BRAZIL – guide to the southern region

(Updated January 2020)

Actually, I think there are countries that are automatically on every traveller’s bucket list: Australia, India…and Brazil is a country like that, too.

Collage of the Iguazu Falls, Cristo Rey and the Sugar Loaf in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

These are only three highlights Brazil has to offer – kind of an appetizer.

For me, the danger with these standard bucket list countries is that since they are permanently there, I feel no rush to visit. I always knew that I wanted to explore Brazil one day. Yes, one day….

this way to read the whole story >>>

INHOTIM- Introducing God’s and Other Artists’ Creations

God’s artistic creations – such as flowers and trees – are of genuine, pure beauty, indeed. But in combination with creations by earthly visual artists, they become just marvelous.

Dan Graham’s Bisected Triangle in the backdrop of the lush greeneries. At Inhotim, God’s creations and the other artists’ works go together just so well.

Bernardo Paz, the founder of Inhotim in the outskirts of Brumadinho, is not the first impresario to recognize that.
I’ve been to a couple of other fantastic combinations of Godly and artistic creations, brought together by some wealthy impresarios like Henry E. Huntington’s Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino/Pasadena and Knud W. Jensen’s Louisiana North of Copenhagen. I assure you none of these can compete with Inhotim.


Brumadinho

The venue, officially called Instituto De Arte Contemporânea E Jardim Botânico, is located prima facie unexpectedly in the outskirts of Brumadinho, a village in Brazil’s federal state of Minas Gerais amidst a depressing minors’ region. It is located about 60 km / 37 miles from Belo Horizonte, the capital of the state of Minas Gerais.

Despite its isolated location, it attracts art aficionados from around the world – who are willing to undertake the trip from Belo Horizonte; by car, public bus or organized by a shuttle.

Green, green grass of….Brumadinho.

The district of Brumadinho – this name derives from bruma which translates to mist – was founded in 1923 and populated by miners and their families.
The founder of Inhomit, Bernardo Paz de Mello, was born in 1949 in the very district of Minas Gerais and made his fortune here, Being very attached to this region, he bought land here where he not only installed his ambitious art venue, but also made his home.

Brumadinho and its approximately 20,000 inhabitants gained notoriety this year on 25 January when a tailings dam collapsed which led to a mudflow that buried houses in a rural area near the city. About 186 people were killed.


Inhotim

Inhotim – what an unusual name, right?! It is said, that the land that Bernardo Paz began to buy up once belonged to an Englishman the locals referred to as ’inho Tim – Mister Tim.

The entire complex of Inhotim, so the botanic garden including all the galleries, is spread over more than 20 square kilometers/ about 5,000 acres located in the northern outskirts of Brumadinho. If you are not exactly gimpy, it’s easy to walk there, however, there is also a local bus between the village center and the gardens.

It is a garden Eden with an indescribable variety of different species of extraordinary plants. The number of different palm trees alone…I think there is no plant on earth that’s not represented in Inhotim. Actually, they were even imported from different places in Asia.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Just look at all these different palm trees. The colorful concrete blocks are one of the most photographed work: Invenção da cor, Penetrável Magic Square # 5, De Luxe by Hélio Oiticica

No wonder it is so beautiful since Bernardo Paz got help from the famous landscape artist Roberto Burle Marx to design the premises.

The gardens, too, are meticulously designed: Between around 5,000 species of plants rivers lakes were dug out and creeks are flowing.

This paradisiac plantation alone would make every trip to Inhotim worth the effort. However, the lush gardens are just a rich setting for amazing architecture housing large galleries and white cubes. There are two dozens pavilions with lots of space even for humongous pieces.

So inside and out, there is an exquisite collection of the most outstanding modern art on display: about 500 works by Brazilian and international artists like Yayoi Kusama, Anish Kapoor, or Olafur Eliasson are being shown.

Paz’ complete collection, however, consists of more than 1.300 works.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
That’s how it all started: Deleite by Tunga

Bernardo Paz started buying the land and building his home that he filled with art in the 1980s. He started buying Brazilian modernist art, but only in 1995, he became serious about it – also inspired and motivated by Brazilian contemporary artist Tunga.

Tunga - Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
View across one of the beautiful lakes at the Galeria True Rouge where one of the strongest works by Brazilian artist Tunga is exhibited.

Slowly but surely Paz extended his activities until in 2002, he founded Inhotim. However, initially, the institution opened its gates exclusively to certain groups. Only in 2006, it was made accessible to the general public and has since then been visited by about 3 million guests.

Today, everything there is special and beautiful and caring and welcoming: whether it’s the repellent that every visitor can use for free or the little cars that take guests from gallery to gallery.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Usually, I don’t tend to take pictures of repellent, but I think it’s such a great service to offer it to the visitors.

Of course, there is free WiFi, but what’s as important and convenient is the high number of sockets you find all over the place to recharge your phone or camera whenever you need it.

There are water faucets at the visitor’s disposal and many clean bathrooms – smelling of lemongrass!

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Some of the water faucets might be already occupied, but don’t worry, the next one won’t be far.

They have a rather fancy restaurant serving an excellent all you can eat buffet for 20 bucks and a cheaper, also buffet style restaurants that’s also good, but more like a cafeteria.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Even the cheaper cafeteria is set up really nicely and with the vertical blades, it’s like outdoor eating with a great view.

In addition, there are a couple of snack and fast food stands. Some shady places – and at a botanic garden like this you find a lot of shady places – are equipped with extraordinary seats made of raw wood.

Of course, there is a gift shop where you can stock up on original souvenirs.

Perfect place for a short – or longer – break: A bench, carved from a huge tree trunk, placed under…a huge tree.
(Photo: Otávio Nogueira from Fortaleza, BR, Inhotim (26164690911), CC BY 2.0)

You can easily spend the entire day there. And that’s what I did without any symptoms of museum fatigue.


Thinking Big and Falling Deep

So yes, the place has a size of 5,000 acres, the collection consists of 1,300 works – think big is definitely Bernardo Paz’ motto. The mining magnate likes to emphasize that he was planning the museum for the next 1,000 years. Well, living in Germany, I must say that people here would get very suspicious hearing this: In the last century, Europe’s experience with over-ambitious men planning for 1,000 years was quite unpleasant

But his over the top gigantomania is not the impresario’s biggest flaw.

Sadly, he doesn’t seem to always live up to his ideals: The man who became a billionaire through a network of mining and steel companies has been accused of breaking a series of environmental laws. Furthermore, he benefited from child labor and according to governmental investigations of ‘slave-like’ working conditions in one of his plants.

Finally, in 2017, Paz was convicted of money laundering and sentenced to nine years of jail.

To keep Inhotim’s name clean, Paz stood down from his position as a chairman of the board of directors.

So while the fact that he’s being convicted of money laundry is even a tad bit funny since it’s such a Latinamerican cliché, the accusations of having damaged the environment – which had a terrible impact on people’s living conditions – and abused his workers are more than disappointing.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Somehow this work created by Adriana Varejão, Paz’ fifth wife, is a great metaphor: As you break the white tiled wall, you discover all the ugly intestines.

Although I still think that Inhotim is a fantastic project, the allegations against Paz do give it a negative connotation. It’s a bit like when you find out that a singer of beautiful, soulful love songs is a child molester – things get tainted.



My eight favorite galleries

But like I said – heaven is a place on earth, and this place goes by the name of Inhotim.

Obviously, I cannot introduce all of the 500 pieces. And to cherish them, you have to see them in person, anyway. So I show you some of my favorite pieces – and hope you like them so that you put Inhotim on your list when visiting Brazil.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
At Adriana Varejão’s pavilion, it’s all about tiles – and be prepared for some bloody disturbing sights.
Together with eight of his friends, the artist Jarbas Lopes traveled in the three cars of his work Troca-troca from Rio de Janeiro to the Museu de Arte Contemporânea do Paraná in Curitiba.

Tunga - Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
True Rouge looks like an assembly of giant hearts – and not the Valentine-kind of hearts.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
The installation of sculptures called The Sleeping City looks like a three-dimensional painting by Joan Miró. It has been created by Czech artist Dominik Lang who uses parts of his father’s work, the sculptor father Jirí Lang, referring to the history of Czechoslovakia under Soviet occupation.


Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
It’s not by accident that Swiss-born photographer Claudia Andujar has one of the largest galleries all to herself: Although her photographs are less flashy and spectacular than some of the other works, her pictures of the Yanomami Indios are extremely powerful.


Yes, exactly, there are no intestines, no blood, sweat, nor tears, there are just sumptuous gardens in natural colors, combined in an untamed way – these are the painting by Luiz Zerbini. This one is called High Definition and I like it a lot since it is like a portrait of the plants at Inhotim gardens.
Cildo Meireles’ installation Através is the perfect example for why extremely spacious galleries might be needed: The dimensions are  600 x 1500 x 1500 cm – or more than 236 x 590 x 590 inches; nuff said?!

The installation I am not me, the horse is not mine by South African artist William Kentridge consists of eight film projections which were completed as the artist’s preparatory work for a production of Dmitry Shostakovich’s satirical opera The Nose at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.


My eight favorite sculptures and installations


The pavilions are spacious so that even gigantic artifacts can be exhibited. However, there are pieces so humongous and heavy that they have to be outdoors. 
Here are my favorite outdoor sculptures and installations.
 Invenção da cor, Penetrável Magic Square # 5, De Luxe by Hélio Oiticica
Bernadete Amado, InhotimPorBernadeteAmado, CC BY 3.0
Yayoi Kusama’s Narcissus Garden consisting of 1,500 mirrored stainless steel spheres, was also exhibited at London and New York in 2018.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Outdoorsy art by Edgard De Souza – being untitled gives it a pretty long title: Sem título, 2000; Sem título, 2002; Sem título (Bronze 5)

Zhang Huan
Gui Tuo Bei

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Jorge Macchi’s Piscina ran out of Ns.
The pools – this one outdoors and the indoor pool at Galeria Cosmococa – can be actually used by the visitors.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
“Wait”, the weather god said “Chris Burdon’s Beam Drop Inhotim looks even more dramatic in the backdrop of dark clouds.” This sculpture is made of 72 steel beams dropped 45 meters from 150-foot-high cranes into a pit filled with wet cement.

The admirer reflected in the admired: Taking a picture of Cristina Iglesias’ open-air gallery Vegetation Room

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
And another artsy selfie: Standing in Dan Graham’s Bisected Triangle taking a picture of my reflection and the incredible view. 


How to get there

By public bus: A one-way ticket from the central bus station in Belo Horizonte to the town center of Brumadinho costs R$ 22,15. There are buses at 7 a. m., 11 a. m.  – on Sundays, this bus leaves already at 10 a. m.! – and 3 p. m.  The ride takes about 90 minutes and you can buy your ticket also in advance through the Saritur website.

John Ahearn’s sculptural murals are showing you where to arrive: At the Rodoviária de Brumadinho, the bus station of Brumadinho

Once you arrive at Brumadinho, you can either take a cab, a local bus, or you just walk. From the village center, it’s about 20 to 30 minutes.

On weekends and holidays, Saritur offers a shuttle service from Belo Horizonte and back. It leaves at 8:15 a. m. from the central bus station and gets to Inhotim at 10 a. m. The fare is 41 R$. In the afternoon, the coach leaves Inhotim at 5:30 p. m. and arrives in Belo Horizonte at 19:25 p. m. – this trip costs – for what reason ever – only 37 R$.

There is also a shuttle service organized by the Inhotim people that theoretically serves the venue every day except Mondays. However, on Tuesday, Thursday, and Fridays, there have to be at least four passengers. You can make reservation sending your name and phone to inhotim@belvitur.com.br
or through the website www.belvitur.com.br. If you have questions or want to make sure that the service is available, you can call + 55 – 31 – 32 90 91 80.
Generally, the coach leaves Belo Horizonte at 8:30 a. m. and goes back depending on the closing hours, i. e. 4:30 p. m. on weekdays and 5:30 p. m. on weekends and holidays.

Roundtrip costs 66 R$, only return 35 R$.

Only return has to be bought at Inhotim and is, obviously, subject to availability.


Opening Hours and Admission

The gardens and galleries are open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30 a. m. to 4:30 p. m. – Saturdays, Sundays and holidays to 5:30 p. m.

Entrance fee for adults is R$ 44.00 (13 US$), kids from 6 to 12 have to pay half price and if they are younger than 6, entrance is free; and so is the entrance for everyone else on Wednesdays (except for holidays).

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
If you are ambitious to learn more about all the exotic plants, just let an expert guide you through this Garden Eden.

If you want to use the shuttle carts, you have to pay an extra 30 R$. Especially if you have only one day, you might want to save time by taking advantage of this service.

Charter of a private cart for up to 5 people 500 R$ (150 US$) per day or 200 R$ (60 US$) per hour.

Since Summer 2018, you do not need to have proof of yellow fever vaccination to visit Inhotim. However, to save yourself from disappointment, you might want to check their website or inquire directly regarding the status quo short before visiting.

INHOTIM
Rua B, 20
Brumadinho
Phone: + 55 – 31 – 35 71 97 00
Email: info@inhotim.org.br 


Where to spend the night

Honestly, there is no reason to spend the night at Brumadinho since there are all these convenient options to get to Inhotim just for the day. However, if you prefer to book accommodation there than in Belo Horizonte, I can recommend Hostel Hari due to its proximity to the venue: A ten minutes walk, and you’re there.
Another upside of this place is that the hosts are very kind. They have rooms of different sizes, but the bathroom always has to be shared with other guests.
Nonetheless, it won’t be the poshest place you’ve ever stayed at.

Check out Hostel Hari’s availability and rates*

Wanna read more about great places and impressive art in Brazil? Then quickly go to this post and take your pick!


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Disclaimer: I appreciate that Inhotim did support me by granting free entrance and use of the shuttle carts. However, all opinions on these services are mine and weren’t by any means influenced by my cooperation partner. 

*This is an affiliate link. If you book through this page, not only do you get the best deal, I also get a small commission that helps me run this blog. Thank you so much for supporting me!

The Voice of Colors: Rita, Eduardo, and Jorge in Rio

Streetart is becoming more and more not only tolerated, but recognized and promoted. Especially in South America, it has a long tradition – as a medium where colors give the people a voice.

#favelismo – an art movement turning poverty and humiliation into power and pride. That’s what great street art stands for.

I’m introducing Rita Wainer, Eduardo Kobra, and Jorge Selarón, three of the greatest urban artists that left ineradicable traces in Rio de Janeiro.


Street Art

Eduardo Kobra


Rita Wainer


Jorge Selarón



Street Art

Street art is, obviously, an artwork in public locations where the artist does not only speak his mind, but often also for its people. Although there are pieces commissioned by private property owners and investors, many of the murals are created illegally – and therefore artists choose to remain anonymous or work under a pseudonym. The most famous enigmatic urban artist is undoubtedly Banksy from the British city of Bristol.

