Located halfway up a steep hill full of striking villas, the Instituto Moreira Salles (IMS, Rua Marquês de São Vicente 476, Gávea, tel. 21/3284-7400, www.ims.com.br , 1–8 p.m. Tues.–Sun.) is one of the city’s loveliest privately owned cultural centers.
One of Rio ’s most prominent families, the Moreira Salles (owners of Unibanco, one of the country’s major banks) commissioned architect Olavo Redig de Campos to build this house in 1951, and the result is Brazilian modernism at its most streamlined and alluring. The equally enticing gardens were landscaped by Roberto Burle Marx.
The Moreira Salles family has always had a strong commitment to the arts (yes, Walter Salles Jr.—the director of the films Central Station and The Motorcycle Diaries—is a member of the clan), and part of their important collection of historical photographs (many depicting 19th- and 20th-century Rio de Janeiro) can be viewed, along with temporary exhibitions.
There is also a cinema, a boutique, and an inviting café that serves a lavish (though extravagantly priced) afternoon tea.