By Nathan M. Walters, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Last week, a handful of Rio’s breathtaking natural “Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea” were awarded World Heritage Site status by UNESCO. Rio’s downtown, although not explicitly mentioned in UNESCO’s listed locations, is also becoming a place of pilgrimage for those visiting the marvelous city along with some of the area’s nicest restaurants, galleries, and bars.
One are of particular intrigues is Arco do Teles. Nestled along the streets surrounding the historic Praça Quinze de Novembro (Square November Fifteen, or Praça XV) Arco de Teles is small entryway opening to the quaint and picturesque Travessa do Comércio.
The street has the feel of the winding back alleys in Paris’ charming 4th arrondissement. The similarity in setting may have been what prompted local restaurateur and vrai Parisien, Yves de Roquemaurel, to open the French-inspired eatery, Coccinelle Bistrô, on the Travessa do Comércio.
“We really liked the area, the feel of the street kind of takes you away from the surrounding parts of downtown. Transports you into a different time in Rio” he says.
The arches, a low-slung entryway a short walk from the fountain at Praça XV, and the area are named after the family of the builders at the site, Teles de Meneses.
Constructed during the Eighteenth century, the arches peer out at an expansive square that served as a site for various events, including the crowing of Dom João VI, during the period of Portugal’s colonial rule.
The name of the square was changed from Dom Pedro II Square (after the last Emperor of Brazil) to Praça Quinze de Novembro to commemorate the date Brazil became a Republic rather than an Empire, which took place on November 15, 1889. Arcos do Teles has been a portal for viewing the history of Rio unfold, at Praça XV, but also within the arches.
Carmen Miranda, the Portuguese-Brazilian starlet that took Hollywood by storm in the 1940’s and 50’s, lived with her mother, who owned a boarding house, at 13, Travessa do Comércio.
During the day the street Travessa do Comércio continues through blocks of jovial pe sujos (literally “dirty feet” small casual bars in Rio) and restaurants.
The streets further away from the arches are known for some of the best happy-hours in Rio, and the professionals from downtown pour into the outside dining areas to drink chopps (small draft beers) and eat petiscos (finger food) when the working day is done.
Along these streets, the atmosphere at night is a great location for enjoying a nice time with friends. Yet, to really enjoy the feel of the architecture and experience the charm of the restaurants that surround the arches, the daytime is recommended.
Along with the Porto Maravilha Project planned for Rio’s Centro, the entire Centro area is set for a renaissance. Another major point of interest in the area is at Praça XV the ferry to Niterói, which is a fun ride across the bay in itself.
The stroll through the Arco do Teles is just one of several walking adventures in the area, but a word of caution, when shops and offices are closed Centro can be a dangerous place.
Generally in Centro after dark the risk of getting mugged is slightly higher since there are fewer police or shop securities around at these times. As in many major cities, it is not advised to wear expensive jewelry or carry unnecessary amounts of money late at night, and it is advised to take a taxi to or from Arcos do Teles after 10PM.