Standing in the center of Praca Quinze is a way to literally and symbolically stand at the center of Brazilian history. It was here that Brazil declared itself a republic in 1822, and here that Pedro and Pedro II were coronated as emperors. It’s where slavery was abolished in modern Brazil, and where Carmelite convents and churches were erected as far back as 1590. It’s the heart of the city’s historic district, and when the city was only accessible by boat, was the first place that travelers would see the moment they stepped foot in Rio. Today, while much of Rio’s more popular sights have moved to the southern beaches, the Praca Quinze continues to exude a classic, colonial charm. Stroll past the former city cathedral and famous Arco dos Teles, and admire the Corinthian columns rising in front of Tiradentes Palace. This site also houses the Paço Imperial that served as a Brazilian political center for 150 years, and is constantly abuzz with the comings and goings of passengers riding the ferry. When spending a day in downtown Rio, Praca Quinze is the place to start a historical tour on foot, and while the square no longer exudes the grandeur it did in the 1800s, it’s still in many ways the beating heart of Rio de Janeiro.