Municipal Theater of Rio, a stunning discovery in the heart of the city

Fabio Jardelino | Live the World

November 23, 2022

The city of Rio de Janeiro is full of amazing places to discover. Natural spots like beaches, forests, belvederes make the city already a great place to visit. Monuments like the Statue of the Christ the Redeemer, or the Cable Car on Pão de Açucar hill, make the city indispensable for tourists around the world. 

But there is a part of the city that is not so famous and even sometimes forgotten among the many wonders. Full of history and places to discover, the city center of Rio de Janeiro is one of the cultural hearts of Brazil. In this article, we will be talking about a very special place: the Municipal Theater of Rio, the house of exhibitions.

© iStock / R.M. Nunes


In the mid 19th century, the Brazilian state decided to build a big national theater to hold the state's art scene. Back then, Rio de Janeiro was the capital of Brazil, so the city was chosen to host this huge theater complex. The project started to gain consistency at the end of that century, but it was the governor Pereira Passos that finally started it. He was responsible for the urban reform and modernization of the city, which was initiated in 1902. At this same time, the Na[tional Library of Rio]( was also built.

© Secretaria de Cultura do Estado do Rio de Janeiro/unknown

With the radical change of the city center at that decade, the idea of a National Theater again gained force. On October 15, 1903, the Town opened a public tender for the choice of architectural design. There were seven proposals: the first two places were tied between the project called "Aquilla," made by the engineer Francisco de Oliveira Passos, son of the mayor, and the "Isadora" project, made by the French architect Albert Guilbert. Finally, the project was the result of merging the ideas of the two prizewinners: both corresponded to the same typology, inspired by the Paris Opera.

The Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro, with capacity for 1,739 spectators, was inaugurated by the Brazilian President Nilo Peçanha and Mayor Sousa Aguiar on July 14, 1909, four and a half years after the beginning of the works. In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Municipal Theater, in 2009, extensive works started in the theater, which was completely restored to its original style. The works lasted one year, and the reopening took place on May 27, 2010.

Guided tour

You can visit the interior of the theater with a guided tour. Each visit can host up to 50 people and lasts approximately 45 minutes. Because the routes can be changed, I would suggest calling and asking for information on the tour of the day. It is not allowed to enter individually, so you should be careful with your planning. 

© Facebook / Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro

The Theather decoration is exuberant and has art pieces brought from different countries around the world. For example, the stained glass windows were imported from Germany; marbles were brought from Africa and chandeliers from England. Nowadays, the main exhibition hall has a capacity of 2,200 people. Despite being a museum, the house also works as a theater and has constant performances, including its own ballet, choir, and symphony orchestra - if you like this kind of art, check their website for the next available performances.

© Wikimedia Commons / Roberto Tietzmann

The tours are available from Tuesday to Friday, and take place at 12h, 14h30, and 16h (the last visit is the only one with an English speaking guide). On Saturdays and holidays, the time changes to 11h, 12h, and 13h. Keep in mind that on Sundays and Mondays, there are no guided tours. Tickets cost 20 reais (or 4 euros), and half-price for students. You can not buy your ticket online, so get there early to guarantee your spot.

How to get there

The Municipal Theater of Rio is located at the historic center of Rio:  to get there, you can take basically any public means of transport going to the center. By metro, go until the Cinelândia Station and use the exit C. By tram, take the line 1 (blue) towards Santos Dumont airport and get off at Cinelândia Station. By bus, you can choose lines with itineraries along the Avenida Graça Aranha: get off at the bus stops located between the numbers 58-76 on this avenue. By the way, my suggestion here is to avoid taking your own car. 

© iStock / mikolajn

I hope you enjoy your visit to the Municipal Theater of Rio: take the time to explore the city center deeply!!!

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