Occupying the imposing building that is Palacio do Catete, or "Catete Palace," Rio's Museum of the Republic is located in a once-grand residential neighborhood between Rio de Janeiro's touristic Zona Sul and downtown. Today, Catete has lost a little of its shine, but it's still notable for its rather fine colonial buildings; it's also the setting for some interesting street markets selling new and vintage clothes and decorative trinkets.
Catete Palace itself is a grand 19th-century building with plenty of tourist appeal in its own right, and visitors can gaze upon the lavish furnishings and ornate painted ceilings that were once enjoyed by European aristocracy and later by 18 successive Brazilian presidents.
Catete Palace's grand interior — Photo courtesy of Kelly Sato / A C Moraes
The museum also houses the Museum of the Republic, which outlines Brazil's fight for independence from the Portuguese monarchy. They host some interesting visiting exhibitions here.
The palace was also the place where President Getulio Vargas took his own life in 1954, when it became clear that the military was set to overthrow his government. Today his bedroom is open for viewings, complete with glass-encased gun, bullets and bloodied, torn pajamas.
Attractions of a less gory nature can be found in the grounds, where towering trees, wandering geese, water features and a pleasant cafe may offer a little respite from the hectic pace of life outside the garden walls. There's a great playground for young kids, too, witn a giant sandpit, play tunnels and some of the city's best maintained slides, swings and roundabouts.
The gardens at Palacio do Catete are popular with families — Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson
Occasional arts and crafts fairs, outdoor cinema screenings and live music and theater have helped put this leafy urban garden firmly on Rio's cultural circuit, and there's a small giftstore and bookshop at the entrance.
While it's free to enter the gardens (open Tuesday through Sunday), there is an R$6 cost to enter the palace itself. Budget-conscious visitors to Rio should note that the fee is waived on Wednesdays and Sundays.
While Catete rarely tops the must-visit list while in Rio, the palace is a worthy rainy day option, and the gardens and playground are one of the top outdoor spaces in the city for families with young children.