Street artists do not only decorate walls and things, they also use them as props. Probably the most famous pieces made in this style were created by Lithuania-born Ernest Zacharevich whose name is inextricably linked with Penang Island in Malaysia.

Streetart such as murals did not derive from graffiti – just think of Mexican muralists like Diego Rivera who worked long before the invention of spray cans – but are sometimes connected and combined. Especially the illegally working artists use spray paint, stencil, posters, and stickers – because they can be quickly applied – before the cops enter the scene.

Canned art.

Streetart often carries a social or political message – and sometimes it just doesn’t, especially when the pieces are commissioned by private investors. Is this a sellout? I don’t know. Obviously, there are different approaches to urban art.

Nadie gana – nobody is winning; a pretty clear message stenciled on a wall in Bogotá.

I personally enjoyed the urban art in Colombia the most since it is wild, anarchistic, angry and rebellious.  Compared to Bogotá, much of Rio’s street art is quite tamed; however beautiful and interesting and therefore, let me tell you the story of three ingenious artists.

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Rita Wainer

Rita Wainer, born in 1978 in São Paulo, the cradle of ingenious artists and Brazil’s hub to phenomenal art, was a highly aspiring Brazilian fashion designer when she decided in 2013 to move to Rio de Janeiro and give up soft fabric for hard bricks and rough earth, i. e. becoming a visual artist. And come to think of it, the step is pretty congruent since fashion can totally be considered urban art.

“The city is ours” – a clearly feminist mural by Rita Wainer in her home city São Paulo.

Rio de Janeiro – it actually was in January 2013 that Rita opened her internet store where she’s selling her sculptures – straight from her ample flat close to the Copacabana, without any middlemen, but with great success: During the first three years, she had sold 1,000 pieces – or like she puts it in an interview:  Pelé’s thousand goals.

There is a lot of passive aggressiveness in Wainer’s portraits: Her ladies are always alone, sort of defenseless.

The resourceful variety of her works – illustrations, painting on tiles and places – and, of course,  walls – is less surprising when you look at her hyper-artistic genealogy: Everybody in Brazil knows some Wainers – be it Rita’s mother, artist Pinky Wainer, be it her grandparents, actress and model Danuza Leão and her husband, publisher Samuel Wainer – just to mention the very close family.
Keeping up with the Wainers?
No way, Rita follows her own path and does not want to be seen as a clanswoman with a golden spoon in her mouth.

No smile, never.

Although Rita Wainer’s murals are just one niche of her artistic activities, for obvious reasons, it’s the most conspicuous.

Don’t mess with her: A Medusa-like female holding a poniard.

She’s painting girls. Skinny girls in bold, unshaded colors. Fragile beings with serious facial expressions. When they look at you, their glance is piercing – hardly any expression.
Often they even don’t look at you, turn their head away from the beholder in oblivion. Maybe haughtiness. Never fear.

Female marine: yearning and love – I keep waiting for you. This mural is also at the Boulevard Olimpico, not far from Kobra’s Etnias.

Although these girls are so skinny and deem so airy and fragile, there is something very fierce to them; maybe it’s the black outlining, maybe the pointy outline….in any case, take their prickly gaze as a warning….never to mess with them.

Wanna check out Ria Wainer’s online shop? Click to open its doors.

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Eduardo Kobra

Yes, him, too: Born in São Paulo in 1975, to be precise in the poor neighborhood of Garden Martinique. Therefore no descendence from a dynasty of artists. However, with over 500 works painted all over Brazil and 17 other countries around the planet, Kobra is one of world’s most famous muralists.

But yes, he started as subversive as almost every urban artists, as an illegal tagger. He got arrested three times for his passion. Illegal? Sure! Talented? Well, one judge was so impressed by Kobra’s talent that he sentenced him to….paint a mural on the wall of a police station!

Sentenced to paint? Not in this case: This work at Congonhas Airport in São Paulo is based on a photograph from the 1950s and is not pure decoration but also meant to be a tribute the Brazil history.

Eventually, in the 1990s, Kobra was given the chance to make some money with his art by designing posters and painting toy sets. Here, too, his talent was quickly recognized and the jobs got better and more professional. Which is actually very admirable since Eduardo Kobra got no professional training whatsoever.
His asset is exclusively his talent.

Today, Kobra is mostly famous for his hyper-realistic portraits of famous people, painted over graphic patterns of geometric shapes in bold colors.

LGBTQ-friendly mural at the Parque Ibirapuera in São Paulo.

He paid tribute to great Brazilians such as architect Oscar Niemeyer and racing driver Ayrton Senna.

Ayrton Senna on a wall at the Lapa district in Rio. Senna died at the age of 34 died in an accident at the San Marino Grand Prix. 

Anyway, slowly but surely he paints his way around the globe by paying tribute to historically important personalities such as Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein, Anne Frank, Mahatma Gandhi, and Malala Yousafzai. But also Bob Dylan in 2015, David Bowie in 2016, and in 2017 John Lennon were perpetuated in Minnesota, Jersey City, respectively  Bristol, Banksy’s hometown.

No, Kobra is not as angry and rebellious as the young men at the Candelaria in Bogotá. However, he’s not oblivious to what is going on in his country and thematized social and political problems such as the construction of the reservoir dam in Belo Mento – destroying the living environment of the indigenous people.

Mural Belo Monte in the city center of São Paulo.

Yes, but how about the awareness for the concrete jungle? In 2016, Eduardo Kobra was invited to create a gigantic mural: Las Etnias, Ethnicities, measures over 32,000 square feet and made it to the Guinness Book of Records. Of course, today, three years later, it has been exceeded at least twice.

Higher, faster, farther – very few Cariocas had a reason to celebrate the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. It was a good example of how gigantomania can totally fail – and therefore, for me, it’s really difficult to celebrate an artistic project that was commissioned with the same spirit of gigantomania. However, nobody can dislike the idealist idea of we are all one people that’s behind it, so here are the five panels to be admired at the Boulevard Olimpico:

Starting on the mural’s left side with a Mursi woman from Africa,….
…. followed by a Kayin woman from Myanmar / Asia.
A Tapajós Indio from the Americas is the central portrait.
To his right an indigenous man from Europe….
…and a Huli from Papua-New Guinea / Oceania.

Eduardo Kobra does not have an agent or manager and can be contacted through his website.

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Jorge Selarón

The Cristo, the sugar loaf, these ‘colorful stairs’ – together with the world famous beaches of the Copacabana and Ipanema, it’s these three points of interest that every visitor to Rio de Janeiro puts on his to-do-list.

Surprisingly – and sadly – not many of these visitors know about the man who created those stairs, the world-famous Escadaria Selarón.

An eclectic mix of tiles and pieces of china.

It was Jorge Selarón, a painter and ceramist, born in 1947 in Limache, Chile.

Selarón led a pretty restless lifestyle: He had passed through 57 countries before he moved to the Lapa neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro in the 1980s; right next to the stairs that eventually should make him famous – and become his death place.

Upper tile from Berlin, lower tile from Portugal.

After having made a living from selling paintings in restaurants all over the city, Jorge Selarón had begun decorating the 215 stairs connecting Lapa with the Santa Teresa neighborhood with ceramic tiles in 1990.

Flags from African countries in the upper row, musicians who left a great artistic legacy in the lower row.

He considered this sort of a Sisiphos work a tribute to the Brazilian people.

Decorating the stairs, in the beginning, he used tiles and porcelain donated by his friends and supporters. Eventually, people from all over the world contributed by supplying him with tiles. Today, you find the most incredible – and slightly absurd – motives there. More than 2000 tiles from over 60 countries were processed.

As French as can be: A camembert cheese and a group of Breton women.

It took Selarón twenty years to complete his work – whereby he did not consider it finished. However, the stairs were declared a city landmark in 2005 and Jorge became an honorary citizen of Rio de Janeiro.

A wild mix of faiences.

In a documentary from 2010, the artist explained that the stairs would be finished only the day of his death.

En 2010, Selarón concluyó la imponente bandera en la parte alta de la escalera, en la esquina de la Calle Pinto Martins.

Sadly, this day came unexpected and far too early: On January 10, 2013, Jorge Selarón was found dead on the stairs, not far from his home.

The police did not rule out homicide since he had received death threats by a former co-worker. However, friends of Jorge’s claimed that he was depressive so that suicide might have been a possible cause of mortality.

Wanna read more about Rio de Janeiro and urban art in Brazil? You might enjoy these posts:


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SÃO PAULO – a tour ‘guided by’ muralist Eduardo Kobra

Christ the Redeemer? In Rio de Janeiro. The jungle? At Manaus. The waterfalls? In Iguacu. So when in Brazil, why go to São Paulo?
Why? Because it’s the coolest and most artsy city of Brazil and you will get inspired and have a great time; that’s why.

Probably Kobra’s most political mural, raising awareness for indigenous people being threatened by a factory being built in the city of Altamira in Belo Monte.

Talking about cool and artsy: Let one of the most glorious sons of São Paulo guide you through the city to different neighborhoods and iconic buidings – let’s hear it for Mr. Eduardo Kobra!

Eduardo Kobra was born in 1975 in São Paulo and is one of world’s most recognized muralists. His huge, very expressive works are found in the US – and of course in Brazil. I introduced his pentaptych ‘Ethnicities’ that he has painted on the occasion of the Olympics in Rio in 2016.

Rio de Janeiro - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Mural “Ethnicities”: Kobra’s most famous mural in Rio de Janeiro used to be – according to the Guinness Book of World Records – till 2017 the largest spray paint mural in the world (3,000 square meters (over 32,000 sq ft)). It depicts five indigenous people from different parts of the world.

His kaleidoscope-ish portraits are – well, rather hidden than found – all over São Paulo, and not only do I lead you to the walls, at the same time I point out attractions and points of interests in their surroundings.

Wanna follow my route? I’ve marked all the Kobras on this map – and for your convenience all the other spots mentioned in this post, too.

São Paulo

How to get there and where to stay

Avenida Paulista

Parque Ibirapuera

Luz

Centro

São Paulo


São Paulo has over 12 millions inhabitants and is not only the most populous city in Brazil, but also the 13th largest city in the world (according to population). It has by gross domestic product the largest economy in South America – and is ironically being called Germany’s largest industrial city since approximately 1000 (!) German companies are operating and producing in São Paulo – Volkswagen being probably the largest and most famous.

Besides its pretty powerful economy, São Paulo can pride itself to have a vast art scene, many excellent museums and exhibition – and very relaxed and friendly people. If you don’t want to rely on people’s English (which is often not so great), you might brush up yours on babbel.

Oh, once we’re on it and talking ’bout cash: In São Paulo – as anywhere else in Brazil – you pay with Reais. The exchange rate is 1 US$  = 3,43 BRL (as per April 2018; check the current rate  e. g. on XE.

For an excellent tourist service and loads of really great brochures and maps go to one of the Centrais de Informação Turística (CIT), the tourist centers located at the airport, at the central bus station, at the Paulista and the Praça da República (where you can also meet the guys from the Free Walking Tour). They even had a mobile tourist office a the Parque Ibirapuera where I collected a vast variety of information material right from a truck – and the lady handing them out was a darling and very nice and helpful.

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How to get there and where to stay

Let’s start right at the airport:

Like most bigger cities in Brazil, São Paulo has two airports, too: Guarulhos International, located 30 km / 19 mi north east of the city center, and Congonhas which is in the city and can be reached in about 30 minutes by public transport.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Kobra’s colorful interpretation of  Congonhas airport.

If you are coming to São Paulo by bus, you’ll arrive at the Rodoviária do Tietê from where you get to the center by either bus or subway in about 20 minutes.

There is an excellent system of public transportation consisting of a subway (here’s a map) and different bus types (rapid and conventional).

If you find a reasonably priced hotel around the subway station Consolaꞔão/Paulista, go for it: it’s centrally and conveniently located. I stayed at a really nice apartment-hotel at the Rua Augusta which is the off-scene theater and clubbing district, however, the hotel was very quiet, very comfortable, yet reasonably priced. I can only recommend it.

Augusta Park Suite Hotel
Rua Augusta 922
São Paulo
Phone: +55 – 11 – 31 24 44 00
Email: augusta@augustapark.com.br

The Rua Augusta is packed with all sort of restaurants and cafés and bars – just walk around and take your pick, they are all very nice.

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Avenida Paulista

Although there is a ‘center’, São Paulo’s lifeline is the Avenida Paulista, stretching from Praꞔa Marechal Cordeiro de Farias all the way to the subway station Paraíso.

So let’s get started at the Paulista’s western end close to the subway station Consolaꞔão where Kobra painted the great Brazilian racing driver Ayrton Senna, who died in 1994 at the age of 34 at the San Marino Grand Prix.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Honoring the late Ayrton Senna who tragically died at the age of 34. Now his portrait lives on at Rua Dr. Antonino dos Santos Rocha, close to the Consolacão subway station.

Walking down the Paulista, you’ll pass many tall bank buildings, big stores, and malls: The Paulista is basically São Paulo’s 5th Avenue.

Four blocs down from Rua Augusta, you’ll find one of the best art museums São Paulo has to offer, the Museu de Arte de São Paulo. Besides their own collection of modern art, they organize inspiring exhibitions. For art-lovers, a visiting this venue is a must.

MASP
Museu de arte de São Paulo
Avenida Paulista 1578
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 3149 5959

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. (Thursday to 8 p. m.), entrance fee is 35 R$ (10,50 US$)

Another three blocs down, to your left on
Alameda Joaquim Eugênio de Lima, a nice surprise is waiting for you: a brandnew Kobra – I even saw it in the making beginning of 2018!

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
A assume this mural was commissioned by the hospital. I particularly like that the doctor’s name is ‘Bueno’ – which means good.

Keep walking – whereby if you don’t like to walk, you can hop on one of the buses going down the Paulista or even take the subway. The disadvantage is that in Brazil you pay one price per ticket, i. e. it doesn’t matter if you go just to the next stop or across town – you always pay the same price (which is 3,60 R$ (a bit over 1 US$)).

Getting to the end of the Paulista means getting to the highlights – of the Kobras as well as of the attractions: concentrated behind the subway station Brigadeiro, you’ll find the Capela Santa Catarina to your left.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Two Brazilian heroes in one picture:
Star architect Oscar Niemeyer depicted by star muralist Eduardo Kobra

Right behind the Saint Catherine’s Chapel is the wonderful Japan House, a venue showing Japanese art and serving excellent Japanese food.

Japan House
Avenida Paulista 1578
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 30908900

The Japan House is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a. m. to 10 p. m., Sunday to 6 p. m., entrance to the exhibitions is free.

