Recife, the capital city of the State of Pernambuco, is home to a vibrant entertainment scene and fascinating historic center. Located on the Atlantic Coast, the urban hub holds the fourth-largest metropolitan area in Brazil, filled with glass high-rises that back a stretch of white sand beach. When translated from Portuguese, Recife means "reef," thanks to the surrounding coastal reef shoreline. Rivers, canals, one-way streets and its resemblance to European cities have made the city known as the "Venice of Brazil."
The city center extends across several islands and a peninsula, connected by waterways that cross over the mouth of Rio Capibaribe and other rivers.
Several 2014 World Cup matches will take place in Recife in June through July. It's hard to find another city in Brazil where the residents are crazier for the legendary sport of soccer. Each of their three teams - Sport Club do Recife, Santa Cruz Futebol Clube and Clube Nautico Capibaribe - have each experienced their share of glory, but with two major titles in 1987 and 2008, Sport takes the cake. Five matches in the 2014 FIFA tournament are slated for the brand-new arena, called the Arena Pernambuco, which holds 42,849 spectators.
Activities and Attractions
More than 100 ships have sunk along the coastline of Recife, making it the shipwreck capital of Brazil. Some have been sunk intentionally for tourism, but regardless how the wooden crafts arrived on the ocean floor, it's clear that scuba diving and snorkeling is a staple here. Gorgeous coral reef line the wrecks, and though visitors enjoy diving year-round, the best months are April and September for optimal visibility.
One of the best ways to venture the city is on a jeep safari. Explore the southern sugarcane region of Pernambuco and the Manioc Mill before making your way to beyond-beautiful Primavera Waterfalls. There are a number of tour companies that provide family-friendly day trips, which include a knowledgeable guide, hotel pick-up and lunch. Be sure to pack some sunscreen and a swimsuit, because you'll be craving a refreshing dip in the falls.
Though the Pernambuco coast is one long beach with 116 miles of white sand and turquoise waters, Boa Viagem Beach ranks as a undisputed crowd favorite in Recife. With knockout coral reef, visitor facilities and an upscale nightlife nearby, this urban beach is a must-see. It spans a little more than four miles from Pina in the north to Piedade Beach. As the tide recedes, you can even stand the coral reef. Other surrounding beaches include Brasilia Teimosa and Pina Beach.
Also known as the Golden Chapel, Capela Dourada stands as a two-story arch of cedar and jacaranda decorated in pure gold. Inside, you can discover the statue of Christ which hangs on a golden cross, and a small art museum, showcasing some silver and gold artwork. The sheer value and meticulousness of the ornamentation will blow you away.
Located in Sao Lourenco da Mata in Recife's metropolitan zone, just 11 miles from Guararapes International Airport, the Arena Pernambuco stands ready for FIFA. The complex seats 42,849 people, and contains restaurants, shopping centers and cinemas. Currently, the arena hosts Nautico's games. Get ready for the biggest soccer tournament in the world to begin.
Restaurants and Clubs
The stretch of waterfront packs more upscale dining and nightclubs than you'll know what to do with. "Freco," a style of dance and music, originated here in Recife, and you might get to hear it pouring out of venues as you walk down the street.
On the banks of the Capibaribe River, Leite blends Portuguese and Brazilian influences to a tee. How long it's been around - Leite was founded in 1882 - should give you a hint to its quality. Indulge in unbeatable Iberian ham, which is some of the freshest you will ever taste. Octopus, king prawn, chateaubriand steak - you name it, they got it. In the cellar, they serve Champagne and wine from the mother country of vino, France, as well as Portugal.
In the mood for a juicy steak? At Spettus Steak House, you can feast with the all-you-can-eat system. Skip the salad and go straight for the meat skewers and seafood. This location was the first of the Spettus group, and since its opening, ten other houses have launched in Brazil. You're on vacation, and this is indulgence at its tastiest.
After your team wins the FIFA match, head to Downtown Club, where you'll be sure to hear some rock, drink with the locals and stay out till dawn. Wednesday and Sunday are the best nights to party, since the club hosts live music.
Get your groove on at Terca Negra. Only a few blocks from the beach, this dance floor will leave you awash with Afro-Brazilian beats all night long.