Rio Centro

The people of Rio de Janeiro are sea creatures who head for the water whenever they have a spare moment. This probably explains why their beaches are ship shape and their city is not. On the weekend downtown Rio has the deserted, grubby look of a house whose occupants have said “To hell with housework, let’s go out and play!” Nevertheless, Centro is fascinating. There are many beautiful historical buildings, magnificent plazas with grand monuments and some quaint little streets.

Exhibition Hall at the Imperial Palace
Exhibition Hall at the Imperial Palace

Praca XV de Novembro is the seat of the old Portuguese Empire and is dotted with monuments and landmarks to its glory, like the Pyramid Fountain and the Statue of General Osario. It is also the site of the Paco Imperial or Imperial Palace.

Constructed in 1703 as a warehouse, the Imperial Palace was converted to accommodate the National Mint and then, in 1743, it was transformed into a residence for the Brazilian Governor.

When the Portuguese Royal family fled Europe it became the Royal Palace of King Joao and the surrounding land became the Largo do Paco.

A great deal of the history of Brazil was played out in this square. It was here that Princess Isabella signed the document which abolished slavery. It was the birthplace of the Brazilian Empire; independence from Portugal was declared here 1889 and the Emperors Pedro I and Pedro II were crowned here. Lastly, its present name commemorates the day that Brazil became a Republic.

Today the Imperial Palace is a Cultural Centre and the rambling halls and galleries now house exhibitions. The Imperial Palace also has a restaurant and a wonderful book/music store with a great little café tucked between the discs and the tomes.

The Praca XV de Novembro is at its best during work hours when there are crowds around to bring it to life. During the weekend, it is rather bleak, lonely and uncomfortable.