They also have a very nice restaurant – and don’t feel funny for eating Japanese food in Brazil: São Paulo is famous for Japanese and fusion cuisine!

Now, don’t you miss one of the most important Kobras right behind this building depicting another Brazilian art hero, namely star-architect Oscar Niemeyer!

You might get an even better look from the last attraction, located on the other side of the road, the romantic Casa das Rosas.

Sao Paulo - Casa das Rosas / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
The Casa das Roses – obviously named after the beautiful rose garden.

The Casa das Rosas – the house of roses – is a culture center organizing exhibitions, concerts and much more. It’s always worth it to drop in and check out what’s on.

Casa das Rosas
Avenida Paulista 37
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 32 85 69 86
Email: contato@casadasrosas.org.br

The exhibitions are open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a. m. to 10 p. m., Sunday to 6 p. m. Regarding other activities, please check their website.

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Parque Ibirapuera

Once you are close to the Brigadeiro station, let’s visit some more Kobras – and some other fantastic venues. But I have to prepare you: We are going to the Parque Ibirapuera, where especially on weekends many São Paulians are strolling with their families, walking their dogs, or jogging by themselves.

Take any bus going down the Avenida Brigadeiro Luís Antônio and tell the driver you want to get off close to Praça Armando de Sales Oliveira.

Here you can admire the Monumento às Bandeiras, created in 1954 by Victor Brecheret, an Italian-Brazilian sculptor, commemorating the settling expeditions into the inner Brazil in the 17th century.

Sao Paulo  / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
A monument honoring great man…

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
…and a great man honoring the monument.
Unfortunately, this mural by Eduardo Kobra, located on the wall below the Igreja do Calvário   is strongly damaged.

Now cross the Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral and you’ll find yourself at one of the nicest places in  São Paulo, the Parque Ibirapuera.

Ibirapuera is only city’s second largest park (in case you wonder: the largest one is Parque Anhanguera in the northern part of the city), however, it spreads over 2 qkm / 0.8 sq mi and besides its lush meadows, trees, and flowers as well as creeks and lakes, there is much to see even for those who are oblivious to the beauty of nature: three fantastic museums as well as the planetarium are located on or adjacent to the premises:

To be honest, I’m not so crazy about planetariums, but I like the design by Eduardo Corona, Roberto G. Tibau and Antônio Carlos Pitombo, that reminds me of an air saucer – very suitable.

Planetário Ibirapuera Prof. Aristóteles Orsini
Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 55 75 52 06

To tell you the truth, I find the info on their hours a bit confusing, so if you want to visit, you better contact them beforehand; and tell them to improve the info on their site, please.

Just a stone throw away is the very nice Museu Afro Brazil.

While the exhibition on Portuguese colonial art on the ground floor is a bit pointless, the upper floor is an artistic treasury showing Afro-Brazilian art from different Brazilian regions as well as the African and Caribbean influence – like masks from Benin and artefacts from Haiti.

Whether folkloric naive sculptures….

….or political drawings like this one by Sidney Amaral “Estudo para gargalheira ou quem falará por nós?” (Study of a gargalheira* or who will be speaking for us?) – the museum shows a vast collection of all different kind of Afro Brazilian art.
*a gargalheira is the iron choker that was used on slaves 

Whether it’s traditional bead embroidery for the tropical carnival….

….or contemporary sculptures by Afro-Brazilian artists (here again a piece by Sidney Amaral whose work is so diverse)
Sidney Amaral Os chinelos da Mara (Mara’s flip flops)

I can only recommend visiting this venue.

Museu Afro Brasil
Avenida Pedro Alvares Cabral
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 33 20 89 00

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m., entrance fee are R$ 6

You think we forgot about Kobra? No way, he will be our next stop. Let’s walk along the facade of the Pavilhão das Culturas Brasileiras and take a look at murals by other also very talented artists.

One of many great murals decorating the Pavilion

Once you spot the Marquise Do Ibirapuera, you will immediately recognize Kobra’s style – decorating a public bathroom. I guess once you are a star like him, you get away with painting also restrooms.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Northern wall of the Marquise (including the entrance to the gents’ bathroom)

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Western wall of the Marquise.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Southern wall of the Marquise – including the entrance to the ladies’ bathroom.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Eastern wall of the Marquise – depicting to women kissing: A tribute to the extremely LGBT-friendly attitude found everywhere in Brazil.

Next door you might want to visit the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo – and maybe have a snack at their very nice cafeteria.

Museu de Arte Moderna – decorated by a mural created by two other Brazilian graffiti super stars, namely OSGEMEOS.

Here she is again, Tarsila do Amaral, and her cubist painting
“Estrada de Ferro Central do Brasil”

MAM – Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo
Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 50 85 13 00
Email: atendimento@mam.org.br

Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m.

Entrance fee are R$ 7,00 and Saturdays are free.

Next to the MAM seems to have landed another air saucer – but this one has a famous creator: It was Mr. Oscar Niemeyer himself who design the Lucas Nogueira Garcez Pavillion, better known as “Oca”.

Parque Ibirapuera Oca_Foto_JoseCordeiro, trata-se de vista da fachada da Oca e o crédito. Foto: Jose Cordeiro/SPTuris.
The art has landed: Iconic “Oca” by Oscar Niemeyer
(Photo: Jose Cordeiro/SPTuris)

Since 2017 it’s part of the city museum for being a historic building.
If you are interested in visiting, you have to inquire when it’s possible.

Museu da cidade de São Paulo 
Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral 50
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 -11 – 50 83  0199
Email: oca@prefeitura.sp.gov.br

Before you continue to the best and biggest of the art museums, the Museu de Arte Contemporânea, you shouldn’t miss to take a look at the sculptures in this part of the park – some of them are really outstanding.

Young people hanging out on Angelo Venosa’s sculpture of bones made of aluminium.

Talking ’bout outstanding: if you want to visit only one single exhibition while in São Paulo, it should definitely be the Museu de Arte Contemporânea.

Wild creatures welcome the visitors at the entrance hall:
Nina Pandolfo “Um Amor Sem Igual” (left) and one of Marino Marini’s horses.

It’s the place where the São Paulo Bienal is taking place – and obviously after every bienal is over, they leave some great art behind. Actually you could spend an entire day here and awing at great pieces from all over the world.

Rafael Canogar “Os Revolucionários”

Cybèle Varela “De tudo aquilo que pode ser I, II e III”

Not to be missed!

Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo 
Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral 1301
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 26 48 02 54

Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. (Tuesday to 9 p. m.), entrance is free.

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Luz

Another beautiful park full of lush plants and great art is the Jardim da Luz behind the art museum Pinacoteca.

Facade of the museum with matching sculptures.

The Jardim has an area of 82,000 square meters, with two reflection pools and two ponds; it was declared a historic landmark by Condephaat in 1981.

What a great service: A mobile ophthalmologist at the park. You see that the name for the eye doctor is very similar in English and Portuguese – so you have that covered… 

There is enough art to be admired even on Tuesdays when the Pinacoteca is closed.
Vlavianos “Homem Pássaro”

Various sculptures made of aluminium by Odette Haidar Eid between 1983and 2002

Lasar Segall Três Jovens against the backdrop of the Pinacoteca

As part of the downtown revitalization project, it resumed dialogue with Pinacoteca, and was renovated in 1999. In 2000, the State Government earmarked funds for the purchase of Brazilian sculptures for its lawns. Even today, the exhibit is free of charge, for those who want to stroll through its green areas and also visit an open air exhibit. The Pinacoteca houses a vast collection of modern Brazilian art and is another mecca for the art aficionados. Founded in 1905, it is the city’s oldest art museum.

Pinacoteca
Praça da Luz
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 33 24 10 00
Email: pinacotecasp
@pinacoteca.org.br

The Pinacoteca is open from Wednesday to Monday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m.

Entrance fee are R$ 6, Saturday is free

And Kobra?

His mural is to be found at the corner Avenida Tiradentes and Rua Dr. Rodrigo de Barros. On the way there you might want to see some sacred art – you can do so at the Museu de Arte Sacra de São Paulo.

A perfect painting in a perfect location.

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Centro

To explore São Paulo’s historic center, I recommend you join a ‘free’ walking tour (remember: the guides work for tips, so please don’t make it a free ‘free’ tour).

The happy wanderers – and now it’s your turn: Find W….no, Renata.
(Photo: Sao Paulo Free Walking Tour)

For the ‘Old Downtown’-tour, they meet at the tourist information booth at Praꞔa República (they also offer a tour along the Avenida Paulista and to the bohemian quarter Vila Madalena).

Well, this is what sadly happens when art is exposed to weather and pollution – it’s getting demolished.

Anyway, the downtown-tour takes you i. a. to the Biblioteca Mário de Andrade, to the grand Teatro Municipal, the Monument to Carlos Gomes – a copy of the Fontana di Trevi at the Praça Ramos de Azevedo, the Prefeitura – which is the townhall with a botanic garden and a pond on the roof; you cannot visit the building on this tour, but of course on another occasion.

Without a doubt there are many options where to grab a bite at the Centro. If you are opting for a healthier meal, give “Apfel” a try; that it means apple in German gives you a hint that they serve vegetarian food:

Apfel Centro
Rua Dom José de Barros 99
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 –  11 – 32 56 79 09

Open Monday to Saturday 11 a. m. to 3 p. m.

The beautiful fountain behind the Teatro Municipal.

If you don’t mind walking, you can stroll from downtown up towards the Paulista along Rua da Consolação.

While you admire the Nossa Senhora da Consolação church at the first big junction, don’t miss the great murals all around you; although they are not by Kobra – one of his best murals is to be seen at the corner of Rua Maria Antônia.

Although the paintings are large, they are not always easy to spot. I kept my eyes open for you.

Once you are here, you might want to get a drink – and a break – at the bar next to the mural, that is called ‘Esquina do Índio’, the Indian’s corner.

Esquina do Índio
Rua da Consolação/Rua Maria Antônia 49
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 31 20 24 18

Open from Monday to Saturday from 7 a. m. to 2 a. m.

Esquina do Índio – the Indian’s corner: A nice bar named after Kobra’s most political mural.
While these gentlemen are taking a short rest, the people in the family grave are resting for
ever; hopefully in peace.

Either keep walking or get on a bus and get off at the Cemitério da Consolação, a small, Brazilian version of the legendary Parisian Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. This cemetery is much smaller and the people buried here are not as world famous as those in Paris, still it’s a beautiful and interesting place.

São Paulo was only a three day stop on my trip to Southern Brazil. To read about the other – likewise fascinating destinations – check out my BRAZIL travel guide.

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Guide to CURITIBA – and a daytrip to MORRETES

(Update February 2019)

“The model city of Brazil” – that’s what my Portuguese teacher Marcy had called Curitiba. And although this town, home to almost 2 million people which makes it Brazil’s eighth largest city, is not really spectacular, it’s worth the visit. It has lush parks, a well maintained historic center, modern buildings such as the Museu Oscar Niemeyer, celebrating Brazil’s star-architect. Their bus system was exemplary for many other Latin American cities. And if all this does not impress you, go on a wonderful day trip and take the scenic train to Morretes.

 

Today, Curitiba’s first town hall is an inspiring culture center for everyone.

Yes, Curitiba might not be famous and does not deem exciting at first sight, but you sure will have a great time here.

Curitiba

Curitiba was a pioneer city when it came to public transport, so it’s also easy to get there: There is a train station and right next to it an overland bus station, and of course they have an airport that’s easily accessible by a shuttle bus that goes about every twenty minutes from dawn till dusk.

Center

The Old Center

Museums

Jardim Botanico

Daytrip to Morretes

 

Center

A very convenient stop is at the Teatro Guaíra on the east side of the Praça Santos Andrade.

 

The Santos Andrade square is a good point of orientation – and it’s also the spot where the free walking tour starts.

The Praça is not only a beautiful square with many sculptures of famous men – all facing the Universidade Federal do Paraná all the way across from the theatre, it is also a good point to start exploring the city center.

 

Of the 11 statues on the Santos Andrade square, only Ms Lala Schneider is facing the Teatro Guaíra, the others have to look towards the university.

You can do it bye:yourself – or you can join the interesting and fun free guided tour. May I remind you – it’s called ‘free’ since you are not obliged to pay for it…hence, I cannot understand how people actually do not pay for it: these guides work for tips, guys!

 

Our walking group posing in front of one of the iconic tube-shaped bus stations.
(Photo: Curitiba Free Walking)

 

Fun fact: They installed the flower pots to the left and right of the pedestrian street so people get used to walking in the middle, formerly reserved for the vehicles, too.

 

Typically Curitiba – an ingenious project at every corner: Here a former streetcar, now transformed into a small library where e. g. people can leave their kids while shopping.

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The Old Center

Right behind the University is the Praça Generoso Marques with many buildings that show the tradition of immigration to Curitiba: Stores and restaurants founded by Germans and Lebanese and who not.

 

Haberdasher “Casa Edith”, founded by Lebanese immigrant Kalil Karam, who came to Curitiba in 1909 and named his store after his daughter who was born in 1913.

The nicest one is the Paço da Liberdade: Built between 1914 and 1916, it used to house the first town hall.

 

On the back of the building is Maria Lata d’Água, a memorial of the slaves being part of the multicultural and multiracial formation of Brazil.

Later it was used for the collection of the Museu Paranese until it became a wonderful community center with space for different cultural activities, a computer room where everyone can go online for free, a library and a very charming coffee house.

 

Just opening: The classic – and classy – coffeehouse.

Sesc Paço da Liberdade
Praça Generoso Marques 189
Curitiba
Phone: + 55 – 41 – 32 34 42 00
Email: sac.pacodaliberdade@sescpr.com.br

 

Catedral Basílica Menor Nossa Senhora da Luz –
The Cathedral Basilica Minor of Our Lady of Light

At the back of the building, you’ll find yourself at another majestic square, the Praça Tiradentes with the Catedral Basílica Menor Nossa Senhora da Luz.

Walking right of the Cathedral, you’ll get to the Tv. Nestor de Castro. Here one of Curitiba’s stars, the artist Poty Lazzarotto created murals depicting scenes from the life in Curitiba and its surroundings.

 

Poty depicting Curitiba’s icons like the tube-shaped bus stations or the palm house at the botanic garden. To the upper right, he depicted Paulo Leminski, a Curitiba born poet of Polish descendance.

Poty’s work is found all over Curitiba. While here he used colorful tiles for his images, he decorated the facade of the Teatro Guaíra in monochrome clay. However, his style can be immediately recognized.

 

First Presbyterian church at the Setor Historico of Curitiba.

Right behind Tv. Nestor de Castro begins the Setor Historico, the historic sector with colonial houses and cute little churches, with many bars, restaurants, and specialty shops.

