Praça XV is a historic square in Rio de Janeiro’s city center. The center of imperial life once revolved around it and there are several important buildings nearby. The monument in the center is dedicated to João VI of Portugal.
Nossa Senhora do Monte do Carmo, built in 1808, was the cathedral of Rio until 1976 and once served as the royal chapel. The only two Christian coronation ceremonies in South American history both took place in the church, in 1822 for Pedro I and 1841 for Pedro II.
The big white building on the square is Paço Imperial. It was built in 1738 as a residence for the Portuguese governors of Brazil. It was a royal residence of the King of Portugal starting in 1808, and in 1828 the Rio residence for the kings of Brazil. The Lei Áurea banning slavery in Brazil was signed here in 1888 by Princess Isabel. It’s now a cultural center where you can also see the original foundations of the palace.
The large domed building next to Paço Imperial is Palácio Tiradentes, formerly the Brazilian National Congress, built in 1926. It served in a national capacity until 1960 when the capital moved to Brasilia. It now houses the legislative branch of the state of Rio de Janeiro. To the right of it is Igreja de São José, built in 1808.
On a street behind Palácio Tiradentes are a couple more government buildings, Procuradoria Geral do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (Attorney General) and Tribunal de Justiça (courthouse).
Arco do Teles used to be part of the 1757 Senate House on Praça XV which burned down in 1790. Now, behind the arch you’ll find colorful historical buildings and a few restaurants down Travessa do Comércio.
Continuing down Travesa do Comércio and turning left, there are a few more outdoor restaurants. The road leads to Primeira de Março and a few very impressive buildings at the corner. Igreja Santa Cruz dos Militares and the Tribunal Regional Eleitoral (Regional Electoral Court) are just two of them. There are more continuing north towards Praça Pio X.
Note: The only time you should visit this area is during the weekdays. Nights and weekends are absolutely off limits. Nobody lives in this area and it is not safe to be there alone. You should also be aware of your surroundings and be very careful with valuables.