By Claire Rivé, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – For many Rio residents, Centro is primarily a place to do business and during the rush of an everyday commute it’s easy to pass by some of the historical landmarks that give the city center its own distinctive charm without taking much notice. For visitors, Centro is often forgotten as a sightseeing destination, but some intriguing monuments can make the area a fun daytime adventure.
Getting off at Carioca Metro Station at around 10:30 AM means you’ll probably catch sight of the red T-shirt-clad guides that make up the Free Walker Tours team. Free Walker Tours was started by students a few months ago and has become one of the most popular ways to see the historical center, and some other spots in Rio.
“The energy of the guides is really great. I’ve been on other walking tours where I was bored quickly, but she [Luana] has a great understanding of the city,” said Vincent, a visitor from the United States.
Whether travelers join one of these free walking tours, get a private guide or traipse around at their own pace, there are the monuments and landmarks not to be missed while visiting Centro.
Heading on to Praça XV (Quinze) de Novembro by passing under the Arco de Tele, which used to be a viaduct connecting two buildings. Praça XV is home to a monument of the famous General Manuel Luís Osório, who led the Brazilian forces during the Paraguayan War.
The square itself has served as backdrop to many important events in Brazil’s history, from the days of the Empire when Dom João VI hid in the Imperial Palace to avoid the crabs and lightning that made up his phobias, to being the site of the departure of the Royal Family when they were sent into exile. “Praça XV is the heart of Rio,” said Luana, the guide for Free Walker Tours. “It has seen so much of the city’s history.”
The next monument to look out for is the statue of Brazil’s favorite 18th century crusader for freedom and independence, Joaquim José da Silva Xavier, known as Tiradentes, in front of the Palácio Tiradentes which serves as the seat of the legislative assembly. Tiradentes fought for complete independence of Brazil from the imperial rule of Portugal.
In Cinelândia visitors can gaze at the statue of Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira, the Brazilian president who moved the capital to Brasilia and was famous for his slogan of “fifty years of progress in five”. Also known as JK, he is one of the most highly regarded presidents in Brazil’s history because of the economic prosperity resulting from his long-term planning.
The city of Rio de Janeiro is full of statues and monuments to cultural icons, so these are just the scratching the surface. Of course the most famous of monuments in the city is Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer), at an impressive 98 feet high and more than 2,326 feet above sea level on Corcovado Mountain, located within Rio in Tijuca’s National Park.