As you walk along Rua Visconde de Itaboraí, you’ll encounter several particularly impressive buildings. These former administrative palaces underwent inspired renovations in recent times and now operate as dynamic cultural centers. Most of the (usually very engaging) art exhibitions are free, as are many of the musical events.
Built in 1922, the Centro Cultural dos Correios (Rua Visconde de Itaboraí 20, Centro, tel. 21/2253-1580, noon–7 p.m. Tues.–Sun.) was formerly the headquarters of Rio’s postal service, and there is still a small post office should you have the urge to send a postcard. A great café overlooks the adjacent Praça dos Correios, where live musical performances frequently take place.
Dating from 1816, the Casa França-Brasil (Rua Visconde de Itaboraí 78, Centro, tel. 21/2253-5366, www.fcfb.rj.gov.br, 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Tues.–Sun.) was Rio’s first neoclassical construction and originally served as the city’s main customs building. Aside from temporary art exhibits, there is a small cinema and a charming French bistro.
The Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB) (Rua 1 de Março 66, Centro, tel. 21/3808-2000, noon–8 p.m. Tues.–Sun., www.bb.com.br/cultura) is a splendid neoclassical building. Since the 1920s it has served as the headquarters for Banco do Brasil (which explains the convenient presence of ATMs in the foyer). Banco do Brasil is a major patron of the arts, and the CCBB’s magnificent interior welcomes most major national and international art exhibits as well as musical and theatrical performances that travel to and throughout Brazil. With a bookstore, café, and decidedly regal tea salon, it is also a favorite meeting point for Cariocas to browse, nibble, sip, and simply hang out.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition