By Fionnuala Barrett
The capital of the state of Pernambuco in Brazil and the country fourth largest city is a bustling and vibrant city known for its rich cultural heritage and colonial architecture. It is not as cosmopolitan as some of Brazil’s other large cities, but is an enchanted city located along side a long coastal reef situated on the Atlantic Ocean. Recife developed as a city of trade and as a major port. It is known as the Venice of Brazil and includes a mixture of the old and the new with narrow streets, canals, rivers and bridges.
One of the pleasures that Recife offers is the opportunity to wander through the streets and to discover new pleasures. The architecture reflects the different cultures that have settled in the area and there are a number of historical monuments and churches many influenced by Portuguese and Dutch settlers.
The number one beach for city inhabitants and visitors alike is the Boa Viagem beach. Because it is protected by the reef the beach offers a safe place for swimming and other water sports (most recently, a few shark attacks have been reported and you can find signs in English and Portuguese warning the tourist to not swimming behind the reefs).
This area around Boa Viagem beach is where you can find most of luxury and modern hotels and fine dining experiences. This area has the biggest shopping center of Northeast of Brazil, the Shopping Center Recife, with many fine stores and boutiques. It is also a fine base to begin exploring the rest of the city.
Recife Antigo (Recife old town) is the ancient part of the city and where you can find Recife’s origins. This is a great area for walking and sightseeing, as well to explore the exciting nightlife. This vibrant part of the city is alive with music and dance and of course carnival! One of the most famous carnivals in Brazil is the Carnival at Recife Antigo.
The Casa da Cultura is an important cultural marketplace full of arts, crafts and souvenirs. It was once an ancient colonial prison but has been transformed into a marketplace and center for traditional arts. This is also a center for performance art, dance and music, and with luck you can find Capoeira performances during the weekend.
For art lovers a visit to Francisco Brennand’s Oficina Ceramica is essential. It is located just outside the city in a neighborhood called Varzea. Brennand is one of Brazil’s most famous artists and this center dedicated to his work includes a museum and workshop. There is also a retail store located in the Boa Viagem area dedicated to his ceramic art.
The local cuisine in Recife has many influences including Spanish, Dutch, African and Indian. The area is renowned for its bountiful supply of fresh seafood as well as local fruits including coconuts and mangos. Local dishes include crabs cooked in a spicy sauce, shrimps in mango sauce, and fried needle fish.
Because Recife is situated close to the equator, the weather is tropical. The hottest months are from November through February. This is when the locals take their vacations. Winter is during June through August and this is the period of heavy rainfall.
The name “Recife” means “Reef” in Portuguese. Surrounded by rivers and crossed by bridges, Recife is full of islands and mangroves that magnify its geography. It is known as the Veneza Brasileira or “Brazilian Venice, thanks to its fluvial resemblance with the Italian city.
No matter what time of the year you decide to visit Recife you are sure to experience the holiday of a lifetime. There are untold treasures to be found in this bustling and vibrant city. Just as compliment, not leave the city without to know Porto de Galinhas beach, one of the most beautiful beaches of Brazil (65 Km from Boa Viagem) and Olinda, human heritage of mankind by UNESCO (25 km from Recife Antigo).
*Fionnuala Barrett is a writer and works for the Four Corners Hotels which offers hotels in cities around the world including hotels located in Recife.