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Museums

Since Curitiba experienced a lot of immigration over the years, there are many museums – such as the Museu Ucraniano – and memorials – such as the Memorial Alemão, the Memorial da Imigração Japonesa or the Memorial Arabe – all over the city. To get to see them all takes time since actually, only the Memorial Arabe is in the very city center.

 

This plain Moorish edifice houses a library of Middle Eastern culture & a sculpture of the writer Kahlil Gibran (born as Gibran Khalil Gibran in Lebanon).

A good option to get to see more of Curitiba is by Linha Turismo, basically a hop on hop off bus, only that you get five tickets so that you can re-board four times (which is enough for Curitiba, take it from me). The whole tour in one go takes about 2.5 hours.

 

Oscar Niemeyer had a good eye for architecture.

Of course, there are also various art museums to be visited, the most famous one being the Museu Oscar Niemeyer, located in the Centro Civico district north of the city center. If you don’t mind walking, you can get there in about 20 minutes. Otherwise, there are many buses going from the center to the Centro Civico.

 

The tunnel connecting the “eye” and the main building.

Oscar Niemeyer (1907 – 2012) is certainly one of world’s most important modern architects. He was friends with Le Corbusier and together they designed the UN-Headquarter in New York. Not only did Niemeyer design Brazil’s capital Brasilia, his buildings are also to be found in England, Italy, France, and many other places.

 

Oscar Niemeyer – eternalized in a mural in São Paulo by Brazil’s greatest muralist Eduardo Kobra

The museum, that’s of course designed by the master himself, houses an exhibition on his work in one gallery, but the rest shows changing temporary exhibitions.

Museu Oscar Niemeyer
Rua Marechal Hermes 999
Curitiba
Phone: + 55 – 41 – 33 50 44 00

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. and the entrance fee is 20 R$ (6 US$)

What is it with tiles in Brazil? There is the Escadaria Selarón in Rio, there are Poty’s tile murals all over the federal state of Paraná – and here we have a small detail of Rogério Dias’ huge mural at the Praça Rio Iguaçu. Could it be the Portuguese heritage?

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Jardim Botanico

Another iconic place not to be missed while in Curitiba is the Jardim Botanico, the botanic garden southeast of the city center.

 

One of Curitiba’s most iconic buildings, the palm house at the botanic garden, became the city’s logo.

While the garden will not overwhelm you with its variety of plants and flowers, the palm house has practically become the Logo of Curitiba – and you can take really nice pictures of the premises and the view of the city.

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Daytrip to Morretes

A day trip to Morretes, a town located 70 km / 44 mi east of Curitiba, is not to be missed. Actually – the journey is the reward, at least if you are taking the Serra Verde Express. This train, consisting of many different wagons, takes you during three hours through the most scenic landscape. Along the
Serra de Mar, the Atlantic rain forest and through the untouched, rugged mountain scenery. Steep slopes and high bridges – it’s like being on an old fashioned, extremely slow roller coaster.

 

Way up high on a what seems to be an improvised bridge – heading for Morretes.

After three hours – you think it cannot get any better – you arrive in picturesque Morretes, where already at the town’s entrance children greet the travellers by standing in front of their houses and waving. It is all so idyllic!

 

Olá!

Once you arrive at the train station, to your right is an information window where you can ask the friendly lady for a map of Morretes. You probably won’t get lost without it, but I like knowing where I am and what it is that I’m seeing.

 

Leaving the train station, you find yourself on the main square Praça Rocha Pombo from where this little piece of paradise can be conveniently explored walking.

There are attractions at the outskirts to be reached by buses, but after three hours on the train I felt like walking – and the town of Morretes, which by the way has about 15,000 inhabitants, is such a cute little place.

Being located in the Serra da Graciosa, every corner you turn, you are overwhelmed by a majestic view!

Wherever you go, there is a view – and what a view that is!

There are the Paróquia Nossa Senhora do Porto and the Igreja de São Benedito, but there are lots and lots of cute little houses – many of which are restaurants or specialty shops.

 

The guesthouse Nhundiaquara (deriving from the Tupi-guarani-language nhundia = fish and quara = hole) is been opened in these historic structures in 1945. The main structures, however, are from the 17th century.

The food is probably good everywhere since food is good everywhere in Brazil. However, I picked a restaurant that was not that centrally located since I wanted to go away from the crowds and tourist groups. They don’t have a website, but I can tell you that they are called Dois Chefs and are on the left-hand side when you’re going from the iron bridge towards the old graveyard – which is totally worth a visit, too.

 

The old cemetery. Even here: a view.

As a souvenir, I decided to buy a variety of tiny Cachaça bottles of different flavors such as ginger, pineapple, passion fruit, mint, and some others.

 

The stands selling all sort of local delicacies are a great opportunity to stock up on souvenirs.

There is one train going to Morretes at 8.15 and during high season another one at 9.15, but that one has only expensive, luxury seats.

 

Choo choo – let’s hit the rails! Me, waiting for the adventure to begin.

There is a wide range of different tickets and packages: from a simple ticket for 95 R$ (29 US$) to a package including extra tours to Paranaguá or Antonina – both located on the banks of Baía de Paranaguá, the Paranaguá bay, that will cost you almost 500 R$ (more than 150 US$). But also the tickets to Morretes can go up to 360 R$ (110 US$). You are then seated in a nicer wagon with better seats, there is a bi-lingual guide and drinks like soft drinks and beer are included.

 

The other man’s grass simply cannot be greener….

You find all these options on their website that is really good and clear. The process of booking, though, is terrible: You book and then you have to wait till they answer you to confirm.
According to their website, this can take up to seven days.
I booked two months ago and still have no answer.

Since I was quite frustrated with this booking process, I just got up pretty early in the morning to be at the station ahead of time.

At least in the cheapest wagon, they had still a lot of seats available – and it stayed quite empty during the whole trip.

 

….no matter how much you’ve paid for your ticket; the landscape remains the same – breathtaking!

It’s quite ironic: since most people either go on an organized tour that books seats at the more expensive wagons, the cheap ones stay basically empty. So you pay a fraction of what they pay and you have the wagon for yourself and you can move around according to the changing scenery.

Of course, you can also take the train to go back to Curitiba. But it’s far cheaper – about 22 R$ (less than 7 US$) and faster to go back by bus.

Since in Curitiba the bus station is next to the train station, I’d recommend you buy your return ticket right after you got your train ticket. This way you are all set and don’t have to worry that the bus might be full.

If you have the time, just go to the station one or two days before and arrange everything ahead – especially during the high season and the Brazilian school holidays.

Train Curitiba – Morretes:

Serra Verde Express
Trem Curitiba – Paranaguá
Av. Presidente Affonso Camargo 330
Curitiba
Phone: + 55 – 41 – 38 88 34 88
Email: contato@serraverdeexpress.com.br

Bus Morretes – Curitiba:

Viação Graciosa
Av. Presidente Affonso Camargo
Phone: + 55 – 41 – 32 23 08 73 and – 32 13 55 11
Email: atendimento@viacaograciosa.com.br

Wanna read how I perceived these two pleasant places in Southern Brazil? Check out these lessons of my Class of Brazil series:

Class Of Brazil – 7th Lesson: Curitiba – and the Meaning of Means

Class of Brazil – 8th Lesson: Day Trip to Morretes – Planning On Not Planning

Do you want to read about all the other cool places I’ve visited in Brazil? 
Then go to the main post and take your pick!



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Guide to FOZ DO IGUAÇU

(Updated February 2019)

Foz do Iguaçu, worldwide known for the spectacular waterfalls that are located at the border between Brazil and Argentina, has far more attractions to be visited than this ‘Natural Wonder of the World’.


Foz do Iguaçu

The city, located in the western part of the federal state Paraná, has about 260,000 inhabitants. The name derives from the indigenous word Iguaçu („big water“) and the portuguese word foz, which means embouchure, hence it’s the „embouchure of the big water“, and seeing the waterfalls, the Paraná river, the Itaipú lake and the waterpower plant Itaipú – who would dispute that?!

“Big water” – this nobody can deny.

You can get there by bus – for instance in about 16 hours for about 70 US$ from São Paulo, for other destinations check out this website – which is long and relatively expensive compared to a quick’n’comfy flight that will cost you the same if you search a bit (look for Azul- and GOL-flights*; I paid from Curitiba 65 US$, but I also booked my ticket with Azul two months ahead – here I refer to my last post on planning and booking).

You’ll find the links to the companies I travelled with in the RATING and CONCLUSION section of this post.

Foz is a medium sized city with great attractions in the outskirts; but the center itself is not very exciting. Like in most other Brazilian cities, the public transport system is good, reliable and covering the entire region. Particularly important to the visitors is bus #120 going from the bus terminal downtown all the way to the water falls, passing not only the airport, but also many other attractions.

If you arrive at the airport, make sure to check out the tourist information there. The lady was not very welcoming and cheery, but she was efficient, handed me a map and explained me how to get where I wanted to go. I can do without a smile…

No matter how many amusement parks will be built around Foz – the waterfalls will remain the main attraction.

Regarding accommodations – of course you’ll find in a touristy place like Foz do Iguaçu everything from a bunk bed in a dorm of a cheap hostel to a wide range of luxury places, the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas being the best one insofar that it’s the only accommodation within the national park. You care for the price? About 370 US$ a night (which is a bargain compared to the Belmond next to Machu Picchu which starts somewhere at 1,200 US$).

The Belmond Hotel – this is not where I stayed.

Since I was there only for two nights and had an early flight out, I stayed at a nice place being part of the San Juan Hoteis chain – located about 4 km / 2.5 miles from the airport and a ten minutes bus ride from the national park and the waterfalls; and I paid a fraction of the above quoted price.

Because I stayed only two nights and I felt very comfortable at my hotel, I had Caipirinhas at their bar (for a cheaper price than at less elegant places in Rio!) and I also ate dinner there: They have a huge buffet including everything your heart – and stomach – desires for less than 50 R$ (about 15 US$). Their food is really excellent!

The San Juan Eco hotel – this is where I stayed.

Cataratas do Iguaçu

Usina Itaipú

Parque das Aves

Three Frontiers Landmark

DreamLand

Aquamania Water Park

Cataratas do Iguaçu

Of course the waterfalls are the main reason for people coming to Foz, and they are right: The falls are a breathtaking spectacle of nature: They consist of 20 large and 255 smaller waterfalls along almost three kilometers / two miles. Most of them are about 65 meters / 213 feet high, but there are some up to 82 meters / almost 270 feet. Incredible 1.500 to 7.000 m³ / 53,000 to 247,000 ft³ of water do plummet down from the rocks.

You have to see it to believe it – these masses of water are just incredible.

The Iguaçu-waterfalls are one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Since 1984 (Argentinian side) resp. 1986 (Brasilian side) they have been a UNESCO world heritage sight.

The entrance fee is 62 R$ (about 19 US$) for foreigners (locals, nationals and Brazil’s neighbors pay less) and the ticket booths are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. After that you can still finish your walk – or your meal with a view at the restaurant located at the final point ‘Porto Canoas’.

At the points with the most impressive views, the park people built platforms so everybody can have their picture taken with on of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

In addition to just walking along the falls you can also hike some trails through the park and e.g. do some kayaking or getting really close to the falls on a dinghy ride. All these extras also cost extra.

Cataratas do Iguaçu
Br 469, KM 18
Foz do Iguaçu, Paraná
Phone: +55 – 45 – 35 21 44 00
Email: contato@catarataspni.com.br 

Of course you get the most spectacular and also most expensive view from a helicopter, either on a 10-minute flight over the National Park and the Iguaçu Falls or a 35-minute flight over the Iguaçu National Park, Itaipú Hydroelectric Plant and Three Borders Landmark for about a 130 US$ resp. about 250 US$.


Helisul Aviaꞔão
Phone: +55 – 45 – 35 29 74 74

The park can also be visited from Argentina, where you can easily get, too. From there the entrance fee is a bit more expensive, about 24 US$, the ticket booth closes already at 4.30 p.m. and you can stay till 6 p.m.

Iguazú Argentina
Puerto Iguazú, Misiones
Phone: +54 37 57 49 14 69
Email: iguazuinformacion@iguazuargentina.com 

To get to the falls from downtown Foz in about 20 to 30 minutes, take bus #120 at the bus terminal (Terminal Transporte Urbano TTU).

Note: If you change buses at terminals, i.e. final stops, in Brazil, you don’t have to pay another ticket, you just get on the connecting bus. It only works like this if your are changing, i.e. if you arrived at the terminal by another bus. If you are boarding your first bus there, you do have to pay.


Usina Itaipú

Another huge, water-based tourist attraction is actually not a touristy, but an industrial plant, it’s the bi-national project Usina Itaipú.

The premises you are visiting are impressively huge.

In 1974, Brazil and Paraguay started this “Herculean job” as US magazine ‘Popular Mechanics’ called the project. Till 1981, up to 5 thousand people were hired every month. Throughout the construction period, there were about 100 thousand people working on the project – at the peak of the dam’s construction, about 40 thousand workers on the job site as well as employees in Brazil and Paraguay worked for Itaipú, finding great facilities such as good housing, schools for their kids, hospitals etc.

In 1984, Brazil and Paraguay opened world’s largest hydropower plant that in 1994 was elected by the American Society of Civil Engineers being one of the seven modern Wonders of the World.

Until now, more than 20 Million visitors from 197 countries paid Usina Itaipú a touristic visit.

They truly made an effort to make this industrial site alluring for tourists.
An indispensable picture with their logo.

You can join a panoramic bus tour that takes you to four stops, takes about two hours and costs R$ 38 (US$ 11,50), a complete visit where in addition to the panoramic tour you get to see the factory halls. This trip takes about three hours, costs R$ 38 (US$ 11,50) – and please don’t forget to bring your passport.
The panoramic bus stops at lake Itaipú where you can join a Catamaran ride (not included in the entrance fees).

The touristy visits are remarkably elaborated. Besides restaurants and gift shops, there is  some additional entertainment involved like e. g. navigating on the storage reservoir on a catamaran. 

For all visiting options – there is also a pass that allows you to visit Foz’s three most important attractions, i.e. the falls, the plan, and the tripoint, for R$ 109, check out their page:

Usina Itaipú
Centro de Recepção de Visitantes
Av. Tancredo Neves, 6702
Foz do Iguaçu
Phone: + 55 – 45 – 35 76-70 00
Email: info@turismoitaipu.com.br

To get to the site from downtown Foz is easy, but it is quite a ride (about 30 to 40 minutes): At the bus terminal (Terminal Transporte Urbano TTU), just take either bus # 101 or 102.

