DIY Walking Tour of Downtown, Centro Rio de Janeiro

Gotta couple of hours to kill in Rio but don’t know where to start?

After you have witnessed Christ the Redeemer, the Sugarloaf mountain and Rio’s spectacular beaches, it may be time to take a break from the crammed tourist attractions and have a wander around Rio’s impressive cultural and historic downtown.

Get valuable insight into Brazil and Rio’s history with the best museum’s in the country and basque in some of the most stunning art and architecture the country has to offer. 

There are some walking tours available but I think you are better off breaking out a good old-fashioned map (OR the best app ever Maps.Me – no wi-fi required!) and get going.

Total Walking Time: 1.5 – 2 hours (get those 10,000 steps in!). Not including stops in museums.

Stop 1: Lapa

Assuming you are coming from the Copacabana/ Flamengo/ Leblon/ Ipanema/ Santa Theresa side of the city, Lapa is a great place to start the walking tour if you have not been there before.

Boasting street stalls, bars, restuarants and street art, it’s a great place to wander. You can even stop to take a snap at the famous Escalera de Selarón, the area’s famous graffiti steps.

Stop 2: Municipal Theatre

Less than a ten minute walk from Lapa, you will find yourself in Centro, right next to the The Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro. This is a beautiful old building built in 1909, recently refurbished in 2008 and is adorned with a decorative white and gold facade and boasts a fascinating history.

If you are lucky you can find times outside for guided tours in different languages throughout the day.

Stop 3: Museu Historico Nacional

Around 15 minutes walk from here, you can find Brazil’s National History Museum. Featuring long-term exhibitions such as ‘Portuguese in the World’ and ‘Construction of a Nation’ as well as some great short-term exhibitions, this is a great place to get to grips with Brazil’s unique history.

Stop 4: Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Casa- Franca Brasil & Central Cultural Correois

Next is another museum stop where three of Rio’s top museums lie side by side, located about 15 minutes from the National History Museum. 

The Banco do Brasil is a cultural centre offering numerous exhibitions from visual and contemporary art to feature installations. Make sure to see what’s on when you arrive in Rio on their website.

Right next door is the Casa-Franca Brasil, an art exhibition space with free admission and beautiful architecture. Finally, you can also drop in to the Central Cultural Correois – an old post office turned exhibition space and historic hub.

Stop 5: São Bento Monastery

The Morro de São Bento is distinguished as being one of the most spectacular, colonial churches in the country and a ten minute walk from your last stop.

Don’t be fooled by the plain exterior as inside is lavished with baroque style art, gold facades and sculpture to rival any found across South America.

Stop 6: Finish up in the Museu do Amanhã

Another ten minutes and you will arrive at the Museum of Tomorrowa contemporary museum that muses on the state of our planet and human effects on it.

It is an impressive building that hosts temporary exhibitions as well as a long-term interactive exhibition designed to make you think about how we are effecting our planet.

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