Recife was the hub from where i visited several points in Pernambuco coast.
However, the best areas of Recife also kept my attention, starting with the beach of Boa Viagem, where my hotel was located, and I took the great part of my swims.
A strong effort is being made in the historical area of Recife, recuperating its most beautiful buildings. Before leaving Portugal, a friend told me that he didn’t like Recife, because it was old, degraded, and dirty, but everything has a negative and a positive side: those old and degraded buildings they kept, are now the base of the good work that is being done.
And when I remember the beauty of Av. Republica, in Lisbon, and the crazy job they did, replacing the old, degraded buildings by impersonal blocks, I must celebrate the Brazilian decision to keep the historic area, even with the bad look it still has here and there.
Also called Palácio do Campo das Princesas, this palace is, as expected, one of the most imposing buildings in Recife.
Created in 1841 to replace a Dutch palace, it faces a beautiful garden with a famous African tree, that is a rarity in Brazil – a Baobab.
S José Market
The real town pulses around this market, more than one century old, in old Recife.
All the nearby streets are filled with popular shops, and this is the area to meet the real Brazilian life.
No need to alert that this is one of the areas where the usual precautions make more sense, as someone had the gentleness to alert me, seeing my cheap camera in my hand (well tight…)
An old detention house, closed in 1973, was transformed under Brennand’s supervision, in a shopping mall.
The architecture was preserved, and the cells were occupied by dozens or small shops, selling local crafts.
Even where interior walls were removed, to allow a little bigger shops, the look was maintained, only two lifts give a dispensable sign of modernity and comfort, in contrast with the strong grills in the center of the building.
Swim at Boa Viagem
We stayed at Boa Viagem, and we took there most of our swims. The beach is long but not spectacular.
The long reef along the coast protects from surf and sharks, but risks to make the bath very monotonous, specially in low tide, when it becomes almost a pool.
People throws everything to the sand, but the local authorities make a good effort to clean it each day.
The beach closes very early – at 5PM, but at 6AM it’s already a pleasant bath.
S. João Castle
A fabulous collection of historical weapons, presented in a castle with a very well elaborated display.
The furniture, pictures and decorative elements are very well integrated giving to the collection a softness and delicacy that smooths the aggressive character of the items, and the density of its richness.
Photo is not allowed inside, and that’s my only complaint.
The main building houses a collection of art, focused in the influence of Netherlands in Brazil.
It’s a rich and beautiful collection, but for someone who knows what Portugal meant to the history and art of Brazil, it gives the idea that the Portuguese-Dutch conflict subsists.
Some of my friends who had been there before, alerted me that the exhibition gives the idea that Brennand hates the Portuguese; I will not go that far, but agree that the disdain for the Portuguese contribution in Brazil is the weakest point of the exhibition.
The good art collections spread by two buildings, are surrounded by a large garden, where art also makes its appearance.
A lake and swans give life to the whole. Nice!
An old factory of pottery was transformed by its owner’s imagination in a personal museum.
The integration of the old buildings with the new forms and look, was very well conceived, giving a constant sensation of balance between tradition and modernity.
A large area of the factory is covered by all kind of shapes coming from Brennand’s imagination. It’s such a wide display, that you barely notice most of the pieces. And, a strange thing, they don’t seem very interested about… selling. I only saw a small shop, with some banal pieces at medium price. Another missing point is a circuit to visit the working factory.
We may see the workers here and there, but a ban at the door tells us not to enter. Well, art is beautiful, but work is not unworthy.
Most of the best work of Brennand is exposed in the garden.
Clearly obsessed by erotic shapes, there’s a touch of Dali in some of the “crazy” compositions.
The Taj Mahal is the central volume, and the fountains and walls frame it very well.
Fishing from the reef
The open water is dangerous, and no swim is allowed past the reef, in Boa Viagem.
In low tide, it’s easy to walk on the reef, and some locals use to capture some fish from it, and, by what I saw, sometimes big catch!
It is not Recife, but it so close and so connected, that everybody visits it from Recife and it would be a “crime” if I skip this information.
Olinda deserves its own page, and you just need to follow the link.
Excellent for fish
To our first dinner in Recife, Fernanda wanted fish, so Roberto took us to this restaurant.It’s a top restaurant in Recife, and you eat and pay accordingly.
Good fish dinner!
Favorite Dish: Grilled fish
Robalo no Pacote
Address: Av. Boa Viagem, 670
Fogo de Brasa (now Galetus, it seems…)
This restaurant, where we went because it stays at walking distance from the hotel, was a good surprise: good food, the cheapest “Rodizio” we entered, with a funny detail: when sitting, they gave us a card with the description of all the fish and meat qualities they were going to grill, with drawings mapping the zone of the animal from where they cut all different pieces of meat.
