If you've been in the waves at Ipanema, Copacabana, Vidigal and Prainha (check out here the article about the best beaches in Rio), and you've danced samba at Pedra do Sal, and you've climbed Morro Dois Irmãos and the Sugarloaf, and have taken selfies in front of Christ the Redeemer, you're probably asking “what more can Rio offer?”

A lot... you're still just scratching the surface.... Rio has a museum quarter that rivals the Museumsinsel of Berlin, the neighborhood of Coyoacan in Mexico City, or the Museum District of Amsterdam, and no visit to the Carioca City would be complete without taking in the wealth of exhibition centers and galleries clustered around the port area.

Turn onto Avenida Presidente Vargas after you come out of Uruguaiana Metro station and the first big venue you come to is the Centro Cultural Banco de Brasil, one of the most visited art museums in the world with over two million annual visits. The Center presents exhibitions, drama, cinema, music, and talks, with their full itinerary available here.

Rio de Janeiro Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil entrance hall
‍Rio de Janeiro Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil entrance hall

Just across the road is the Casa França-Brasil, a cultural center currently displaying photography, sculpture, music, dance, and journalistic resources related to Afro-Brazilian culture, including to the religion of Candomble. If you're lucky you can coordinate your visit when a samba school performs outside, traditional samba is one of the best ways to really appreciate the African side to Rio's soul.

Less than a block away you will find the Centro Cultural dos Correios, three floors of exhibition space inside an immaculately preserved palace, which currently bring the past of Rio to life through images taken by Alberto de Sampaio, at the birth of photography. It's a rare opportunity to see just three houses comprise Vidigal, or to see salt marshes and sand dunes where Ipanema and Leblon would be built. You can also wander through rooms dedicated to paintings by Brazilian painter Morgan Snell that reanimated the classical nude genre, and on another floor explore the letters by the great, tragic, writer of letters Stefan Zweig, whose genius for encapsulating European thought was only matched by his love for Brazil. An up to date program is available online.

Centro Cultural dos Correios building
‍ ‍Centro Cultural dos Correios building

If all of this culture has made your head spin then two antidotes are close at hand; on one side of Rua Primeiro de Março is a web of streets lined with cafes selling specialist beers, while on the other is the Nautical History Museum in which you can explore a submarine and a replica sailing ship.

When refreshed you can continue the short distance to the Paço Imperial, a former palace that now houses a cultural center showcasing modern art with a distinctly cutting edge nature, pointing a penetrating gaze at the environmental disasters, inequality in land ownership, and covert or overt marginalization of the indigenous peoples that have shaped contemporary Brazil.

Paço Imperial Assembleia Legislativa and São José Church
‍Historical Rio Downtown: Paço Imperial, Assembleia Legislativa and São José Church.

You can then walk the short distance to Carioca Metro station to return to Vidigal, or combine your trip with a visit to the Municipal Theater, or with a ride on a ferry across Guanabara Bay; both the Theater (Praça Floriano) and the ferry terminal are close at hand.