Rio's Centro (Downtown) has most of the city's notable churches and museums, including the Modern Art Museum, as well as many of its most famous bars. Lapa is one of the most thrilling places to be in Rio after dark, with streets and bars full of people, all in historical buildings (most of them from the early 1800s). In Lapa you can hear typical Brazilian music such as samba, forró, and choro. It's the place to try typical Brazilian food and drinks like the world famous caipirinha. The nearby Santa Teresa neighborhood, located on the hills to the southwest, is a beautiful historical district and home to many of the city's artists.
Line 1 of the subway provides access from both the Zona Sul and the Tijuca area of the Zona Norte. The station at Central do Brasil is the transfer point for Line 2 which services most of the Zona Norte.
You can walk to Santa Teresa from surrounding districts such as Catete, though it's a stiff uphill climb, and some of the streets aren't entirely safe.
Line 1 of the subway has stops in most of the important neighborhoods of the Centro:
- Cinelândia - for Praça XV, the National Library, City Hall, Municipal Theatre, Museum of Modern Art and Odeon movie theatre. To Lapa (Bohemian district).
- Carioca - for Santa Teresa tram station, downtown offices
- Uruguaiana - for a popular market
- Presidente Vargas - for downtown offices
- Central - for Central do Brasil rail station, Itamaraty Palace, and for Line 2
- Praça Onze - for the Sambadromo
- Estácio - used to be for subway Line 2, but it's no longer used for transfers, so, be sure not to come all the way to this station instead of switching trains at Central.
In the end of 2011 with Bike Rio  a rental service with 600 bicycles at about 60 stations was launched. A monthly ticket costs R$10 and the 24 hour ticket $R5, where trips up to 60 min are for free. Every further hour costs $R5.
- Banco do Brasil Cultural Centre (Centro Cultural do Banco do Brasil - CCBB), Rua 1º Março 66 - Centro, ☎ 21 3808-2000, . A cultural centre with gallery, movie theatre, video room, library and stages; usually hosts the main exhibitions in town. An interesting building completed in 1906 with old-fashioned elevators/lifts.
- Casa França Brasil, Rua Visconde de Itaboraí - Centro (next to CCBB), ☎ 21 2299-213. French cultural centre built in 1820, with gallery and video hall.
- City Hall, Praça Floriano - Centro, ☎ 21 3814-2121, . Hosts the city council
- Lapa Viaduct (Arcos da Lapa), Lapa. Colonial structure built in 1750 that brought water from springs to downtown.
- Municipal Theatre (Teatro Municipal), Av. Rio Branco - Centro (Metrô Cinelândia). City Theatre, inspired by the Paris Opéra House.
- National Library (Biblioteca Nacional), Av Rio Branco 219 (at junction with Passeio, Metrô Cinelândia), ☎ (21) 22209484, (21) 30953881 (email@example.com), . The National Library offers guided tours on weekdays, showing visitors its rare collection, various bookstacks and the catalogue system. Registration with identification is required, and tours run for about an hour. They leave at 1.00pm for English tours, and 11.00am, 1.00pm and 3.00pm for Portuguese tours. R$2 for tour..
- Passeio Público, Rua Texeira de Freitas at Rua Mestre Valentim. Commissioned in 1779, this was to become the first public park in the Americas. Check out the original Rococo-style gate and the ironwork fountains.
- Petrobras Headquarters, Avenida República do Chile 1202 (across from the Metropolitan Cathedral), ☎ 21 3224-7836. The headquarters for the federal gas (petrol) company is an interesting piece of brutalist architecture which somehow resembles a Rubik's Cube with some blocks missing.
- Praça da República, Av. Pres. Vargas. Large park; good for a rest. Look for monkeys and capybaras that roam about.
- Sambódromo, Rua Marquês de Sapucaí - Praça Onze (Metro Praça Onze), ☎ 21 2502-7122. Site of the famous Carnaval parades, the Sambódromo is a long street flanked by grandstands and VIP boxes. From the start of the year until Carnaval week, technical rehearsals (Ensaios Técnicos) free to the public are held on Saturday and Sunday evenings, with 2-3 teams performing per session.
- Selarón Staircase, Santa Teresa (Between Rua Joaquim Silva in Lapa and Rua Pinto Martins in Santa Teresa.). A stairway covered by colorful tiles and the ever-evolving art work of Chilean artist Jorge Selarón.
Inside Candelária cathedral.
- Benedictine Monastery of Rio de Janeiro (Mosteiro de São Bento), Rua Dom Gerardo 68 - Centro, . Colonial architecture. Founded in 1590.
- Candelária Church (Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Candelária), Praça Pio X - Centro (next to CCBB), ☎ 21 2233-2324. Neoclassic cathedral.
- Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian (Catedral Metropolitana São Sebastião), Av. Chile 245 - Lapa, ☎ 21 2240-2669, . A rather bizarre, modern cathedral shaped like a volcano, with a very impressively vacuous interior. One of Oscar Niemeyer's most famous designs.
- São Francisco da Penitência Church (Igreja de São Francisco da Penitência), Rua da Carioca, 5 - Centro, ☎ 21 2262-0197. Colonial church built in 1773.
- Chácara do Céu Museum (Museu da Chácara do Céu), Rua Murtinho Nobre 96 - Santa Teresa (Metrô Carioca), ☎ 21 2224-8981, . Daily except Tues, 12PM-5PM. Closed for major holidays.. An art and antique museum with a good collection of works by modern masters. During Carnaval 2006 some of its most famous works of art were stolen while a procession passed by outside.
- Image and Sound Museum (Museu da Imagem e do Som), Av. Europa 158, ☎ 11 3062-9197, . For researchers about the Brazilian film, radio, and broadcasting industries.
- Museum of Modern Art (Museu de Arte Moderno), Avenida Infante Dom Henrique 85 - Glória, ☎ 21 2240-4944, . After MASP in Sao Paulo, the second most important contemporary art museum in Brazil, (downtown, next to Santos Dumont airport). Modernist architecture on the edge of the Bay.
- National History Museum (Museu Histórico Nacional), Praça Marechal Âncora - Centro (Metrô Cinelândia), ☎ 21 2220-2328, . A museum of Brazilian history stretching from colonial to imperial times; big collection of paintings, but poor in artifacts.
- National Museum of Fine Arts (Museu Nacional das Belas Artes), Praça Floriano, Avenida Rio Branco (Metrô Cinelândia, opposite the Municipal Theatre), . Tues-Fri 10AM-6PM, weekends and holidays 12PM-5PM. Another building modelled on one in Paris, this time the Louvre. Includes large paintings from Academicist and Neoclassical Brazilian artists, as well as many copies of European sculptures R$5, free on Sundays.
- Tram Museum (Museu do Bonde), Rua Carlos Brandt 14 - Santa Teresa (close to Largo do Guimarães. Take the tram from downtown and ask the driver where to get off.), ☎ 21 2220 1003. Tues-Sun 11AM-6PM. This small tram museum has photos of and artifacts from the glory days when trams were all over Rio, including some models of old tramcars and lots of electrical equipment.
- Gustavo Capanem Palace (Palácio Gustavo Capanema), Rua da Imprensa 16. Former ministry of culture, designed by French architect Le Corbusier; though small, it is regarded as an important pioneering work in modern architecture.
- Ilha Fiscal Palace, Av. Alfredo Agache - Centro (In Guanabara Bay, next to the Navy Museum, from where you have to take a schooner to reach it. The schooner operates Thursdays to Sundays at 13.00, 14.30, and 16.00. Booking recommended, particularly at weekends.), ☎ 21 2271-7000. The former Customs House for Rio has some fascinating decorations and is well worth the visit.
- Itamaraty Palace (Palácio do Itamaraty), . Former presidential palace (1889-1893) and foreign office; now hosts a museum of South American diplomacy, a library and the UN information offices in Brazil.
- Paço Imperial, Praça XV de Novembro 48 - Centro, ☎ 021 2215-2622, . Old Imperial Palace built in 1743 (though impressively modest). Colonial architecture.
- Tiradentes Palace (Palácio de Tiradentes), Rua Primeiro de Março (at junction with Assembléia), ☎ (21) 25881411. Mon-Sat 10.00am-5.00pm; Sun 12.00pm-5.00pm. The seat of the Legislative Assembly, visitors are welcome to wander in the corridors along the perimeter of the first floor, which tell the history of the Legislative Assembly and the building (mostly in Portuguese). Access to the second floor can be arranged through a guided tour with volunteers at the reception. Free.
- Artists' Open House (Arte de Portas Abertas), . Held over a few days in May and November of each year, when Santa Teresa's artists open their studios to the public. There are free shuttle buses from most parts of the city for this event.
- Mocidade Independente Samba School, Rua Júlio do Carmo, 251 - Cidade Nova, ☎ 21 2516-3215, .
- Samba City (Cidade do Samba), Rua Rivadávia Correia 60 - Gamboa, ☎ 21 2223-1231, . Tues-Sat 10AM-5PM. This arts and entertainment complex celebrates Carnaval year-round. Thursday nights at 8PM, there is a special Carnaval samba presentation called Forces of Nature (Forças da Natureza), which includes a dinner buffet, for R$190 per person, with students and senior citizens getting half-price. R$5.
- Santa Teresa Historic Tramway, Bonde de Santa Teresa. What was Brazil's only remaining metropolitan tramway, in continuous operation since 1859, ran from Largo da Carioca, across the Arcos da Lapa, and into Santa Teresa. Unfortunately, after an accident in 2011 the tram runs no more.
