Recife Travel Guide
Introduction to Recife
Originally a possession of the Dutch, Recife is today one of the biggest cities in Brazil’s northeast. Situated amongst a series of islands and rivers along a flat coastal plain, this city has become known as the Venice of South America for the many waterways it contains within city limits.
Visitors here will have the best of both worlds, as there is plenty to see within Recife’s historic center and the nearby colonial town of Olinda, and there are plenty of modern attractions within vibrant neighborhoods such as Boa Viagem.
Whether you have come here for Carnival, or you are just passing through as you backpack your way through Brazil’s north, you will find that there is plenty to enjoy about this culture and beach rich city.
Cultural attractions in Recife
While there’s plenty to see in Recife, the first thing you should do when you arrive in the area is to take a cab to the colonial town of Olinda.
Located only six kilometers from the downtown core of Recife, the feel of this place is a world away from the gritty urbanity that defines its much bigger cousin, as its churches, convents, art galleries, museums and its cobblestone streets would stick out like a sore thumb in the big city.
Much like the city of Salvador, Olinda is famous for its Carnival, which is known for its boisterous 24/7 parties, and parades featuring giant puppets.
Standing out like a picture postcard against the modernity of Recife in the distance, Olinda is a UNESCO world heritage site that you won’t want to miss while traveling in Brazil.
Back in the bustling metropolis of Recife, the top attraction for those seeking a little culture will be ably satisfied by what they find at the Ricardo Brennand Institute.
Showing off the extensive private collections of the Brazilian businessman of the same name, this gallery shows off artifacts and art pieces dating back to the Early Middle Ages through to the present day.
Of particular note is its collection of rare books (72,000 volumes) and its armory, which contains one of the largest collections of melee weapons in the world.
Whether you are interested in books that have been around since the Renaissance period, or you can’t get enough of admiring a genuine hand axe from the same epoch, this attraction will prove to be one of the most interesting museums that you will visit during your travels in Brazil.
Those that are interested in religious history will find the Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue to be an intriguing stop as well.
Serving as the first house of worship for practitioners of Judaism in the New World, the current structure is a reproduction of what it would have looked like in its heyday, as the original structure was torn down in the early 20th century.
Profiling the history of the Jewish faith in Brazil, it is an interesting visit for those that have any interest in this religion or in theology in general.
Other Attractions in Recife
If you’d rather hit the beach then check out museums or colonial town centers, then spending some time on the sands of Boa Viagem will be exactly what you are looking for.
Considered by locals and frequent visitors as one of the best urban beaches in Brazil, shops and services extend along the eight kilometer stretch of Boa Viagem, thus ensuring that you won’t ever be in need of any food item or sundry that you may have forgotten to bring with you to the beach.
Food vendors roam in between the sun loungers as well, which means you might not even have to get up the entire day, allowing you to focus your energies on soaking up the rays of the strong Brazilian sun.
When the time comes to have some fun, some of the best nightlife in Recife can be found in this wealthy neighborhood; just be sure to take a cab to and from your accommodation after dark, as the income disparity that is present in the city makes walking a dangerous proposition.
Traveling with family, or just want to let the kid within you out to play? Dedicating a day to enjoying the rides and attractions of Mirabilandia will prove to be a wise decision.
Its diverse collection of roller coasters, carnival games, and kid-focused rides will thrill everybody from toddlers to adrenaline junkies.
Arrived in Recife outside of Carnival season? You can still check out the giant puppets that they use in the parades that take place in Olinda at the Casa dos Bonecos Gigantes.
Caricaturizing everyday people, famous figures like the Pope and Gene Simmons, as well as various depictions of the devil, it is a quick but entertaining way to inject a little levity into your exploration of the colonial center of Olinda.