key beaches by the bay.
Literally "heavenly country house," this totally off-the-beaten-path museum is filled with works by Matisse, Modigliani, Degas, Seurat, and Miró, among others. Burle Marx designed the gardens where visitors relax and children play after visiting the museum.
The recently renovated museum dedicated to the history of the city is an impressive example of how Rio's expansive "marvelous port" initiative will reclaim the past and expand into the future. The old colonial-era mansion is linked by elevated walkway to a modern building next door. Exhibits cover everything from vintage cityscapes to surf culture.
The Presidential Palace hosted many historical events, including the declaration of war against the German Empire in 1917 and the Axis in 1942. It's a visit rife with drama, from beautiful inlaid palace floors made with indigenous hardwoods, to the romantic English park outside, to the tragic bedroom where President Getúlio Vargas committed suicide with a shot to the heart in 1954.
The park, which runs along the coast in the center of the city, offers entertainment for body and soul, from long beaches and exercise equipment along the promenade to the Rio de Janeiro Museum of Modern Art.
A beautiful garden respite in the middle of the city. The Italianate palace with halls of frescoes and an outdoor courtyard with a large stone swimming pool, it feels like a magnificent ruin you just discovered in an overgrown forest filled with royal palms, cinnamon shrubs, the occasional mischievous monkey. Visit for the aquarium, the contemporary art exhibitions, or for a picnic lunch. The free exchange library box in the front garden has many titles in English if you forgot to bring a novel.
The botanical collection of Roberto Burle Marx, Brazil's most famous landscape architect, is on full display at his former — a stunning 88-acre property, previously a banana farm, filled with 3,500 specimens of plants, including palms, bromeliads, cycads, and heliconias.