Recife is one of the largest and most important cities in the northern part of Brazil. It's the capital of Pernambuco state which, although offers amazing natural and cultural attractions, is pretty unknown to an ordinary visitor from abroad. I hadn't had any expectations about Recife, thinking it's another big city filled tightly with the forest of high-rise buildings. Even though we were only passing through Recife, having no plans to stay there longer, it surprised us in a nice way - especially the old historical center and the beautiful waterfront.
The Historical Center
First of all, I would like to mention that there are multiple tours that offer to take you around Recife (advertised in the hotels). In my opinion, it is completely pointless as you can easily travel around by yourself using public transport for a fraction of the price you'd have to pay for an organized tour.
Historical center in Recife is full of old, colonial, colorful buildings which make it a nice place for an evening stroll. Sometimes, you might even feel like you're in Europe. The main part of old Recife is at the Marco Zero square which was found in the 16th century by the Portuguese settlers. We visited the square after the sunset when the weather was way more pleasant and the heat was gone.
The old Recife is nice and beautiful, especially during the carnival period with all the decorations and ribbons hanging between the narrow streets. However, it's pretty small and other places (like Olinda nearby) are even cozier and way more charming.
The waterfront and the sculpture park
Next to the historical center is the waterfront - which is easily visible from the Marco Zero square. It features original sculptures and statues by Francisco Brennand and offers beautiful views over Old Recife, the new skyscrapers and the Atlantic Ocean.
It's a very pleasant place for a walk, especially at the sunset when the warm colors flood the sky. It was the nicest place in Recife city for us, because it was pretty unique and different.
Boa Viagem Beach
The beach at Boa Viagem resembles other city beaches of this kind: long, flat and surrounded by skyscrapers, cafes and bars. It's quite nice but it's just not my type of a place - I prefer the wild, pristine little coves, completely natural, without resorts, hotels or other high-rise blocks.
The sand is beautiful - golden and soft, however the color of the sea is not that impressive. It's pretty dark and murky, I doubt it's too clean. Also, you need to be careful about the sharks - there were a few accidents recently.
If you want real paradise - don't bother staying in the city too long - head straight south to Porto de Galinhas (you can find a full article here) - which offers perfect, white sand beaches and coral reef pools where you can swim with fish.
Ricardo Brennand Institute
Ricardo Brenand Institute is a peculiar cultural institution established in 2002 by a local businessmen and collector. It looks like a European medieval castle full of armory, paintings and furniture dating back to the Early Middle Ages. Visiting this institute you'll feel like you're somewhere in Northern Europe rather than in a tropical country.
Besides that, it features museums, art galleries and gardens. The artifacts displayed are both - traditional and very modern, with an original twist. It's good a pleasant visit for an evening afternoon.
The entry fee is around 25 BRL (7.20 EUR/8 USD) - if you come from Europe, decide if this place is worth to visit for you as in Europe there's plenty of similar museums which are free of charge and really date back the Middle Ages.
Do not take an organized tour as it's quite easy to get there using public transport or even Uber - the tours offered at hotels can be horrible rip-offs.
Recife is good for a weekend and you should treat it as a base to explore the really amazing gems in the area - the beaches of Porto de Galinhas and the beautiful town of Olinda. Have a look at the Related Posts section below to find detailed information and our experiences in both places and more.
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