Praça XV ’s original name was Largo do Paço because it served as a large public patio to the stately Paço Imperial (Praça XV de Novembro 48, Centro, tel. 21/2533-4491, www.pacoimperial.com.br , noon–6 p.m. Tues.–Sun., free). Built in 1743, the palace was a residence for Portugal’s colonial governors. It then housed the Portuguese court itself when Dom João VI fled Napoleon’s forces in 1808.
When the royal palace moved to the Palácio da Quinta da Boa Vista  (today the Museu Nacional), the Paço Imperial continued to host receptions and events. Today, it houses interesting temporary exhibits of contemporary art.
Overlooking the internal courtyard is a lovely café and restaurant, the Bistrô do Paço , as well as a book and CD store and a small cinema that shows independent and repertory films.