Recife is the state Capital of Pernambuco and one of the largest of Brazil's North Eastern cities. Its population currently stands at around 1.5 million. Recife is the Portuguese word for reef, the city being a fluvial settlement, built on islands and mangroves on the mouths of the Beberibe and Capibaribe Rivers. Because of the network of rivers, canals, and bridges, Recife is often referred to as the Brazilian Venice. Its geographical location has made it an important port for South America onto the Atlantic Ocean. It was one of the first areas of Brazil to be heavily settled by the Portuguese Colonialists, who imported African slaves to work the sugar plantations. In 1630 Recife was invaded by the Dutch, and settled by Jewish immigrants. This combination of Native Indian, Portuguese, African and Dutch created an extremely diverse and cosmopolitan city, the character of which has been retained to this day.


[ The Boa Viagem] is probably the most famous beach in Brazil, and the setting for many popular songs and films. It has fine sands and warm clear water, and is frequented by everybody in the city, from young to old. The name Recife comes from the coral reefs found on this shore. Beaches in Brazil are very much at the centre of many people's social lives, to an extent not often seen elsewhere in the world. The beach is surrounded by an infrastructure of bars, restaurants and shops to satisfy the beachgoers' desires. A short drive from the city will take you to some of the most beautiful beaches on Brazil's 'golden coast', if not the world. A word of warning is necessary to surfers and watersports enthusiasts; reports of shark attacks in Brazil's NE waters have risen sharply in the last few years. Surfing has been made illegal on certain beaches due to its danger. The waters of Pernambuco are some of the most popular scuba diving waters in the world. The wreck of Pirapama, which sunk 6 miles out of Recife Port in 1899, is a particularly popular destination.

As one of the oldest cities in Brazil, Recife also boasts some of the country's richest cultural heritage. Buildings built by Portuguese and Dutch colonialists exist to this day, some in excellent condition. One of the best preserved is the [ Synagogue of the Americas] which is reputedly the first synagogue to be built on American soil. It was built in the 17th century and retains much of its original flooring and ceiling. It is attached to a small museum of Jewish culture in South America.

The Golden Chapel is one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in the country. Built by Franciscan monks in the 18th century, it is linked to a monastery, and has a museum of sacred art. The main reason people visit this chapel is to see the magnificent Altar, which has gold engravings, and is surrounded by beautiful frescoes.

There are several interesting museums in Recife worth a visit. Museum of the Northeastern Man gives an interesting account of how the sugar cane industry has shaped the society of NE Brazil, and the folklore of the region. The Recife City Museum commemorates the period of Dutch rule in Recife, and shows the changes the city has gone through up to the modern era.

[ The Recife Carnaval] is one of the liveliest of Brazil's street festivals, and people travel from all over the country to attend. Hundreds of live music acts come together to celebrate Brazil's various distinctive musical rhythms. Frevo, Samba and Mangubeat are mixed with modern music styles. The whole city gets behind the event, the municipal council shuts down certain roads and provides help with infrastructure, but it is the local communities all over the city that do the majority of the organisation and give the event its jolly, spontaneous communal spirit.


The streets in downtown San Antonio are lined with small family run stalls selling all kinds of clothes, foodstuffs and crafts. This area has the feel of an Asian street market. If you would prefer not to face the hustle and bustle of Brazilians doing their food shopping, which can be a surprisingly stressful activity, visit the area during office hours on weekdays.

The biggest shopping centre in Recife is called, imaginatively enough, 'Shopping Recife'. This is on Boa Viagem, the beach in the city centre. This is a typical modern shopping hall with chain stores, cinemas and dining facilities. This centre also serves as a transport hub for the city, with all buses for downtown Recife stopping there.

Olinda is an extremely picturesque town a short distance from Recife. This is probably the best place to pick up souvenirs, as it has two excellent crafts market open throughout the week. They stock Madonnas and other religious arts, paintings and woodcarvings.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Recife's nightlife centres on Rua do Bom Jesus, which is a street containing 15 bars and restaurants. Needless to say, these stay open as long as there are people still there, and have live music and entertainments most nights of the week. The beach is also a hub of nightlife, beach parties are common, and the bars and clubs on the edge of the beach are very popular with people who've had a busy day lounging in the sun.

The Churrasco restaurants popular all over Brazil are abundant in Recife. Waiters bring round barbecued meats on skewers, and you choose which salad you want from the buffet in the middle. These usually work on and 'all you can eat' basis or rodizio.

Tourist Information

There are small tourist offices at all the main attractions in Recife, the main one being in Boa Viagem.

They can also be contacted in their London office; 020 7629 6909 or


Recife is served by Guararapes international airport. A short distance from the city, it has routes to other major cities in Brazil and selected international cities.

All car hire locations in Brazil