Oscar Niemeyer’s UFO

Strangely enough, Rio de Janeiro’s most famous building is actually not in Rio but across the bay in Niterói − a separate municipality that houses the landmark Museu de Arte Contemporânea. The museum is designed by Brazil’s most famous architect, Oscar Niemeyer, and resembles a snow white flying saucer, which stands in sharp contrast with the (usually) bright blue sky.

Arts & Culture

A museum without art

The Museu de Arte Contemporânea (MAC or Museum of Contemporary Art) was inaugurated in 1996. Guidebooks typically offer little information about the artwork on display as the museum doesn’t have much of a collection and hosts various temporary collections of relatively unknown Brazilian artists. The large tinted windows looking out over the bay quickly distract visitors from the artwork. But don’t worry, the building and the location are more than worth the trip across the bay. The MAC is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 am - 6:00 pm. Take a 10-minute catamaran ride or a 20-minute slow ferry from Rio de Janeiro across the bay to Niterói. From the ferry terminal, you can take a taxi or a bus to the MAC. The coastal road goes from a Portuguese fort with a small beach past a seawall where locals often fish, before passing the Ilha de Boa Viagem − a small island with a colonial chapel − the ruins of a fort and a small beach with Brazilian sunbathers. Around the bend, Oscar Niemeyer’s UFO will come into view.

Fortaleza de Santa Cruz

Fortaleza de Santa Cruz

The bay and the fort

Niterói can be reached either by catamaran or ferry from the ferry terminal at Praça XV de Novembro in Centro, downtown Rio de Janeiro. A stand in the harbour of Niterói offers maps with tourist information, entitled “Niterói in three days”. With an impressive neighbour like Rio de Janeiro, Niterói may be hard pressed to attract visitors for 3 full days, but one can easily spend a day visiting the Ilha de Boa Viagem, admiring the magnificent bay and touring the 16th-century Fort of Santa Cruz. On weekends there is an hourly boat tour that takes in all 3 locations.

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