Having not visited in over 8 years, I was amazed and impressed by the vibrant and exuberant display of cultural expression at almost every turn. A quick sampling includes:- On arrival at the airport, the truly enthusiastic group of Frevo dancers and musicians greeting you- The incredible array of gourmet level restaurants around town, from regional to national to international specialties- Fabulous architecture and authentic historical charm in the adjacent old town of Olinda, just 15 minutes taxi ride from the city – Artisan workshops filled with high quality works in a variety of media, especially those of the dueling Brennand Brothers!- History oozing from the streets, such as what you find downtown at the oldest synagogue in the New World- Well maintained and beautiful stretches of beaches, including the hotel-rich Boa Viagem district
And – because I was lucky enough to be in town right before Carnival – I can vouch for the beauty of this pre-Lenten festival that finds its expression in Recife/ Olinda like nowhere else in Brazil! Downtown Recife – almost abandoned a few years ago – is now lovingly restored as ground zero for Carnival celebrations that seem to run from December through March. And from personal experience, I can tell you that the Carnival offerings here – almost all based on exciting but not intimidating street celebrations – are certainly the most democratic , authentic and “gringo accessible” of all in Brazil. We were amazed at the beautiful mixture of people of all ages and background coming together in a true and high energy, traditional Carnival spirit (more on Carnival in future blogs).
In short, Recife impressed me big time! It has recaptured its past glory and is focused on making it self a must-see destination for the international visitor. As far as I am concerned it can rightfully call itself “Brazil’s Cultural Capital”
Bottom Line: Don’t miss it! Stay for 2 nights/ 3 days and chose either a beachfront hotel in Boa Viagem – I like the Atlante – or instead (my recommendation) stay in old Olinda at either the Sete Colinas or the Pousada Amparo. The atmosphere in Olinda is excellent and visiting downtown Recife is only a 15minutes drive away. And remember, for the perfect week, combine this with a 2 night stay in Porto de Galinhas, and a 3 night’s stay in Fernando de Noronha. You won’t regret it! (More on these destinations in next entries)