10 Best Cultural Spots for Families Visiting Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is better known as a party spot than a family holiday destination, but in fact the city has a huge amount to offer travelers with children. And while there's lots of outdoorsy fun to be pursued here, the family-friendly activities extend to rainy day options too. 

Rio harbors a wealth of museums, galleries and cultural spaces, and many of these will appeal to children and teenagers just as much as they appeal to parents.

They may lie a little way from the beaches, but many of the best spots are well worth taking a metro or cab ride to.  One standout is Parque das Ruinas, in Santa Teresa, which offers spectacular views as well as a small play park and regular free events such as puppet shows and children's theater.  Santa Teresa can itself be seen as a giant open air museum, as its old cobbled streets are lined with fine examples of colonial architecture. Families should also check out the impressive Catete Palace, a quick metro ride from Copacabana and Ipanema. The former presidential residence is grand enough in itself, but it's the lovely gardens and great playground that make it a real hit with kids. 

Another top destination for families is the MAC Modern Art Museum in Niteroi - kids will love the ferry ride across the bay almost as much as the flying-saucer design of the museum itself. 

Santa Teresa
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson

There's more to Rio de Janeiro than its beaches, and the artistic heart of the city can be found up in the jungle-clad hills of Santa Teresa. Here, pastel-colored colonial mansions have been converted into bucolic bars, friendly guest houses,...  Read More

Maracana Stadium
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson

The mighty Maracana is arguably the world's most famous soccer stadium and, while it is no longer the largest in the world, its 78,000 capacity means it is still a giant among sports arenas. The stadium, whose official title is Estadio...  Read More

This beautiful park, located right next door to Rio de Janeiro--s famous Botanical Gardens, is largely overlooked by tourists. More fool them, as the park is home to one of the most spectacular builldings in the city, framed by the figure of...  Read More

Botanical Gardens
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson

The informal restaurant inside the leafy gardens that give Jardim Botanico its name is one of the most pleasant spots in the city to enjoy a sandwich, salad and a coffee or glass of wine. This shady botanical garden is a must-visit for...  Read More

Rio Carnival is a once-a-year spectacular, but visitors can experience the glitz and glamour of the carnival parades year-round at this space dedicated to all things samba. The intricate carnival floats, spangly costumes and fleet-footed samba...  Read More

Museu de Arte do Rio
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson

When this impressive art museum opened its doors in early 2013, it marked a turning point in the ongoing regeneration of Rio's downtown port zone. This once-neglected part of the city is set to become a major arts and nightlife destination over...  Read More

This impressive domed building in the heart of Rio's downtown 'cultural quarter' was formerly the headquarters of the Bank of Brasil, and today is an arts center hosting visiting exhibitions from big name international artists. There are...  Read More

Designed by the late, legendary modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer, this space-age modern art museum provides a compelling reason to make the half-hour ferry trip across Guanabara Bay to Niteroi. Resembling a giant white flying saucer that...  Read More

The former mansion home of 20th Century Rio socialite Laurinda Santos Lobo have been transformed from mere ruins to one of the best free cultural spaces in the city. The building combines 20th century grandeur with modern clean lines, sheer...  Read More

This grand building was a Royal residence until the late 19th Century, when it became a presidential building following the overthrowing of the monarchy. It remained a presidential home until the 1950s, when then President Getulio Vargas,...  Read More


Meet Lucy Bryson

Lucy is a British freelance writer living in Rio de Janeiro since 2007. While there are some things she misses about her home country, the lure of year-round sunshine has proved too powerful to resist.

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