Museu Histórico Nacional
A 10–15-minute walk east of Praça Floriano will bring you to the Museu Histórico Nacional (Praça Marechal Âncora, Centro, tel. 21/2550-9260, www.museuhistoriconacional.com.br, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Tues.–Fri., 2–6 p.m. Sat.–Sun., R$6).
This sprawling museum occupies three historic buildings: the 17th-century Forte de Santiago, an 18th-century arsenal, and an ammunitions depot. As such, there is ample space to showcase the 250,000 artifacts on display, ranging from carriages to canyons.
Among this vast collection are some truly precious objects—like the pen that Princesa Isabel used in 1888 to sign the Lei Áurea, which abolished slavery. There are also marvelous glass vials and medicine bottles from the imperial pharmacy, Emperor Dom Pedro II’s throne, and the largest coin collection in Latin America.
The recently reorganized and spruced up collection does a fine job of illustrating Brazil’s rich history, dating from the arrival of the first Europeans in 1500 to the declaration of the republic in 1889. If you’re looking for an introduction to Brazil’s past, a visit to the Museu Histórico Nacional is highly recommended.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition