Sao Bento Monastery

One of the oldest buildings in Rio, the Sao Bento Monastery hides a wealth of Brazilian history and culture behind its unassuming façade.

A piece of Rio’s rich history

The Sao Bento Monastery is a small, easy-to-miss (but architecturally fascinating) building on the outside, but on the inside, it’s truly spectacular. The walls are lined with gold and absolutely bursting with ornate carvings the likes of which you won’t see anywhere else. The monastery dates back to the 16th century, and has all the glamour and style you’d expect to see from a building that age. It’s easily one of the best examples of Brazilian Colonial architecture in Rio.

A unique experience

If at all possible, visit Sao Bento on the weekend–if you time your visit properly, you’ll be able to hear the monks singing Gregorian chants. If you’ve never heard that done before, it’s definitely worth making an effort to do so. The experience is powerful and haunting, and not one you can have just anywhere. Should you enjoy it, the monastery also has a tiny gift shop where you can purchase a recording of the chanting–possibly the oddest souvenir you can get.