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Niterói, Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro
Brazil's insider take:

The empty beaches and picturesque fishing villages of Niterói, on the eastern shore of Guanabara Bay, provide a pleasant step-down from Rio's pace. Three ferries leave each hour from Praça XV de Novembro in Centro ($1.70 each way), affording superb views of the Sugarloaf and Niterói's hills. Also visible on the 20-minute ride across the bay is Ilha Fiscal, a lime green, Gothic-style castle built as a customs house in 1889 but better known as the site of the last Imperial Ball that same year, when outgoing Emperor Pedro II nearly bankrupted the soon-to-be-declared republic by hosting a party so lavish that it drained the state's coffers.

Niterói's principal attraction is the Oscar Niemeyer–designed Museu de Arte Contemporânea (MAC), a curvilinear, saucer-shaped fantasy swathed by a swirling catwalk that is splendidly situated on a rocky outcropping above the bay's glittering waters. (Catch a cab or the 47B bus from Niterói's congested dock area.) Other highlights include the 1612-built Fortaleza de Santa Cruz da Barra, where artillery batteries once guarded the entrance to Guanabara Bay; the nearby fishing village of Jurujuba; and a long stretch of unspoiled, little-visited beach towns (including Piratininga, Itaipu, and surfers' favorite Itacoatiara) along the Atlantic coast.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.