Other Attractions

Besides these two pretty wet attractions, Foz do Iguaçu tries to attract and entertain visitors with other attractions, some of which I find a bit too theme park oriented. And since they also have a couple of shopping centers, the whole thing reminded me at bit of the International Boulevard in Orlando/Florida. Fortunately they are not that professional yet.


Parque das Aves

Although the bird park deems pretty touristy and just like a little zoo, they actually do grant the birds shelter and work on their recovery and conservation.

You get really close to the Flamingos – on of the first species you get to see.

It’s located next to the falls, and I would rather visit before going to the overwhelming water falls.
If for some reason you miss it, it’s no drama, I’m even not sure if the R$ 45 (about 14 US$) are worth it, especially since there are so many beautiful, exotic birds flying around everywhere you go, anyway.

Yes, it’s true: I saw flocks of toucans flying around in Brazil. However, the bird park was the only place where I go close enough to take a picture of them.
Do they really have to live in captivity so that people like me can take their picture?!

Parque das Aves
Av. das Cataratas, KM 17.1
Foz do Iguaçu
Phone: + 55 – 45 – 35 29 82 82

The park is open daily from 8:30 a. m. to 5 p. m.

It’s nice that the visitors have to get into the huge aviaries where the birds live in relatively natural habitats.


Three Frontiers Landmark


Each of the three connecting countries has its own landmark. All three are located where the Iguaçu river flows into the Paraná river. The Brazilian one was installed over hundred years ago and is an obelisk painted in the colors of the flag, standing in the middle of a fountain.

Marco das Três Fronteiras - the Three Frontier Landmark (Photo: Grupo Catarata comunicaꞔao)
Marco das Três Fronteiras – the Three Frontier Landmark on the Brazilian side.
(Photo: Grupo Catarata comunicaꞔao)

You find restaurants and gift shops and you can look over the rivers to the other. It’s open till 11 p. m., so at night you can see an illuminated version.

Espaço das Américas S.A. 
Av. General Meira
Jardim Eldorado
Foz do Iguaçu
Phone: + 55 – 45 – 31 32 41 00
Email: contato@marcodastresfronteiras.com.br

The landmark is open daily from 2 p. m. to 11 p. m. (the ticket booth closes at 10 p. m.). The entrance fee is R$ 23,60 (a bit over US$ 7).


DreamLand

Right in front of the very recommendable Hotel San Juan Eco are three a bit bizarre attractions: a wax museum, a valley of dinosaurs, and a miniature wonderland. There’s nothing wrong with either of these, I just find it strange that at a place where nature is pampering us with one of the natural wonders and another man made wonder – the hydro plant – was added, people obviously need additional artificially created attractions showing i. a. Whoopie Goldberg in Sister Act.
So the real wonders aren’t enough?!
However, if you want to visit Whoopie and her fellow wax figures, here is their address:


DreamLand
Avenida das Cataratas, KM 14
Foz do Iguaçu

Phone: + 55 – 45 – 35 27 81 00
Email: comercial@grupodreams.com.br

They are awaiting you daily from 8 a. m. to 7 p. m. just like the Maravilhas do Mundo, the wonders of the world, miniature replicas of e. g. the statue of liberty, the Taj Mahal, Egyptian and Mexican pyramids, the Eiffel tower and more.

The dinosaurs get up a bit later than the wax people, so the place is open from 9 a. m. to 6 p. m.

Each individual entrance fee is also R$ 50 (a bit over 15 US$), but you save if you add more attractions to the fun and buy combo passes


Aquamania Water Park

And since for some reason all the waters at some of the most powerful waterfalls and world’s largest hydropower plant with the connecting Paraná river and the great Itaipú lake aren’t enough, they had to add a water park. So if all these natural waters do not satisfy your needs, here is where you can take a dip:

Acquamania Foz
Avenida das Cataratas
Foz do Iguaçu
Phone: + 55 – 45 – 40 53 92 72
Email reservas@acquamaniafoz.com.br

The water park is open daily from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. (weekends to 7 p. m.)

Entrance fee is R$ 36 for kids up to 14 and R$ 72 for adults (US$ 11 resp. US$ 22)

Wanna read some thoughts about my stay? Check out this lesson of my Class of Brazil series:

Class of Brazil – 9th Lesson: Foz do Iguaçu and the Games Without Frontiers

Do you want to read about all the other cool places I’ve visited in Brazil? 
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Guide to BONITO

(Updated February 2019)

Bonito is one of Brazil’s internationally hidden gems: While Brazilians – as well as other South Americans, for that matter – come to Bonito to enjoy the lush nature, the serenity between the rolling hills and the pleasure of waters in caves, creeks and natural pools, only few international tourists find their way to the Mato Grosso region, located relatively close to the Pantanal, a wetland rich of the most exquisite flora and fauna.

BONITO Mato Grosso / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Bonito’s strongest suits: Lush vegetation and flowing waters

It’s not very complicated to get to Bonito, but it requires some stop overs. Although the town even has its own airport, you can get there only via a weird, complicated routing, so your best option is to go either to Campo Grande or to Dourados and continue from there by bus (about four hours).

Since I didn’t have so much time, I flew from São Paulo to Campo Grande where my hostel had arranged a shuttle straight from the airport to their place. It was much more expensive than going from the airport into town to take the Cruzeiro do Sul, but for me it was worth to pay about 10 US$ more and not having to meander around downtown Campo Grande – and Vanzella grants a plane to door service.

I must admit that I was a bit disappointed when I first arrived in Bonito: having expected cute little houses with some colonial charm, I arrived in a town where streets seem to be drawn with a ruler.

BONITO Mato Grosso / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Bonito is certainly not called bonito (=pretty) because of his charmless streets decorated with pointless planks,….

Bonito’s architecture is not colonial at all, the town itself deems rather mundane: a dull bus terminal, a big super market, around the town square a couple of banks, along the main road cafés, restaurants and souvenir stores. Friendly, but nothing special at all.

BONITO Mato Grosso / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
…it’s called Bonito for its breathtaking surrounding!

The strongest suite of Bonito – which means pretty respectively cute in Portuguese (and in Spanish, too, by the way) – start at its outskirts and goes for miles and miles in all cardinal directions: It’s the nature!

It’s the fields, the pastures, the bushes, the flowers, the trees. It’s the waters that have formed mysterious caves, that are rolling in creeks and rivers and form natural pools for visitors to enjoy.

BONITO Mato Grosso / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
South America at its best: Gauchos mustering their cattle.

Visiting Bonito means spending the day outdoors. And it means spending money, too, since the day trips are far from being cheap.

All the nice places – whether caves, waterfalls, rivers, or pools – are private property and entrance fees are high – between about 50 R$ for a cave tour and about 270 R$ for snorkeling in the Rio de Prata (US$ 15 to US$ 82) – and transportation is not included.

Since Bonito has more national tourism, there is not much public transport to the points of interests – and it’s quickly sold out. So I can only recommend to book your tours as soon as you get there. Since all the tours depend on the weather, it doesn’t make much sense to book long in advance. So yes, it’s a bit of a lottery.

Another thing is that at most places you cannot just waltz in, you need to have a voucher. That’s easy to obtain: every hotel or hostel in town or one of the many, many tour and travel agencies around Bonito will arrange your booking and supply you with a voucher. But this is important – since everything is very eco-oriented, places for basically everything are limited.

Since you have to book your voucher with one of the agents, anyway, it doesn’t make sense to give you the addresses or contacts.

Another thing that I don’t do on purpose is quoting prices: The prices vary (= go up) so fast that it doesn’t make sense that I tell you how much it is right now. For a day including flotation you will pay between 180 R$ and about 300 R$ (55 US$ to 90 US$). Yes, it’s overpriced, but by avoiding a sell out, they are protecting the environment and keep it eco- friendly.

Most of the following places offer a combination of activities like flotation, swimming, horseback riding, and bird watching. Sometimes the rivers also have a smaller waterfall or a cave. I sort them by what they are mostly known for.

You won’t be able to avoid spending much money in Bonito. But I can recommend you very much the hostel I stayed at – you’ll find it in the RATING and CONCLUSION section. They have small dorms, but they have also private rooms with en suite bathrooms at unbeatable prices. There is a pool, you can use their kitchen and they are super nice and fun and helpful.

Rivers

Pools

Waterfalls

Caves

Rivers

Since ‘flutuaꞔao’ – flotation, i. e. basically snorkeling without moving your legs – is the big thing everybody comes for to Bonito, I first list the rivers where you can do it.

It’s actually quite nice and very unusual to snorkel in sweet water – you eyes and mucosa do not burn even if water gets into your mask or snorkel.

Parque Ecológico Rio Formoso

You can enjoy ‘flutuaꞔao’ at the Parque Ecológico Rio Formoso (about 7 km / 4.5 mi from Bonito) as well as floating down the river in a tube, ‘fly’ along a zipline, ride on horses and on bikes. Like all the other parks, they have great, clean facilities and a restaurant.


Rio Sucurí

At this place, located about 20 km / 12.5 mi south of Bonito, you can also do ‘flutuaꞔao’, horse back riding or cycling. It’s a 0,5 km / 0,3 mi walk to the starting point from were you float along almost 2 km / 1.2 mi.

BONITO Mato Grosso / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
First I thought it was a bit exaggerated to dress us up like we were joining Jacques Cousteau; after half an hour in the water I agreed that the suits are a useful protection against the cold.

They supply you with a neoprene suite against the ice cold water and crocs as well as a snorkel and a mask.

Recanto Ecológico Rio da Prata

The farthest and most popular day trip to do engage in ‘flutuaꞔao’ takes you to the Rio da Prata, the silver river, located about 50 km / over 30 mi east of Bonito. Here you can engage in all the activities that are described above, but in addition there is some wonderful bird watching here, too.

Rio da Prata bye:myself
Floating in the ice cold water….
(Photo: Marcos Dias/Grupo Rio da Prata)

Rio da Prata bye:myself
…and observing large schools of colorful fishes.
(Photo: André Turatti/Grupo Rio da Prata)

Rio da Prata is the most expensive of these trips, but its also very nice. However, I’ve met people who found it far too expensive.


Pools

Very similar activities like on and in the rivers, only that they less sporty and more family oriented. The pools are all natural and a couple of fun water games and activities are included. You can decide whether you want the day with our without ‘flutuaꞔao’, the price difference is about 100 R$ / 30 US$.


Balneário Municipal

This public pool is located about 7 km / 4.5 mi north east of bonito – and actually reachable by bike.
Here too: good, well maintained facilities. Although far cheaper than the trips on the rivers, still overpriced for what you get – which is nice floating with the fishes in clear waters. But face it: That’s Bonito.


Balneário do Sol

This pool – located about 11 km / 7 mi north of Bonito – offers more games and fun activities than the Balneário Municipal and is more family and kid oriented. Of course they, too, have a good restaurant and impeccable facilities – and if you are not too much of a coach potato and don’t mind exercise in the sun, you can get here on a bicycle, too.


Nascente Azul

Bird Rio da Prata bye:myself
While you are sunbathing, you can observe the most
beautiful and exotic birds.
(Photo: Maurício Neves Godoi/Grupo Rio da Prata)

This pool, located 34 km / 21 mi west of Bonito, can definitely not be reached by bike, unless you did participate in the iron man contest (don’t underestimate the sun – and the dirt road is not shady at all!). It’s very similar zu the Balneário do Sol with lots of activities in and around a natural pool. There is also a small artificial and a big natural waterfall. You can do – you probably guessed so – some really good ‘flutuaꞔao’ – the Nascente – which means source – is where the Rio do Peixe begins, so that the water is very clear. Here too, after the floating, you can go back to the pool really fast by using a zipline.












Waterfalls

All the waterfalls worth seeing are west of Bonito.

Parque da Cachoeira

Parque da Cachoeira is located about 16 km / 10 mi from Bonito is a nature reserve mostly known for its waterfall. Of course there is also some nice hiking and you can spend the night camping.

Cool waters making this vegetation so lush.
(Photo: Parque da Cachoeira)

Since it’s more about natural beauty than facilities, the entrance fee is about 5 US$. Finally a place that does not burn a hole in your wallet! (If you go on an organized trip including guided tours through the forest, it’s of course about the same price as the other activities listed above).



Estȃncia Mimosa Ecoturismo

The Estȃncia Mimosa is a nature reserve in a breathtaking setting.

Exploring the Edenic surroundings on horses brings you even closer to nature.
(Photo: Beto Nascimento/Grupo Rio da Prata)

On a guided tour, you can enjoy the serene nature – horse back riding is optional, too – and observe some wonderful birds in their natural habitat and swim in the ice cold waters coming from a majestic water fall – simply Edenic. The reserve is about 25 km / 15.5 mi from Bonito.

Boca da Onꞔa

The farthest from Bonito – 62 km / 38.5 mi – is Boca da Onꞔa – and actually it’s the most spectacular place.

The highest waterfalls can be found at the Parque Boca da Onꞔa.
(Photo: Boca da Onꞔa)

Not only is the waterfall really high – 156 m / over 500 ft, you also can go down 90 m / almost 300 ft on ropes to have a closer look into the Rio Salobra canyon. Yap, there is some adrenaline involved.

Caves

Yes, here, too, water is involved: It was the water that created the beautifully shaped formation of the caves that now can be visited around Bonito.

Gruta São Mateus e Museu

Located less than 4 km / 2.5 mi north of Bonito, you can cycle or even walk here. The first thing you notice is the majestic manor that gives you an idea of the former owner’s wealth. Inside there is a nice museum showing antique tools and utensils. The exhibition on the first floor is a bit creepy – it’s stuffed animals, partly in weird poses.

BONITO Mato Grosso / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
After a visit to the museum located at this gorgeous old farmer’s mansion, you reach the cave by crossing the pendant bridge on the left side.

The upper floor grants finally access to a pendant bridge that leads into the jungle. After a short hike you reach the entrance of Gruta São Mateus.
Nothing spectacular, but very nice.

BONITO Mato Grosso / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Water – and many, many, many years have carved these unique formations.

Grutas de São Miguel

Only the very sporty ones will go to Grutas de São Miguel by bike since it’s located 18 km / over 11 mi south east of Bonito. Although this is Bonito’s most popular cave – and bigger than Gruta São Mateus, I’m not sure if it’s really worth the detour if you’re no geologist.

Gruta do Lago Azul

Located about 22 km / 14 mi from south west of Bonito, Gruta do Lago Azul – the cave of the blue lake – is the most beautiful one; exactly for the blue lake, a water of an incredibly shiny blue color – partly 90 m / almost 300 ft deep. Here, too, I would say if you have seen grottos like this before – e.g. in Italy, its questionable if the trip, that in total will take about three hours, is worth the effort.

