Downtown, Rio de Janeiro
There are several distinct areas worth visiting Downtown, and they are perfectly suitable for walking tours (see safety). Many of the ancient buildings have been turned into cultural centers, shops, and restaurants. As the surroundings were not fully preserved, you may spot a landmark church squished amidst skyscrapers. These are contrasts typical to a city in constant renovation, always recreating itself. As there's simply too much to see on a single visit, we have developed three walking tours you may do on your own : Cinelândia and Lapa, Praça XV and surroundings, and Carioca and Uruguaiana.
Architect Edgar Oliveira da Fonseca designed this unique building.
The monumental construction built from 1964 to 1979 is 80 meters high and has a diameter of 106 meters. It is big enough for 20,000 people standing.
It is decorated with 48 low-relief bronze plaques.
Inside, the stained glass windows are in vivid colours creating a mystical atmosphere.
The city center of Rio is a mix of old historical buildings and new buisness buildings.
It's a nice part of Rio in the daytime where you have lot's of things to see and some very good shopping, but since it's not a part of town where m,any people live it kinda dies out at night and becomes pretty deserted, so i recommend that you stay elsewhere and visit the center of Rio during daytime hours.
The beautiful impressive structure, Palácio Tiradentes, is rather confusing. It is named "palace", but resembles an eclectic Beaux-Art style opera house, yet it was originally built to house the Brazilian congress, and meanwhile "Tiradentes" translates to "tooth puller"! In fact, it was completed in 1926 and named after a dentist and a martyr, known as Tiradentes, who lost his life in the fight for independence. The building served as the seat of the Congresso Nacional brasileiro (Brazilian National Congress) until 1960 when Brasilia replaced Rio as the capital of Brazil. Since then, it has housed the Assembléia Legislativa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (legislature for the state of Rio de Janeiro). The interior contains an exhibit on the history of the building itself.
Legacy of a 1930's cinema that is no longer existent, the name Cinelândia refers to both the square and the area where it was located. The square is officially called Praça Marechal Floriano and boasts a collection of beautiful Belle Époque buildings that are a fading reminder of a bygone era, including the Biblioteca Nacional and Museu de Belas Artes. Another notable building is the sumptuous Theatro Municipal, which was unfortunately covered in scaffolding for resoration work during my visit in Dec 2008. Designed to resemble Opéra Garnier in Paris, Teatro Municipal was built in 1908 to become Rio's main opera house. Cinelândia has a distinctive tricolour pavement design with comedy and tragedy masks, a tribute to the opera house dominating the square.
Unveiled in 2007 after a major restoration project, the old seat of the Tribunal Superior Eleitoral (TSE) is back to its former glory. The beautiful eclectic-style edifice was built in 1896 specifically for the TSE, but the restoration work turned into a cultural centre containing an exhibition hall, a library and a small museum. The building is located on Rua Primeiro de Março, not far from Travessa do Comércio in Centro.
Designed by Roberto Gandolfi, the Edíficio Petrobrás was completed in 1972 as the headquarters of the Brazilian oil giant, Petrobrás. The 108-metre building is commonly referred to as the "hanging gardens" because of its multiple planted terraces. Due to its unique architecture, the building is considered one of Rio's most beautiful modern structures and has certainly become a famous landmark. Edíficio Petrobrás is located close to Catedral Metropolitana in Centro.
Inspired by the Louvre in Paris, the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes was designed by Adolfo Morales de los Rios and built in 1908 to house what is considered Latin America's most important art collection. A large section of the museum is dedicated to Brazilian artwork from the colonial period to modern times. The rest of the museum boasts a collection of 17th and 18th century European art brought to Brazil by King Dom João VI when he fled Portugal in 1808.
Part of the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), the Escola de Música was built in 1922 as a music school. The beautiful building was modelled after the concert hall Salle Gaveau in Paris. It is located in the Lapa area in Centro.
Modern skyscrapers mix with colonial and imperial architecture in Centro, the business district of Rio. Centro is also the site of the first settlement of Rio de Janeiro and the old town with its numerous churches. Although much modified in the past century, Centro still preserves a great deal of its original architecture, albeit often left to decay. Tucked between those tower blocks are a few narrow alleys with the original sobrados (old townhouses) that allows the visitor to imagine what Rio must have been like before modernity took over. Rather unfortunate it is that the new aggressively displaced the old, for what is left for us to see are some magnificent Baroque churches and Belle Epoque masterpieces, typical of old Rio de Janeiro. Visitors to Rio rarely make it to Centro as most stay and remain in Copacabana and Ipanema where the beaches are located, but a day or an afternoon touring the centre is essential for a better understanding of the city and its history. Beware of pickpockets though, we were warned, but luckily I saw none.
One of the last intact remnants of colonial Rio de Janeiro, the Travessa do Comércio is a hidden narrow alley between the towering modern buildings in the heart of Centro. The alley's colonial buildings, known as sobrados have been preserved and illustrate how all of downtown Rio once was. The alley is also famous for once being the home of the well-known Carmen Miranda. Along Travessa do Comércio and its continuation, Rua Visconde de Itaboraí, are numerous bars and restaurants and the area is lively by day and night. Travessa do Comércio runs from Arco de Teles on Praça 15 de Novembro to Rua do Ouvidor.
Dating from 1757, this stone arch is all that remains from the old senate house which burnt down in 1790. The arch was incorporated into the construction of a later building and leads to the Travessa do Comércio, the much celebrated alley with preserved colonial architecture and many restaurants. Arco de Teles is located on Praça 15 de Novembre, the heart of downtown Rio.
One of the most beautiful churches in Centro, the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Ordem Terceira do Carmo (what a name!) is adjacent to the old Cathedral of Rio. Work on this church began in 1770, after the cathedral, and also took many years to complete. The church's magnificent doors were brought from Lisbon before the construction of the church itself.
Officially called Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo da Antiga Sé, this important church was once the Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro. It shed the title in 1976, when the new modern Catedral Metropolitana was completed. The actual church dates from 1716, but construction continued for two centuries. The façade was completed only in 1822 and the tower was rebuilt in 1905. It was originally part of the Carmelite Convent, hence the name, but became the royal chapel in 1808 when the Portuguese monarch arrived in Brazil, and then turned into the imperial chapel in 1822 when Brazil became an independent empire. The church sits adjacent to another church, Nossa Senhora da Ordem Terceira do Carmo
Known once as Largo do Paço, this large historic square is one of the most important in downtown Rio. It witnessed numerous events that changed Brazil forever, most notably the crowning of two emperors and the deposition of one of them, as well as the abolition of slavery. The square's new name, the 15th November is in reference to the date of the declaration of the independence in 1889. Surrounding the square are some of Rio's most historic buildings, including Paço Imperial and Antiga Sé. At its centre is a statue of General Osório who led the Brazilian army in the 19th century War of the Triple Alliance.