- UFRJ School of Music (Escola de Música da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro), Rua de Passeio 98 - Lapa, ☎ 21 2240-1391. 9AM-9PM daily. A good place to catch free classical music concerts. Stop by during the day for a schedule or check the newspaper for events, as the surrounding neighborhood can be a bit shady at night. Free.
- Saara, surrounding Rua Buenos Aires between Praça da República and Rua dos Andrades (Metrô Presidente Vargas or Uruguaiana), . Nothing to do with the desert, this bazaar is named after an association of small shop owners that was established there on the early 1900s, most of them from the Middle East and Jews from Eastern Europe. There are also lots of Chinese businesses. Today, it has a wide variety of shops, selling almost anything. From trousers to gum, from licorice to Carnival costumes, you can find virtually everything on the always crowded - yet peaceful - pedestrian-only parallel streets. A very popular tour during weekdays, but be on time. After 6 o'clock the shops close and the once filled streets become empty.
- Music shops are concentrated on Rua Carioca. While a handcrafted guitar will easily go for thousands of reais, you may want to pick up an inexpensive cavaquinho or cuica. One block north on Rua 7 de Setembro there are some CD and record shops, though their offerings are meager.
- Bistrô do Paço, Praça XV 48 - Centro (in the courtyard of the Paço Imperial), ☎ 21 2262-3613, . Mon-Fri 11:30AM-7:30PM, Sat-Sun 12-7. Quick and quiet spot for a light lunch. R$12-18.
- Al-Kuwait, Av. Treze de Maio, 23 - Centro, ☎ 21 2240-1114. A good place to try the Brazilian take on Middle Eastern food.
- Confeitaria Colombo, Rua Gonçalves Dias 32 - Centro, ☎ 21 2232-2300 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Dates back to 1894 and has a dazzling tea room and arguably the best sweets and other delicacies in town.
- Casa Cavé, Rua Uruguaiana 11 - Centro, ☎ 21 2222-2358, .
- Manoel e Juaquim, Praça João Pessoa 7 - Lapa (corner of Gomes Freire and Mem de Sá), ☎ 21 2232-3775, .
- Mike's Haus, Rua Almirante Alexandrino 1458 - Santa Teresa. Dishes up German food. Ex-hangout of train-robber Ronnie Biggs.
- Restaurante Nova Capela, Av. Men de Sá, 96 - Lapa, ☎ 21 2232-1907. Try the house specialty of mutton with rice and broccoli (carneiro com arroz com brócolis).
- Aprazível, Rua Aprazível 62 - Santa Teresa, ☎ 21 2305-9174, . Thurs-Sat 12PM-1AM, Sun 1PM-6PM. This restaurante mineiro, inside an antique villa, has nice veranda and garden seating with great views of Guanabara Bay. Reservations recommended. R$35-50.
- Espirito Santa, Rua Almirante Alexandrino 264 - Santa Teresa, ☎ 21 2508-7095, . Mon-Wed 11:30AM-6PM, Thurs-Sat 11:30AM-12AM, Sun 11:30AM-7PM. Another fine restaurant in an old villa built in the 1930s, this eatery serves exotic dishes from the Amazon region, including fish such as piranha, and unusual fruits like cupuaçu, taperabá, and jambu. They also have a good selection of regional cachaças. $25-35.
- Armazém São Thiago (Bar do Gomez), Rua Áurea, 26 - Santa Teresa (5-min walk from Largo do Guimarães, corner or R. Áurea and R. Monte Alegre), ☎ 21 2232-0822, . A beautifully restored former grocery store, with a high ceiling, nice wooden furnishings, and beer that's always ice-cold. Located a bit past where most tourists get off the tram, and frequented by an eclectic local crowd which spills out on to the sidewalk even in the afternoon.
- Bar do Arnaldo, Rua Almirante Alexandrino 316 B - Santa Teresa, ☎ 21 2252-7246. Arnaldo is one of the classic drinking spots in Santa Teresa, famous for its food from Brazil's northeast region.
- Bar Simplesmente, Rua Pascoal Carlos Magno, 115 - Santa Teresa (just past Largo do Guimarães), ☎ 21 2508-6007. Lively and popular with the young crowd. And not simply a bar; the food is inexpensive but good.
- Beco do Rato, Rua Joaquim Silva, 11 - Lapa, . Tues, Thurs, and Fri evenings. This is in fact not a club but a street party. This place was a quite small and hidden beer and beverage deposit store. After a change in the administration it changed into a bar, offering good quality live music, and turned into one of the nicest street parties in Rio. Laid-back atmosphere typical of Rio, samba and beer. Is surrounded by historical buildings in this old forgotten spot of Lapa. On Tuesdays they have a "roda de samba" involving samba players sitting around a big table and people around singing and dancing. Nice day to go: get there early around 21:30. On Thursdays nights, chorinho is played (old style instrumental samba). Nice to see the old school players doing their best there, a bit of Buena Vista. On Fridays is the busiest day, with samba till 3AM.