Wanna read how Bonito was for me after days of heavy rain? Check out this lesson of my Class of Brazil series:

Class of Brazil – 6th Lesson: Bonito – Nomen est Omen

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Guide to SÃO PAULO

(Updated February 2019)

I will not beat around the bush: São Paulo was my favorite city in Brazil. Although Bonito enchanted me with its natural beauty, Foz do Iguaꞔu impressed me with the power of nature – São Paulo is the place I see myself live and work and be part of the cool, artsy crowd.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Two Brazilian heroes in one picture: Star architect Oscar Niemeyer depicted by star muralist Eduardo Kobra.

Talking ’bout cool, artsy crowd: I decided to let one of the most glorious sons of São Paulo guide you through the city – let’s hear it for Mr. Eduardo Kobra!

Eduardo Kobra was born in 1975 in São Paulo and is one of world’s most recognized muralists. His huge, very expressive works are found in the US – and of course in Brazil. I introduced his pentaptych ‘Ethnicity’ that he has painted on the occasion of the Olympics in Rio in 2016.

Rio de Janeiro - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Mural “Ethnicity”

His kaleidoscope-ish portraits are – well, rather hidden than found – all over São Paulo, and not only do I lead you to the walls, at the same time I point out attractions and points of interests in their surroundings.

So lets go, we start right at the airport:

Like most bigger cities in Brazil, São Paulo has two airports, too: Guarulhos International, located 30 km / 19 mi north east of the city center, and Congonhas which is in the city and can be reached in about 30 minutes by public transport.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Kobra’s colorful interpretation of  Congonhas airport.

If you are coming to São Paulo by bus, you’ll arrive at the Rodoviária do Tietê from where you get to the center by either bus or subway in about 20 minutes.

If you find a reasonably priced hotel around the subway station Consolaꞔão/Paulista, go for it: it’s centrally and conveniently located. I stayed at the Rua Augusta (check the CONCLUSION and RATING page for details) which is the off-scene theater and clubbing district, however, the hotel was very quiet, very comfortable, yet reasonably priced. I can only recommend it.

Avenida Paulista

Parque Ibirapuera

Luz

Centro

Wanna follow my route? I’ve marked all the Kobras on this map – and for your convenience all the other spots mentioned in this post, too.

Avenida Paulista

Although there is a ‘center’, São Paulo’s lifeline is the Avenida Paulista, stretching from Praꞔa Marechal Cordeiro de Farias all the way to the subway station Paraíso.

So let’s get started at the Paulista’s western end close to the subway station Consolaꞔão where Kobra painted the great Brazilian racing driver Ayrton Senna, who died in 1994 at the age of 34 at the San Marino Grand Prix.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Honoring the late Ayrton Senna who tragically died at the age of 34. Now his portrait lives on at Rua Dr. Antonino dos Santos Rocha, close to the Consolacão subway station.

Walking down the Paulista, you’ll pass many tall bank buildings, big stores, and malls: The Paulista is basically São Paulo’s 5th Avenue.

Especially in the evening you should turn left into the Rua Augusta, the city’s vibrant party and entertainment street full of restaurants, bars, theaters, clubs and fun and follies.

Four blocs further is one of the best art museums São Paulo has to offer, the Museu de Arte de São Paulo. Besides their own collection of modern art, they organize inspiring exhibitions. For art-lovers, a visiting this venue is a must.

MASP
Museu de arte de São Paulo
Avenida Paulista 1578
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 3149 5959

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. (Thursday to 8 p. m.), entrance fee is 35 R$ (10,50 US$)

Another three blocs down, to your left on Alameda Joaquim Eugênio de Lima, a nice surprise is waiting for you: a brandnew Kobra – I even saw it in the making beginning of 2018!

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
A assume this mural was commissioned by the hospital. I particularly like that the doctor’s name is ‘Bueno’ – which means good.

Keep walking – whereby if you don’t like to walk, you can hop on one of the buses going down the Paulista or even take the subway. The disadvantage is that in Brazil you pay one price per ticket, i. e. it doesn’t matter if you go just to the next stop or across town – you always pay the same price (which is 3,60 R$ (about 1 US$)).

Getting to the end of the Paulista means getting to the highlights – of the Kobras as well as of the attractions: concentrated behind the subway station Brigadeiro, you’ll find the Capela Santa Catarina to your left.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels

Right behind the Saint Catherine’s Chapel is the wonderful Japan House, a venue showing Japanese art and serving excellent Japanese food.

Japan House
Avenida Paulista 1578
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 30 90 89 00

The Japan House is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a. m. to 10 p. m., Sunday to 6 p. m., entrance to the exhibitions is free.

Now, don’t you miss one of the most important Kobras right behind this building depicting another Brazilian art hero, namely star-architect Oscar Niemeyer!

You might get an even better look from the last attraction, located on the other side of the road, the romantic Casa das Rosas.

Sao Paulo - Casa das Rosas / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
The Casa das Roses – obviously named after the beautiful rose garden.

The Casa das Rosas – the house of roses – is a culture center organizing exhibitions, concerts and much more. It’s always worth it to drop in and check out what’s on.

Casa das Rosas
Avenida Paulista 37
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 32 85 69 86
Email: contato@casadasrosas.org.br

The exhibitions are open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a. m. to 10 p. m., Sunday to 6 p. m. Regarding other activities, please check their website.

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Parque Ibirapuera

Once you are close to the Brigadeiro station, let’s visit some more Kobras – and some other fantastic venues. But I have to warn you: We are going to the Parque Ibirapuera, where especially on weekends many São Paulians are strolling with their families, walking their dogs, or jogging by themselves.

Take any bus going down the Avenida Brigadeiro Luís Antônio and tell the driver you want to get off close to Praça Armando de Sales Oliveira.

Here you can admire the Monumento às Bandeiras, created in 1954 by Victor Brecheret, an Italian-Brazilian sculptor, commemorating the settling expeditions into the inner Brazil in the 17th century.

Sao Paulo  / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
A monument honoring great man…

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
…and a great man honoring the monument.
Unfortunately, this mural by Eduardo Kobra, located on the wall below the Igreja do Calvário   is strongly damaged.

Now cross the Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral and you’ll find yourself at one of the nicest places in  São Paulo, the Parque Ibirapuera.

Ibirapuera is only city’s second largest park (in case you wonder: the largest one is Parque Anhanguera in the northern part of the city), however, it spreads over 2 qkm / 0.8 sq mi and besides its lush meadows, trees, and flowers as well as creeks and lakes, there is much to see even for those who are oblivious to the beauty of nature: three fantastic museums as well as the planetarium are located on or adjacent to the premises:

To be honest, I’m not so crazy about planetariums, but I like the design by Eduardo Corona, Roberto G. Tibau and Antônio Carlos Pitombo, that reminds me of an air saucer – very suitable.

Planetário Ibirapuera Prof. Aristóteles Orsini
Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 55 75 52 06

To tell you the truth, I find the info on their hours a bit confusing, so if you want to visit, you better contact them beforehand; and tell them to improve the info on their site, please.

Just a stone throw away is the very nice Museu Afro Brazil.

While the exhibition on Portuguese colonial art on the ground floor is a bit pointless, the upper floor is an artistic treasury showing Afro-Brazilian art from different Brazilian regions as well as the African and Caribbean influence – like masks from Benin and artefacts from Haiti.

Whether folkloric naive sculptures….

….or political drawings like this one by Sidney Amaral “Estudo para gargalheira ou quem falará por nós?” (Study of a gargalheira* or who will be speaking for us?) – the museum shows a vast collection of all different kind of Afro Brazilian art.
*a gargalheira is the iron choker that was used on slaves 

I can only recommend visiting this venue.

Museu Afro Brasil
Avenida Pedro Alvares Cabral
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 33 20 89 00

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m., entrance fee are R$ 6

You think we forgot about Kobra? No way, he will be our next stop. Let’s walk along the facade of the Pavilhão das Culturas Brasileiras and take a look at murals by other also very talented artists.

One of many great murals decorating the Pavilion

Once you spot the Marquise Do Ibirapuera, you will immediately recognize Kobra’s style – decorating a public bathroom. I guess once you are a star like him, you get away with painting also restrooms.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Northern wall of the Marquise (including the entrance to the gents’ bathroom)

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Western wall of the Marquise.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Southern wall of the Marquise – including the entrance to the ladies’ bathroom.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Eastern wall of the Marquise – depicting to women kissing: A tribute to the extremely LGBT-friendly attitude found everywhere in Brazil.

Next door you might want to visit the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo – and maybe have a snack at their very nice cafeteria.

Museu de Arte Moderna – decorated by a mural created by two other Brazilian graffiti super stars, namely OSGEMEOS.

Here she is again, Tarsila do Amaral, and her cubist painting
“Estrada de Ferro Central do Brasil”

MAM – Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo
Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 50 85 13 00
Email: atendimento@mam.org.br

Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m.

Entrance fee are R$ 7,00 and Saturdays are free.

Before you continue to the best and biggest of the art museums, the Museu de Arte Contemporânea, you shouldn’t miss to take a look at the sculptures in this part of the park – some of them are really outstanding.

Young people hanging out on Angelo Venosa’s sculpture of bones made of aluminium.

Talking ’bout outstanding: if you want to visit only one single exhibition while in São Paulo, it should definitely be the Museu de Arte Contemporânea.

Wild creatures welcome the visitors at the entrance hall:
Nina Pandolfo “Um Amor Sem Igual” (left) and one of Marino Marini’s horses.

It’s the place where the São Paulo Bienal is taking place – and obviously after every bienal is over, they leave some great art behind. Actually you could spend an entire day here and awing at great pieces from all over the world.

Rafael Canogar “Os Revolucionários”

Cybèle Varela “De tudo aquilo que pode ser I, II e III”

Not to be missed!

Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo 
Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral 1301
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 26 48 02 54

Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. (Tuesday to 9 p. m.), entrance is free.

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Luz

Another beautiful park full of lush plants and great art is the Jardim da Luz behind the art museum Pinacoteca.

Facade of the museum with matching sculptures.

The Jardim has an area of 82,000 square meters, with two reflection pools and two ponds; it was declared a historic landmark by Condephaat in 1981.

There is enough art to be admired even on Tuesdays when the Pinacoteca is closed.
Vlavianos “Homem Pássaro”

As part of the downtown revitalization project, it resumed dialogue with Pinacoteca, and was renovated in 1999. In 2000, the State Government earmarked funds for the purchase of Brazilian sculptures for its lawns. Even today, the exhibit is free of charge, for those who want to stroll through its green areas and also visit an open air exhibit. The Pinacoteca houses a vast collection of modern Brazilian art and is another mecca for the art aficionados. Founded in 1905, it is the city’s oldest art museum.

Pinacoteca P
Praça da Luz
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 33 24 10 00
Email: pinacotecasp@pinacoteca.org.br

The Pinacoteca is open from Wednesday to Monday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m.

Entrance fee are R$ 6, Saturday is free

And Kobra?

His mural is to be found at the corner Avenida Tiradentes and Rua Dr. Rodrigo de Barros. On the way there you might want to see some sacred art – you can do so at the Museu de Arte Sacra de São Paulo.

A perfect painting in a perfect location.

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Centro

To explore São Paulo’s historic center, I recommend you join a ‘free’ walking tour (remember: the guides work for tips, so please don’t make it a free ‘free’ tour).

The happy wanderers – and now it’s your turn: Find W….no, Renata.
(Photo: Sao Paulo Free Walking Tour)

For the ‘Old Downtown’-tour, they meet at the tourist information booth at Praꞔa República (they also offer a tour along the Avenida Paulista and to the bohemian quarter Vila Madalena).

Well, this is what sadly happens when art is exposed to weather and pollution – it’s getting demolished.

Anyway, the downtown-tour takes you i. a. to the Biblioteca Mário de Andrade, to the grand Teatro Municipal, the Monument to Carlos Gomes – a copy of the Fontana di Trevi at the Praça Ramos de Azevedo, the Prefeitura – which is the townhall with a botanic garden and a pond on the roof; you cannot visit the building on this tour, but of course on another occasion.

The beautiful fountain behind the Teatro Municipal.

If you don’t mind walking, you can stroll from downtown up towards the Paulista along Rua da Consolação.

While you admire the Nossa Senhora da Consolação church at the first big junction, don’t miss the great murals all around you; although they are not by Kobra – one of his best murals is to be seen at the corner of Rua Maria Antônia.

Although the paintings are large, they are not always easy to spot. I kept my eyes open for you.

Once you are here, you might want to get a drink – and a break – at the bar next to the mural, that is called ‘Esquina do Índio’, the Indian’s corner.

A very political mural by Eduardo Kobra – raising awareness for indigenous people being threatened by a factory being built in the city of Altamira in Belo Monte.

While these gentlemen are taking a short rest, the people in the family grave are resting for
ever; hopefully in peace.

Either keep walking or get on a bus and get off at the Cemitério da Consolação, a small, Brazilian version of the legendary Parisian Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. This cemetery is much smaller and the people buried here are not as world famous as those in Paris, still it’s a beautiful and interesting place.

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Wanna know how I perceived São Paulo while I was there? Check out this lesson of my Class of Brazil series:

Class of Brazil – 5th Lesson: I Call Them Like I See Them

Do you want to read about all the other cool places I’ve visited in Brazil? 
Then go to the main post and take your pick!




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Guide to BELO HORIZONTE | BRUMADINHO | INHOTIM

(Updated February 2019)

While studying Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro, I thought it might be a good idea to take a trip to Belo Horizonte at the weekend; mostly because I wanted to see Inhotim, a botanic garden full of contemporary art.

Belo Horizonte / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Young Belo Horizontians drumming with vigor.

Turns out, Inhotim was the only spot worth the travel. But so worth it!

Belo Horizonte

Still let me tell you a bit about Belo Horizonte, although I would never recommend to actually plan a trip there. If you happen to pass through, make sure you don’t miss going to see Inhotim – but we get to that later.

Going to Belo Horizonte by bus from Rio de Janeiro takes about six hours which I find a bit too long for a weekend trip. I was lucky to get really cheap tickets for about 70 US$ round trip – I booked about six weeks ahead.

Belo Horizonte / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Going to Belo Horizonte, the views of Minas Gerais from way up high was the most alluring sight of the day.

Like many other Brazilian cities, Belo Horizonte has two airports, one close to the city and about 30 km / 19 mi north. Hence, here comes my first advice: Don’t take the bus that goes to the bus terminal. I thought it would be a good idea since ‘bus terminal’ sounds centrally located. Well, it is, but it is also located in a very bad area. Plus the bus that goes there is the cheap bus for the poorer crowd and it stops at every corner and it takes forever to finally arrive at this shady area.
It’s far better to take the airport shuttle – that costs next to nothing more – and go to Connection Airport Terminal at Av. Álvares Cabral 387, that’s a bit less depressing and dangerous.

