Ilha Fiscal is a small island off the Rio de Janeiro coast that is best known for its attractive building. The Fiscal Island Palace is a wonderful Gothic Revival structure that looks as if it were designed for a princess. In reality, however, it was built to serve as the headquarters for Brazil's Customs Service. When it was decided in 1881 that Ilha Fiscal would be the location for such a headquarters, work began on a relatively modest customs house. Then Emperor Pedro II was not happy with this plan and declared that a site this ideal should be adorned with a more eloquent edifice. Work on the Fiscal Island Palace was completed in 1889, just in time for a grand ball.
On November 9, 1889, the palatial Customs House on Ilha Fiscal played host to what would be the last Imperial Ball for the Brazilian Empire. Some 5,000 guests attended the event, and they were treated to orchestral performances, fine meals, and plenty of beverages throughout the night. Five days after the ball at the Fiscal Island Palace, the fun came to an end for Emperor Pedro II and the regime of the Constitutional Monarchy. Brazil was on its way to becoming a republic, and the Emperor left the country in exile. This was a very significant time in the history of Rio de Janeiro and Brazil on the whole, and you can learn more about it on tours to Ilha Fiscal.
Today, the lime-green-colored Fiscal Island Palace is both a landmark and a museum. Most of the building's interior is used to house exhibits that relate to the Brazilian navy. The country's navy actually owns the small island that the palace dominates. Tours to Ilha Fiscal are offered by the navy, it is worth noting, and these tours show off an array of sites and artifacts. Four small islands are actually included on the navy tour itinerary and a WWI-era tugboat is used to ferry guests around Guanabara Bay.
The naval tours to Ilha Fiscal that include three other nearby islands last approximately 90 minutes. It is also possible to book a tour that only includes a stop at Ilha Fiscal. These guided tours are available Thursday through Sunday and last approximately two and a half hours. Extra time to view the museum exhibits inside of the Fiscal Island Palace is part of the deal on these longer tours.
Should you plan on enjoying one of the longer tours of Ilha Fiscal, you will either travel by boat or by bus depending on the day. On weekdays, it is customary for tour-goers to take a boat to Ilha Fiscal. On weekends, buses are used for the relatively short trip from mainland Rio de Janeiro. They use a small causeway to get there. As for where to find the tours to Ilha Fiscal, the boats depart from the Espaco Cultural da Marinha. This cultural center on the water can be found in the historic Centro neighborhood near the Praca XV Square. Before you take a tour, you might check out the exhibits at the Espaco Cultural da Marinha. They offer wonderful insight into the maritime history of Brazil. As for taking a bus tour to Ilha Fiscal, the Praca XV Square is the normal starting point.
Ilha Fiscal is one of the most identifiable Rio de Janeiro attractions, and if you like history and architecture, taking a tour of it is recommended while in town. You'll enjoy spectacular views of both the island and the city on the tours to Ilha Fiscal, and it won't be hard to pick out Sugarloaf Mountain rising up in the near distance.