- Goya Beira, Largo das Neves 13 - Santa Teresa, ☎ 21 2232-5751. Sun-Thurs 5:30PM, Fri-Sat 5:30PM-2AM. Pleasant little place for a drink or two, with a view of Praça Neves with the tram line. If you get hungry, try the pizza.
- Cabaret Casanova, Av. Mem de Sá 25 - Lapa, ☎ 21 2221-6555. Dance club.
- Cabaret Kalesa, Rua Sacadura Cabral 61 - Praça Mauá, ☎ 21 2516-8332, . Dance club.
- Carioca da Gema, Av. Mem de Sá 79 - Lapa, ☎ 21 2221-0043, . Mon-Sat. Located in a nice old house from the 1900s, this place always has good samba groups playing. One of the best days is on Monday nights when on stage you can see one of the most powerful voices of samba, the singer Richah, with his group playing old Carnaval songs.
- Cine Ideal, Rua da Carioca, 64, . Gay and lesbian club playing mostly electronic music.
- Circo Voador, Arcos da Lapa - Lapa, ☎ 21 2533-5873. Live music venue with plenty of live Carioca music.
- Clube Dos Democraticos, Rua do Riachelo 91/93 - Lapa, ☎ 21 2252 4611, . Clube dos Democráticos was founded in 1867 and is one of the first carnaval groups of Rio. Nowadays the great ballroom of the beginning of the 20th century houses one of the best places to dance Brazilian rhythms, especially samba, in Rio. Best days are Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday is the day of Forró (a Brazilian rhythm from Northeast really popular throughout the country) and on Thursday the traditional samba. Both days are awesome, if you're looking to experience a genuine Brazilian atmosphere where people dance all night long, even if you don't know any step of the ballroom samba, you'd be mostly invited to dance and teached by the locals. Inexpensive big beer bottles and caipirinhas.
- Estrela da Lapa, Av. Mem de Sá 69 - Lapa, ☎ 21 2507-6686, .
- Rio Scenarium, Rua do Lavradio 20 - Lapa, . Tues-Sat. One of the most beautiful and best-known samba clubs in Rio de Janeiro. Was once elected by the British newspaper The Guardian as being one of the top 10 bars in the world. Nice décor, filled with antiques, paintings, medieval armors, old bycicles, etc. in a amazing 19th century warehouse. Three floors: on the first floor the main stage, second floor is a annex where sometimes another band plays or there is a DJ playing mostly Brazilectro (mix of eletronic music with Brazilian songs). Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest nights and sometimes specially in the summer there are pretty long lines, so get there early, around 22:00, to avoid them. Bring a valid ID/passport (copy is also accepted) to get in. By the entrance you get a comsuption card (don't lose it!) and you pay your comsumption and entrance fees at the cashier before leaving the building. Dress up.
- Teatro Rival, Rua Álvaro Alvim 33 - Lapa (Metrô Cinelândia), ☎ 21 2524-1666.
- The Week, Rua Sacadura Cabral 154 - Saúde, . Dance club.
- 40 Graus, Rua do Riachuelo, 97 - Lapa, ☎ (21) 3970-1338, . A rather fancy "Snooker & Dance Hall" (Sinuca & Gafieira) club with nationally known samba artists on the regular schedule. R$40 men / R$25 women, cheaper before 22:00.
- Oasis Collections, ☎ +55 11 3042 9086 (email@example.com), . A portfolio of handpicked homes and apartments that include concierge service and full guest support. Recently awarded Top Villa Provider by Condé Nast Traveler.
- Casa Beleza, . Charming guest house in an exotic mansion with swimming pool and tropical gardens. The house was the former residence of the Governor of the State of Rio. Doubles from US$100.
- Casa MangoMango, Rua Joaquim Murtinho 587, ☎ 055 21 2508 6440, . A bed & breakfast that offers nice prices for couples and groups. Great view, too!
- Casa 579, . A beautiful mansion house with spectacular views and an amazing roof terrace with 180 degree views of Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Mountain
- Formule 1 (Rua Silva Jardim 32 - Centro), (at Praça Tiradentes), ☎ 21 3511-8500, .
- Ibis Centro, Rua Silva Jardim 32, Tower 1 - Centro (at Praça Tiradentes), ☎ 21 3511-8200, .
- Ibis Santos Dumont, Avenida Marechal Câmara 280 - Centro, ☎ 21 3506-4500.
Avoid entering or leaving Santa Teresa on foot after nightfall. During the day it's a nice hike up the streets, but the neighborhood is surrounded by three different favelas, and assaults after dark are not unheard of even for the locals. Take taxis and stay in groups.
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