Belo Horizonte / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
A young street vendor selling flip flops on a sidewalk in Belo Horizonte.

Belo Horizonte’s artery is the Avenida Afonso Pena where you find many stores and restaurants. It’s central point is the Praça Sete de Setembro, honoring the centenary of Brazil’s independence. While the square is just an obelisk marking the city’s zero point.

Igreja São José

One bloc down south you’ll see to your right the unusually colored Igreja São José, St. Joseph’s Chruch, founded in 1904 and finished in 1912. At the next bloc to your left already begins the quite nice Parque Municipal Américo Renné Giannetti, the central park.

Museu Mineiro 

There are a couple of interesting exhibitions, especially regarding the history of the miners: Belo Horizonte is the capital of the federal state of Minas Gerais, translated as general mines. As a matter of fact, in Minas Gerais – a territory as large as France – you can find a large variety of different mines and extraction fields.

Museu Mineiro
Avenida João Pinheiro 342
Belo Horizonte
Phone: + 55 – 31 – 32 69 11 03

The museum is open from Tuesday to Friday from 10 a. m. to 7 p. m., weekends from noon and Thursday from noon to 9 p. m.


Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil

Another nice place worth visiting is the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, a cultural center financed by the oldest and largest Brazilian Bank. They run cultural centers in various Brazilian cities, and in Belo Horizonte the elegant building alone is worth a visit.

Of course you feel welcome at this grand hall.
(Photo: Vagner Costa/CCBB)

Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil Belo Horizonte
Praça da Liberdade 450
Belo Horizonte
Phone: + 55 – 31 – 34 31 94 00
Email: ccbbbh@bb.com.br

The center is open from Wednesday to Monday from 10 a. m. to 10 p. m.

Feira de Arte e Artesanato da Avenida Afonso Pena

What I’ve liked best in Belo Horizonte was the Feira de Arte e Artesanato da Avenida Afonso Pena, an arts and crafts fair that takes place every Sunday from 8 a. m. to 1 p. m. on the Avenida Afonso Pena between Rua da Bahia and Rua dos Guajajaras. It’s not touristy at all, you can buy literally everything you might need in your house – and the best part are the food stands selling really good Brazilian street food.

Belo Horizonte / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
The market on Avenida Afonso Pena is one of very few treats Belo Horizonte holds for its visitors.

So yes, there are certainly some things to do, but I’ve found the city extremely run down and depressing. The number of obviously deranged, intoxicated people squatting and camping in the streets was overwhelming. I didn’t feel comfortable at all.

I spent one night and took the bus to Brumadinho the next morning.

I don’t know how many buses are actually going from Belo Horizonte to Brumadinho since it’s really not that far. Since I had to make sure to catch my plane the next day, I made reservation online and went with Saritur.
It’s also possible to book a day tour from Belo Horizonte straight to Inhotim and back in one day, but I wasn’t so crazy about getting back the same day…

Brumadinho

As I learned from my friendly, hippie-ish landlord, ‘bruma’ is the coal dust – and that’s where the town of Brumadinho got his name from – must be something like ‘Little Coaldust’…

Brumadinho, a friendly little town – about an hour by bus from Belo Horizonte.

I didn’t get to see much of the town itself since I was rushing more or less straight to Inhotim, but what I saw looked tranquil and nice and if I ever come back, I will skip Belo Horizonte and go straight to this cute little place.

I managed to get a room at a guesthouse within walking distance to Inhotim, so that was a plus. The hostel is cute and the hosts get out of their way to make you feel welcome, but unfortunately I must say that it’s not very comfortable: There is only one bathroom for up to eight people, the walls and doors are paper thin so when people are talking or watching TV in the communal area, it’s like you are sitting right next to them. This would be fine and dandy for a hostel-price, but not for the 120 R$ (36 US$) they charged. The night before I paid less in Belo Horizonte for an executive room with all the hotel standards (private bathroom, A/C, TV, fridge etc.).

INHOTIM / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
One of the venue’s best views: Groups of different palm trees and one of Inhotim’s most famous outdoor sculpture,  “Invenção da cor, Penetrável Magic Square # 5, De Luxe” by Hélio Oiticica 

Anyway, I wasn’t there to hang out at the hostel, I was there so Inhotim could kill me softly with its beauty. And it did, my gosh, how it did!

Inhotim

It all started in the mid 1980 when Bernardo de Mello Paz, one of the few people who could actually say ‘yes’ if rhetorically asked whether he owns a mine, began to establish on his huge piece of land outside of Brumadinho an exquisite botanic garden containing rare and precious species of plants, beautifully arranged on hills and around ponds.

INHOTIM / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
The gardens alone are worth the trip to Inhotim.

This man has a very good taste. In plants, but also in art. Therefore he arranged his art collection, one of the most significant collections of contemporary art in the world, on these premises.

INHOTIM / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
“Deleite” by Brazilian sculptor Tunga was one of the first pieces in Bernardo de Mello Paz’ collection.

There are about 500 works by Brazilian and international artists from about 30 different countries on display; in the gardens and in special galleries.

INHOTIM / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
In 2009, international super star of dots, Yayoi Kusama, contributed her work ‘Narcissus Garden’ that was nominated for the First Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize, granted by the Illinois Institute of Technology.

There are huge sculptures and installations that would never fit in a gallery.

INHOTIM / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Where else could Chris Burdon show his “Beam Drop Inhotim”, made of some not exactly delicate steel beams? At Inhotim, there’s enough space even for the largest sculptures.
When the dark clouds approached, the installation looked even more dramatic.

There are huge sculptures and installations that do fit in a gallery as long as they can fill the whole room undisturbed.

INHOTIM / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Another one of Tunga’s quirky installations: “True Rouge”. At Inhotim, they reserved an entire gallery building for this sculpture.

There are sculptures and installations that form a nice, almost symbiotic togetherness.

INHOTIM / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Symbiosis of nature and art and the visitor – all in one single selfie (in case you wonder:  I’m standing in Dan Graham’s “Bisected Triangle” – made of glass and steel – taking a picture of my reflection and the incredible view behind; no filters, no editing involved!)

At Inhotim, there is room for all of this. Since there is space, lots and lots of space.

Yes, you have to do a lot of walking, but if you get too tired, there are lovely young people driving you around in little carts.

Anyway, Inhotim is good to you: there are sockets to recharge your phone or your camera, there is free WiFi. There are many clean bathrooms and many water faucets so that visitors do not necessarily have to buy overpriced drinks; which aren’t overpriced at all, anyway.

INHOTIM / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Even from the cheaper cafeteria you can enjoy good food – and of course the great view.

There are two restaurants, on more upscale (whereby you get an excellent buffet for about 20 US$ which you’d never get at this price in Europe or in the US) and one more a cafeteria. In addition there are snack bars and ice cream parlors. And lots of shady spots to relax for a while – some equipped with wooden deck chairs or cute lounge chairs, others with extraordinary seats carved in raw wood.

INHOTIM / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
A huge bench made of a humongous tree trunk in front of a…humongous tree trunk.

I’ve been to Louisiana north of Copenhagen – and it was really nice.
I’ve been to Huntington Garden and Library at San Marino in the outskirts of Los Angeles – and it was really very nice.
But none of these places can compare to Inhotim.

INHOTIM

Rua B, 20
Brumadinho
Phone: + 55 – 31 – 35 71 97 00
Email: info@inhotim.org.br

Open Tuesday to Friday from 9.30 a. m. to 4.30 p. m., weekends and holidays till 5.30 p. m.

Entrance fee is 44 R$ (13 US$), use of the carts an additional 30 R$  (9 US$) (highly recommended) Charter of a private cart for up to 5 people 500 R$ (150 US$) per day or 200 R$ (60 US$) per hour.

Important: You cannot visit the premises without proof of yellow fever vaccination!


Update: Since Summer 2018, you do not need to have proof of yellow fever vaccination to visit Inhotim. However, to save yourself from disappointment, you might want to check their website or inquire directly regarding the status quo short before visiting.

Wanna know how I perceived Belo Horizonte, Brumadinho, and Inhotim the day I got there? Check out this lesson of my Class of Brazil series:

Class of Brazil – 3rd Lesson: It is a Hellish Path to a Heavenly Place

Do you want to read about all the other cool places I’ve visited in Brazil? 
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Guide to RIO DE JANEIRO

(Updated February 2019)

Rio de Janeiro could be the most beautiful city on the planet: The ocean, the beaches, the hills, the vegetation, the views….I could go on and on.

Icons of Rio de Janeiro unite! The Sugar Loaf to the left, the Dois Irmãos all the way in the back at the end of the beaches, Christ the Redeemer and one of the many favelas. You can see all this going up by tram to the bohemian neighborhood of Santa Teresa.

But then there is the poverty, the violence, the hopelessness, the corruption, the dirt….I could go on and on.

I don’t know how it is if you spend only a couple of days in Rio and keep mainly to the beach area in the south. I’ve stayed there for two weeks and Rio’s downsides got to me more day by day.

However, when visiting Brazil, a trip to Rio is inevitable: The country’s most important icons are not in Sao Paulo, they are neither in Recife nor in Salvador – whether it’s Christ the Redeemer, whether it’s the sugar loaf or world’s most famous beaches Copacabana and Ipanema: all these sights and signs are right here. So – bem vindos no Rio!

Arrival and Departure

Where to Stay and How to Go

West

South

Southeast

East

Northeast

North

Niteroi

 

Arrival and Departure

If you are just coming to Brazil, you’ll probably arrive at RIOgaleão – Tom Jobim International Airport north east of the city. As a newbie, you’ll probably spend far too much for a cab at a licensed taxi stand – they charge around 120 R$ to the city center.

A metered cab will cost about half of that, then there is a comfy shuttle bus for R$ 15 going to Ipanema, but making stops on the way.
That can be tricky if you’re not familiar with Rio since the drivers are not helpful at all. If you know where you are going and you tell them, they stop. If you don’t know it, they just go.

But I wouldn’t recommend it after a long, tiring flight, anyway. In Rio, you have to be on the alert, and you won’t be when you are exhausted from travelling. Hey, you’ve paid a lot of money for a ticket, just spend some more and get to your final destination safely.

Like most Brazilian cities, Rio has two airports to fly to.

If you are coming from a different place in Brazil or another Latin American country, chances are that you’ll arrive at the Santos Dumont airport which is basically in the city center. Here connection is no problem at all: If in doubt, get on the light rail to Cinelândia, there you have connection to the subway system which is really good, reliable and clean in Rio. And taking a cab won’t burn a hole in your pocket, neither.

Unfortunately, after dark, Rio is not only breathtakingly beautiful.

If you are coming by bus, you’ll arrive at the Terminal Rodoviário Novo Rio. While the bus terminal is pretty good with many services, the surroundings aren’t, so retain from lingering around especially after dark. If you don’t want to take a cab, you can take the light rail at Rodoviário towards Santos Dumont, get off at Cinelândia and continue on subway from there.

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Where to Stay and How to Go

Most tourists and travellers stay in the Copacabana area which is understandable since you have the iconic beach in front of your nose. Yet it is the best place to learn nothing at all about Brazil.

Right behind the Copacabana is the Leme neighborhood which gives you a far better idea of what Brazil is really like.

However, I stayed in the Botafogo district which is great and I can only recommend it: It’s only one subway stop away from the beaches and really close to the – partly a bit too run down – center with all the museums and shopping opportunities. Talking ’bout shopping: There is a big mall right next to the beach in Botafogo.

 

Staying in Botafogo means having a great view of the Pão de Açûcar and…

 

…Cristo Redentor alike.

A beach? Yes, that’s right, there is also a beach, but unfortunately you can only go for a walk there and enjoy the incredible view of the Sugar Loaf since it’s far to dirty to bath or sunbath there.

 

Praia do Botafogo against the backdrop of the Pão de Açûcar.

A huge plus is Botafogo’s location: There is an incredible number of buses passing in front of the shopping mall, the ‘Metrô na Superficie’ – which is just a faster bus and no ‘Metrô’ at all – and two subway lines. It cannot get more convenient!

Very similar is the Neighborhood of Flamengo, only it’s not as centrally located as Botafogo, but only one subway stop away.

I would always prefer the las two neighborhoods for their closeness to Brazilian life.

I also love the neighborhood of Santa Teresa which is on one of the many ‘morros’, the hills typical for Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately it’s located amidst a couple of Favelas, one of theme being the notorious Morro dos Prazeres – Hill of Pleasures. This Favela was considered pacified until recently two tourists were shot there; accidentally, wrong moment – wrong place, but does that really matter?!

 

Great view from a dangerous place.
My Portuguese teacher was a bit shocked when I told her that I was walking down the Rua Santa Cristina by myself.

According to prudent Cariocas, as the people of Rio are called, even the once pacified Favelas are dangerous again. I personally would not go there – especially since I find it a bit weird to go to a neighborhood to see how poor people live. Just ask yourself if you are doing this in your city, too – and then ask yourself why you should do it in Rio.

However, Santa Teresa is beautiful and they have hostels there. I don’t know how people who stay there do – whether they are risking to get mugged on a daily basis or whether they are taking a cab as soon as they leave the premises.

Talking ’bout cabs: It’s very easy to move around in Rio. The public transport system covers the entire city – whether by ‘Metrô’, the subway, by light rail (tramway) or bus – and costs about one dollar per ride. For each of this means you can get a separate card that can be charged. But the only thing you safe this way is time, no money. There is no such thing like a day ticket or some other form of pass, you have to pay for every ticket individually and tickets from one mean of transport to another are not transferable. Hence, I wouldn’t really call it a ‘system’, but it takes you where you want to go easy and relatively fast.

Besides regular cabs, Uber is really big in Brazil, too.

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West

 

Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro

Let’s just work our way around Rio starting in the west. The south-west, to be precise, and precise is key here since the northern parts of the city are the rough regions while the fartheꞔr south you get, the more sophisticated gets the neighborhood.

About four blocs north of the beach of Ipanema is the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, a beautiful lagoon that the wealthy Cariocas enjoy for walking and jogging and hanging out at the posh Clube dos Caiꞔaras.

 

Morning work out on the lagoon.

If you walk westwards around the lagoon, enjoying great views of Rio, you’ll first get to the Hipódromo da Gávea, the Jockey Club. It’s worth to take a closer look at the club’s fence since it’s decorated with a fun mural of viewers of a horse race.

 

Your best bet: Watching the race without losing money.
The palm-fringed avenue even made it on the
Jardim’s logo.

At the end of the club turn left into the Rua General Garzon and you arrive at the north entrance of the Jardim Botânico, Rio’s botanic garden, mostly known for its glorious palm-fringed avenue. But there are definitely many attractions – 9,000 plants from about 1,500 different species beautifully arranged between walkways, on hills, around ponds and fountains.

