RIO GRANDE was founded on the entrance to the Lagoa dos Patos in 1737, at the very southern fringe of the Portuguese Empire. With the growth of the charque and chilled-beef economy, Rio Grande’s port took on an increasing importance from the mid-nineteenth century. Rather more spread out than Pelotas, it does not share that city’s instant charm. However, you’ll find some distinguished-looking nineteenth-century buildings in the area around Rua Floriano Peixoto and Praça Tamandaré (the main square), which is almost next to Largo Dr Pio and the much-renovated eighteenth-century Catedral de São Pedro. Among the city’s museums, you’ll want to visit the Museu Oceanográfico at Rua Reito Perdigão 10 (daily 9–11am & 1.30–5.30pm; R$5), perhaps the most important of its kind in Latin America and stuffed with fossils and preserved sea creatures. Also worthwhile is the Museu Histórico da Cidade do Rio Grande on Rua Riachuelo (Tues–Sun 9–11.30am & 2–5.30pm), whose photographic archive and objects trace the city’s history. The museum is housed in the old customs house (alfândega), a Neoclassical building built in 1879.
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