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What to see and do in Recife – a guide to notable attractions and landmarks

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Full of sun, sea and surf, Recife is an ideal Brazilian getaway, but this sunny spot has more to offer than your typical beach-side favorites.  Recife holds one of most colorful and folkloric carnivals in the country and along with its neighbor, Olinda, they are considered to be amongst the most culturally diverse cities in Brazil. The local multicultural arts and music scene thrives with galleries, exhibitions and live performances taking place throughout the year. Visit museums, squares, parks and churches to walk through the centuries of Pernambucan and Brazilian history. Today's Recife is dynamic, exciting, abuzz with action, warmth and color and always ready for a good time.

Chris Cobb

My Destination local expert on


Water sports


As the city is bordered by the South Atlantic Ocean and divided up by two rivers Recife is home to ample marine life which makes it a popular diving site. With Aicá Diving swimmers can explore the expansive near shore reef, as well as delve into wrecks dotting the ocean floor. Sample the city’s surf at one of its many beaches or, join a cruise on a catamaran or explore the areas salty lagoons on sailing boats used by fishermen. Alternatively, leave the coast and head for the rivers. The Capibaribe is framed by its picture postcard bridges, offering pleasant catamaran trips for a unique view of the city's traditional and historic neighborhoods.


Exploring the countryside


With a year round summer along the coast hiring a bicycle is always an option to view Old Town Recife, and the city's bridges, at your own pace. Alternatively, rely on your own two feet and head over to the Coastal Atlantic Rain Forest where rivers, streams, waterfalls, viewpoints and mineral water springs are waiting to be discovered. The circuit of old sugar mills offer plantation house retreats from the bustling city life. For adrenalin junkies, adventure and accelerated heartbeats join the memorable views for rock climbers and paragliders.




Framed by the South Atlantic Ocean, Recife has a number of notable sandy beaches visited by both locals and visitors. At Boa Viagem, white sand is coupled with skinny palm trees which tower above the heads of sunbathing beach-goers. Turn away from the crashing waves and warm sea breeze and the city walls of Recife provide a contrasting urban backdrop to the beautiful natural coastline. In the northern part of the city, Maria Farinha beach protrudes from the mainland like a finger, blanketed by greenery and fringed by soft grains of yellowy sand. At night enjoy a party on the beach, accompanied by the sound of the waves over the reefs.


Carnival / festivals


Frenzied crowds ripple into the streets when Carnival hits Recife during February and March, as colors and calamity hit the streets as if fired from a party popper. The Carnival in Pernambuco is unlike any other in the country. Free for all, the street party is held in Recife and Olinda, with a number of stages erected all over the State of Pernambuco where artists and musicians offer free shows. Around the same time as Carnival, the Garanhuns Jazz Festival brings a little swagger, while in the winter month of July Missa do Vaqueiro comes to town. Easter week is when Nova Jerusalem, the site of the largest open-air theatre in the world, opens its doors to receive the spectacle of the Paixão de Cristo (or Passion of Christ). The entire Northeast is involved in the June festivals (called São João).




Brazilians are known for their love of partying and Recife’s nightlife is a true reflection of the fact. While dancing and singing in the street is the norm, the city has a large amount of nightclubs and dancing spots that are certainly worth a visit. Live music can often be found in Old Recife, in bars like Bar Burburinho and Downtown Pub, where the lively atmosphere keeps gig-goers pumped up for hours. A cacophony of color and club sounds accompany any night out in Recife, with nightclubs like Studio 363 and Clube Metropole dancing favorites.




Recife has a variety of shopping malls where leisure and food options are paired with shops, making a trip to the city’s malls a jam-packed day out. Shopping Center Recife was the first mall to open in the city back in 1980 and today houses a whopping 455 stores, 10 cinemas, 19 restaurants and 70 food outlets. Stepping away from high street fashion, the city is also home to a variety of small shops selling arts and crafts trinkets. Domingo na Rua is a Sunday special market, selling antiques and art craft items, while the Casa da Cultura sells lace work within the confines of a former prison.