If you want to spend a couple of hours in a tranquil environment, soothing for the eye and the soul alike, this is the place to go.
Of course you do not have to walk around the lagoon to get to the garden. There are many buses going there – just type your starting point in this map and you’re ready to go.

Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro
Rua Jardim Botânico 1008
Rio de Janeiro
Phone: + 55 –  21 – 38 74 18 08 and 38 74 12 14
Email: jbrj@jbrj.gov.br

Open Tuesday to Sunday from 8 a. m. to 5 p. m. and Monday from noon to 7 p. m.
Entrance fee is R$ 15 and they don’t accept credit cards (which is very unusual in Brazil)

The manicured cactus garden close to the main gate.

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South

Well, besides the Cristo and the Sugar Loaf, the southern part of the city is what Rio stands for:
The beaches!

They are city beaches, yes, but for being city beaches, they are very nice and relatively clean.

It starts in the west with Praia do Leblon, leading into the Praia de Ipanema and Praia do Arpoador.

 

Beach with a western view: Morro Dois Irmãos, hill of two brothers, seen from Praia Ipanema.

Here you cannot continue, but have to cross the Parque Garota de Ipanema (that’s right – a park called after the girl of Ipanema) and walk down the Rua F Otaviano before you can get back to the beach – the world famous Praia de Copacabana.

 

Beach with a eastern view: Morro de Leme, seen from Praia da Copacabana

The Copacabana is hemmed with bars and restaurants, there is a market where you can buy souvenirs, there are public bathrooms – they really make sure that tourists have a good time.

 

This lady is selling sandwiches – ‘natural’ sandwiches.

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Southeast

 

Pão de Açûcar

Behind the Morro do Leme is Urca, another very nice part of Rio, crowned by the Pão de Açûcar, the sugar loaf.

 

Even from very far, you can spot the Pão de Açûcar.

Going up is devided in two parts – first you get to the Morro do Urca and eventually to the Pão. From here you have the most glorious view.

Bonde Pão de Açûcar
Avenida Pasteur 520
Rio de Janeiro
Phone: + 55 – 21 – 25 46 84 33
Email: sac@bondinho.com.br 

For R$ 80, you can go up every day between 8 a. m. and 7.50 p. m.

Here is how you get to the Teleférico-station to get uphill.

Once you are in the Urca and Praia Vermelha neighborhood, make sure to stroll around a bit – from here you can even walk along Avenida Pasteur to Botafogo – passing the Yacht club and the soccer club house of the rather hapless team of Botafogo.

Cristo Redentor and Trem do Corcovado

To get to the next – and most important – attraction of Rio de Janeiro, you have to leave the coastline and take the subway at Botafogo station northbound to Largo do Machado – which is two stops. There you catch bus #583 that takes you straight to the Trem do Corcovado – the train taking you up to Jesus.

Cristo Redentor

This Christ statue was created in the art deco style by French sculptor Paul Landowski. The sculpture – 30m (98 ft) tall – was constructed between 1922 and 1931. Christ is protecting the city of Rio with his arms opened over a stretch of 28 metres (92 ft).

 

With everybody posing around the Cristo, the ambience is not very contemplative up there,….

 

….yet the views through the clouds are breathtaking. Here you can spot the lagoon with the horse race court to the right.

You cannot buy a ticket for the same day at the trem station. You need to buy the ticket either online or from an authorized dealer. At the trem station’s booth you can only change your voucher against your ticket. Especially during high season I recommend to get your ticket well ahead.

Trem do Corcovado
Rua Cosme Velho 513
Rio de Janeiro
Phone: + 55 – 21 – 25 58 13 29

The Cristo Redentor can be visited from Tuesday to Sunday from 8 a. m. to 7 p. m.
The train is leaving every 30 minutes and the tickets are R$ 74 during high season and R$ 61 during low season

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East

 

Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM)

Continue the coastline up north passing Praia do Flamengo and you’ll get the Parque do Flamengo where the quite interesting Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM) is located.

 

Art and culture everywhere you look: A huge sculpture honoring toilet tissue in front of the museum building designed by Affonso Eduardo Reidy and built in 1948. The young people were performing some acrobatics and dancing.

This venue is located in a park designed by one of the most influential landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx (1909 – 1994), actually distantly related to German philosopher and politician Karl Marx, so already the gardens make a visit worthwhile.

 

A very creative form of selfies: Employees of the MAM composed self portraits from black squares within a defined space on white paper.
Here is a chart of who is who.
I love the idea that people working day by day at this place become part of the exhibition.
Original and respectful from the Italian artist Lucio Salvatore.

 

And since we are on it: I became part of a piece of art, too, by taking a selfie with Waltercio Caldas’ installation “Água/Cálice/Espelhos” (“Water/Chalice/Mirrors”)

Although the museums own a collection of 12,000 pieces, their temporary exhibitions are far more interesting.

 

Since at the time when I was in Rio, there was a huge exhibition of  Tarsila do Amaral’s oeuvre in New York, I was very happy to have the chance to see at least some of her beautiful paintings in bold colors like “Os Anjos” (“Angels”)

Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM) 
Avenida Infante Dom Henrique 85
Rio de Janeiro
Phone: + 55 – 21 – 38 83 56 00
Email: atendimento@mamrio.org.br

Escadaria do Selarón

Walk down the Avenida Infante Dom Henrique and turn right into Rua Teixeira de Freitas and follow Rua Teotônio Regadas – here you are, at one of the most intriguing pieces of Rio’s street art, the Escadaria do Selarón.

There are some pretty cool murals to be admired on Rua Teotônio Regadas before you get to the highlight – the Escadaria do Selarón.

These stairs leading to the neighborhood of Santa Teresa consist of 215 beautifully decorated steps.

Chile born Jorge Selarón decorated them with tiles from over 60 countries: First the artist used tiles from construction sites and waste dumps, but eventually visitors from around the world contributed.

 

The French sent cheese.

Of the over 2000 tiles, about 300 are handpainted by the artist depicting a pregnant African woman. Selarón claimed he financed his work by selling more than 25,000 portraits of this lady.

Jorge Selaron settled in Rio de Janeiro in 1983 and began to ‘renovate’ the stairs in 1990. Until his mysterious dead in 2013 he never considered his work done; as soon as he finished one section, he started to work on another one.

 

Selarón sorted the tiles according to topics – like musicians or flags.

Selarón was found dead on his famous steps on January 10, 2013. Until this day the circumstances of his death are unclear.

 

Don’t give up – you’re almost there! The is the upper part of the stairs leading to Santa Teresa.

Once you climb up the stairs – which might take a while not because of the height, but because there are millions of details to be admired – you can continue your walk to the Parque das Ruinas from where you have the best view of all that makes Rio grand.

Little tip: If you don’t have much time in Rio and can make it to only one observation platform, you might consider coming to this park instead of standing in line at the Trem do Corcovado or the Bonde Pão de Açûcar.

From the Parque das Ruinas it’s only a short walk – along cute little specialty shops, you might consider doing your souvenir shopping right here – to the Largo dos Guimarães. From here you can take the old Bonde, the tram, back down to Lapa.

 

Largo do Lapa – most of the time occupied by homeless people – becomes a party zone during carnival season.

It is better to do it this way for two reasons: Climbing the Selarón stairs up gives you a much better view at all the details than taking them down; and while they charge you R$ 20 for the tram when coming up, taking it downhill from Santa Teresa is actually free.

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Northeast

Coming back from Santa Teresa to Lapa, you’ll find yourself in city’s old, historic neighborhoods – and busies business and shopping streets.

 

Catedral de São Sebastião: As if Saint Sebastian hadn’t suffered enough, now they had to name the ugliest cathedral on earth after him.
This nuclear power plant-like house of God is also very close to the Largo da Lapa.

Walk down the Rua Evaristo da Veiga to the Praça Floriano dominated on its northern end by the Teatro Municipal, built from 1904 to 1909 in an Eclectic‎ and ‎Art Nouveau style – inspired by the opera house in Paris.

 

Teatro Municipal.

Next to it, you’ll find the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, housing fine international and Brazilian art such as sculpture, painting, drawings, and photography.

Museu Nacional de Belas Artes

Avenida Rio Branco, 199 – Centro (Cinelândia) Rio de Janeiro RJ – CEP: 20040-008 – Telefone: (21) 3299-0600
Terça a sexta-feira das 10 às 18hs; Sábados, domingos e feriados das 13 às 18 horas. Ingressos: R$ 8,00 Sunday free

As you continue on the Avenida Rio Branco, don’t miss the lovely colonial church Igreja da Ordem Terceira de São Francisco da Penitência to your left right before Rua da Carioca.

 

Don Pedro I has been riding across the Praça Tiradentes since 1862.

Rua da Carioca ends at the Praça Tiradentes, a rather unspectacular square, but turning right, you’ll see the Real Gabinete Português de Leitura, a beautiful library founded in 1837 by Portuguese immigrants in order to maintain the Portuguese language.

 

Real Gabinete Português de Leitura – cultivating the Portuguese language.

 

I cannot make up my mind what’s better at Cafeteira Colombo in the old center of Rio de Janeiro, the pastry or the decor.
Check yourself from 9 a. m. to 7 p. m. at Rua Gonçalves Dias 32

Walking from Praça Tiradentes towards the Guanabara Bay, you’ll get to the majestic Assembleia Legislativa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, the Seat of the State Assembly.

 

The Parliament of Rio de Janeiro.

Turn left and walk up north, passing three ladies. What – three ladies? Yes, first to your left is Nossa Senhora – which means ‘our lady’ – do Carino. One blog further to your right Nossa Senhora da Lapa dos Mercadores and finally at the Praça Pio X the baroque Nossa Senhora da Candelária.

 

The first lady: Nossa Senhora do Carino

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North

When I write north, I’m talking about the northern part of the center. I would never dare to send you to the north of Rio and I cannot recommend to venture there by yourself.

Museu do Amanha, seen from the Museu de Arte do Rio.
In front of it the Praca Mauá, behind it the bridge connecting Rio and Niterói (see last section of this post).

So the most northern area for us is the Praça Mauá where you’ll find the spectacular Museu do Amanha – the museum of tomorrow, dealing with all different aspects of planet earth and its inhabitants. Interesting facts and fun hands-on exhibitions – but also the unusual appearance of the building, designed by Santiago Calatrava and opened in 2015, make this museum a must-see when in Rio.

The globe explaining many important facts regarding planet earth is one of the coolest features – at the same time decorating the gorgeous entrance hall.

Museu do Amanha
Praça Mauá 1
Rio de Janeiro
Phone: + 55 – 21 – 38 12 18 12

Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m., entrance fee are R$ 20

Across the Mauá square is another museum, the Museu de Arte do Rio (MAR), housing different exhibitions on Rio-related topics.

 

Museum with a view.

 

May I present my favorite piece – a man helping another escaping through a….tabletop.
Gustavo Rezende “Qual é a matéria do sonho?” (What’s the material of the dream?)

To be honest, the most impressive thing about this venue that was opened in 2013, is the building itself – designed by Paulo Jacobsen, Bernardo Jacobsen e Thiago Bernardes – and the fantastic view of the adjacent Museu do Amanha and the Baía de Guanabara, the Guanabara bay.

Museu de Arte do Rio
Praça Mauá 5
Rio de Janeiro
Phone: 21) 3031 2741

Much better art can be seen along the adjacent Avenida Rodrigues Alves where not only graffiti super star Eduardo Kobra painted his epic mural “Ethnicity” on the occasion of the Olympic Games in 2016, but also other muralists perpetuated themselves.

 

“Ethnicity” – five portraits by Eduardo Kobra

The Avenida Rodrigues Alves is also the perfect place to grab a bite – or a souvenir – and watch people strolling by between old structures of the former store houses – the global gentrification you find in basically every bigger city.

The last northern stop was not for me, but it will be for you, you soccer aficionados: If you walk back to the Praça Pio X and take the subway at the Uruguaiana station, it will take you right to the soccer mecca, Estádio Mário Filho, better known as Maracanã.

 

Soccer on the beach – good enough for me.

The stadium can be visited, The tours last an average of 40 minutes, but on days when a match is taking place, the last tour finishes three hours before the game.

Estádio Mário Filho
Avenida Presidente Castelo Branco
Gate 2
Rio de Janeiro
Phone: + 55 – 21 – 983 41 19 49

Can be visited daily from 9 a. m. to 4 p. m.
A guided tour costs R$ 60, a non-guided tour costs R$ 50

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Niteroi

The last place I’d like to introduce is located on the other side of the Baía de Guanabara – it’s the town of Niterói. It’s worth the visit for three reasons:

A) You cross the Baía de Guanabara on a comfortable, relatively cheap ferry.
B) You have a great view of Rio de Janeiro looking across the bay.
C) You get to visit one of the most important buildings designed by Oscar Niemeyer, the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói.

 

Taking the ferry to Niterói, you’ll also have a good view of the beautiful palace on the Ilha Fiscal.

There are two ways how to get to Niterói: You can go by bus crossing the Ponte Rio – Niterói, which is completely pointless and deprives you from above mentioned reason number one. You should take the ferry that leaves Rio at the Estação das Barcas at Praça Quinze de Novembro behind the State Assembly (see above). The ferry operates daily from 6h às 23h30 and costs 6 R$ one way. It takes you to the Praça Arariboia in Niterói in about 20 minutes.

 

View of Rio de Janeiro from Niterói.

As you leave the terminal, you will spot a little mobile tourist information where you can obtain a map for free. Hence, you don’t really need it: Just turn right and walk along the road as it’s turning along the shore. It’s a scenic walk of about 3 km / 2 mi.

 

At the Museum of Contemporary Art in Niterói, form beats content big time.

I will not lie to you: When I visited the museum, there were two completely pointless exhibitions and I’ve heard from others that the venue cannot exactly pride itself on showing breathtaking art. The visit is still worth it – for the building and for the views.

And another thing: You don’t have to walk there, there is a bus circling between the port and the Mirante, the observation point the museum was built on. Actually I’d recommend to walk there – which will take about 30 minutes – and take the bus on your way back.

Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói (MAC)
Mirante da Boa Viagem
Niterói
Phone: + 55 – 21 – 26 20 24 81
Email: mac@macniteroi.com.br

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. and entrance fee are R$ 10,00

Wanna know how I perceived Rio de Janeiro while I was there? Check out these lessons of my Class of Brazil series:

Class of Brazil – 1st Lesson: We Have it Good

Class of Brazil – 2nd Lesson: Danger Seems Closer from Afar

Class of Brazil – 4th Lesson: I Am What I Am

Do you want to read about all the other cool places I’ve visited in Brazil? 
Then go to the main post and take your pick!


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