By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Zona Norte (North Zone) in Rio de Janeiro is often overlooked by the guidebooks, and many tourists come and go without even knowing that it exists. Yet it plays a vital part in how the city functions, being the industrial as well as middle-class center of the city, and is also home to some of the Rio’s greatest cultural attractions.
Here are five of the best that are well worth checking out.
Museu de Astronomia e Ciencias Afins (Museum of Astronomy and Related Sciences aka MAST)
This museum is perfect for young and old alike. Anyone who has ever gazed in wonder at the night sky will find themselves at home here, with the museum holding a permanent exhibition that has everything from a real asteroid to a scale model of our Solar System. Saturday nights are extra-special, as the museum lets visitors use its telescope to look up-close at planets, stars and much more.
Museu Nacional (National Museum of Brazil)
Located in the beautiful Quinta da Boa Vista (Estate With the Good View), this museum, situated in a palace which used to house both the Portuguese Royal Family and Brazilian Imperial Family, is the oldest scientific institution in Brazil. Its vast collection of over twenty million pieces spans geology, zoology and archaeology, making it one of the largest collections in South America and most definitely a museum that can be visited over and over again.
Imperator – Centro Cultural João Nogueira (Cultural Center João Nogueira aka Imperator)
Established in the fifties, Imperator is, without a doubt, one of the main cultural centers of Rio’s Zona Norte. Once holding one of the largest cinemas in Latin America, it returned as a concert hall, hosting concerts by Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel and Tina Turner. Since 2012, the center reopened its doors as a multidisciplinary arts space that now holds concerts, film showings, exhibitions, as well having a tranquil garden and good-quality restaurant.
This one is a bit of a no-brainer, and probably the biggest attraction in Rio’s Zona Norte. Once the world’s largest stadium by capacity (holding almost 200,000 people, and maybe more, to see Brazil take on Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup), the Maracanã now holds a more modest 78,000 spectators, and is used for international football games, derbies between Rio’s four big football clubs – Flamengo, Fluminese, Botafogo and Vasco da Gama – as well as recent international concerts such as the Foo Fighters or Phil Collins.
Casa do Jongo
Recently reopened, Casa do Jongo is a cultural center in the Zona Norte community of Madureira. It houses a dance hall, music studio, auditorium, permanent exhibitions, shops and a cine-club all with the express purpose of educating people about Afro-Brazilian culture. Throughout its first year of inauguration, the house will produce community events such as film shows, parties, weekends of reading, artistic presentations and musical recordings.