BRAZIL  |  Recife, Brazil Travel Guide
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Exploring Recife

Exploring Recife

While Recife Antigo has been restored as a dining and nightlife center much like the Lapa section of downtown Rio, it has a few historic sites as well.

Sinagoga Kahal Zur Israel

Sinagoga Kahal Zur Israel on Rua do Bom Jesus 197 is the city’s most important historic site. Considered the oldest synagogue in Latin America, it took years of excavating and restoring before visitors were permitted entry. The original floor (now protected by glass) and some original walls remain and the small on-site museum explores Jewish life in Brazil.

Malakoff Tower

A block north of the synagogue on Rua do Bom Jesus you’ll find Praça Artur Oscar, where you can relax and have a cooling respite before heading to Malakoff Tower at the plaza’s northern end. Although it looks like a castle, this structure was built as an astrological observatory. No longer functioning, it has become a viewing tower. Views are unobstructed in all directions.

Fortaleza do Brum

Five blocks farther north (and not in the restored part of town) stands this Dutch-era fort, built in 1629. Its museum has old cannon, weapons and a skeleton of a soldier who died in 1654. There’s a restaurant too.

Nearby, you’ll see the historic Estaçio do Brum, which was used by the Great Western Brazil Railroad Company from 1881 to 1934.

Republic Square Walk across the Buarque de Macedo Bridge along Av. Rio Branco from Recife Antigo to Santo Antônio. You’ll find yourself in Praça da República, originally part of the estate of a Dutch nobleman. Later it became known as the “Field of Honor” to pay homage to scores of patriots who were killed here during the drive to form a republic. The buildings around the plaza were built in the 19th and 20th centuries and include the Teatro Santa Isabel (Theater) built in 1850, Palácio do Governo (Government Palace) built in 1841, and the Beaux Arts Palácio da Justiça (Court House) built in 1930.

Behind the Palácio da Justiça is one of Recife’s most beautiful church complexes. Igreja da Ordem Terceira de São Francisco, the church, was built in 1606. The intricate Portuguese tile work is stunning. Less so is the painting of Franciscan monks being crucified. Don’t miss the Capela Dourada (Golden Chapel), built in Baroque style in 1697 adjacent to the church. The altar has two levels built of jacaranda wood covered with gold, while nearby Jesus is shown hanging from a golden cross. It’s quite moving. A Franciscan convent and small Sacred Art Museum are also part of the complex. The church is open daily and services are held on a regular schedule. The complex is at Rua Imperador Dom Pedro #206.

Catedral de São Pedro dos Clérigos

If you follow Av. Dantas Barreto (Santo Antônio’s main street) you’ll pass Recife’s cathedral and its most interesting market. The cathedral was built in 1782 and has a beautiful wood façade and a painted inner ceiling. What makes the cathedral even more interesting to visit is the cobblestone square surrounding it. Patio de São Pedro in São José is a bohemian center where musicians play folk music, artists draw and paint and poets read their poems. There are restaurants, shops and bars – all painted in pastel shades – in the square too. The Old World Mercado de São José is housed in a beautiful cast-iron building that was brought here from France. The stalls sell produce, herbs and local handicrafts. The market opens at 6 am daily. It’s at Travessa do Macédo, São José.

Cultural Center

The city’s most interesting stop is the Casa da Cultura. The structure housing the center was built as a penitentiary in the 19th century and an effort has been made to keep it historically accurate. The old cells, with their original numbers and heavy iron doors, now house shops that sell handicrafts and leather goods. One cell has been left intact so you can see how prisoners lived. The cultural center now offers exhibits and performances. Check if there are dance shows while you are here. The center is at Rua Floriano Peixoto near Santo Antônio’s western waterfront.

Forte das Cinco Pontas/City Museum

Take a taxi to Forte das Cinco Pontas (Five Walls), which stood at the edge of the city when it was a Dutch colony. In typical Dutch fashion, it was built with mud bricks and had – you guessed it – five walls. In 1677 the Portuguese leveled that building and erected the fourwalled fortress you see today. They left the original name. The fort has been carefully restored and now houses the Museu da Cidade (City Museum). The museum has several rooms devoted to the Dutch colony with excellent maps and drawings. The fort, no longer at the edge of town, is at Largo das Cinco Pontas, São José.

Last updated December 5, 2007
Posted in   Brazil  |  Recife
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