The only negative point is that I choose a wrong wine – my fault.
Good diner by mistake
It announces sushi and italian food, but I always prefer local food.
Despite going there by mistake, searching for live “forró”, I had a good dinner, but… the most expensive in the whole week.
Favorite Dish: Tournedó with mushrooms.
We thought it had live music, but the promoted artist was… a disk-jockey.
Somewhat frustrating, but it allowed us to verify that it is a selected place, where, when we left, the ratio women-men should be 3 to 1. Maybe later, they got the draw…
Dress Code: Casual
Address: Av. Domingos Ferreira, 2045 – Boa Viagem
Boi e Brasa
This was the best “Rodizio” we visited in Recife.
The food is excellent, and the service very gentle. The prices are high, as expected, but not too exaggerated.
Favorite Dish: Rodizio
Address: Avenida Boa Viagem, 97
Staying close to “Feirinha”, in our way from the hotel, it was a good solution for our dinner in our day in Feirinha.
A good “Rodizio” with the same device as Boi Preto: a small wheel on the table that you turn to green when you want to be served, and to red when you want them to make a brake or stop. And it works.
The food was good, the price as expected.
Address: Av. Boa Viagem, 4824, Boa Viagem
Cicero and Suely
Eating in the Beach
If you are at the beach and want to stay, there’s no reason to leave it to eat.
Everywhere you see people cooking in the beach, preparing some dishes they will bring straight to your chair, in a small table.
If you don’t want a formal meal, then the choice grows, because there is a “swarm” of sellers of… everything, from soup to desert, passing by you and offering their products. In front of our hotel, Cicero was the supplier of umbrellas and chairs, and Suely the cooker. We had a good fried fish in the beach. Another meal has been “Carne de Sol”, a dried meat a lit bit salted.
And this is, really, the cheapest way to eat.
Favorite Dish: Fried Fish
Recife Palace – Good location
My first sensation was… some disappointment: It is a business hotel of Recife near the beach, and not a beach hotel as I expected (I hope you understand the difference).
After the first impression things went better, and the hotel proved well.
Breakfast is very good, the staff is friendly.
TV reached a Portuguese channel (Hurrah, I could see in direct Portugal, 4 – Belgium, 0), only one thing needs correction: the shower. It is fixed, and not too functional.
I took two meals in Basilico restaurant, and found it good (pricey). I was in a package, and couldn’t control the other prices.
Address: Av Boa Viagem 4070 Recife 51021
The hotel was closed in 2021.
False (?) Advertising
Recife Palace hotel announced all the rooms with sight to the beach.
Well, maybe that’s true, but a squeezed sight between two high buildings is… not exactly a lie… maybe… not serious.
They would better abandon that reference. As a matter of fact what’s the importance of the views, when we have the large beach for ourselves?
It seems that Recife is the only sector of the coast where shark attacks do really happen.
Swimming past the reefs is forbidden, and you’d better respect the signals posted in the beach, indicating the dangerous areas.
A long strip of the beach stands beside the reef, and there, the bath is absolutely safe, but surf is something to forget in the area!
In my hotel, an official brochure announced as special musical events, a night with forró at Jardins Bar.
We went there expecting live music, and, advised by Roberto, we went early to get table.
We ended eating a good expensive dinner, and when forró time came, the lights faded, young people came holding each one’s beer, and forró started.
The announced artist was… the disk-jockey of a common discotheque.
Brennand’s Glass Factory
My professional world is… glass, and, being in Brennand’s property, I noticed a typical glass factory, that, obviously, I would like to visit, but it’s closed to public, and I had no time to prepare a professional request for the visit.
But I was sorry, because glass is a much more spectacular product than ceramics.
And they know it, for sure!
Any city with much water is immediately called “Venice”. Without searching, I know Portuguese Venice (Aveiro), American Venice, (Los Angeles), Spanish Venice (Mogan) and now Recife.
No comparison! Recife has several rivers and islands, lots of bridges, but… that’s all.
Two positive points: not many flies nor mosquitoes and the smell was better than in real Venice.
A strong effort is being made in the historical area of Recife, recuperating its most beautiful buildings.
Before leaving Portugal, a friend told me that he didn’t like Recife, because it was old, degraded, and dirty.
He is right! So, if you can’t do as I usually do (to concentrate mainly in the good things and forget the ugly ones) then you are not going to like the old Recife.
One of my favorite pleasures in the beach is the afternoon swim, when the sun went down, people is leaving the beach, the water is warm, and calm takes control of the beach.
In Recife I seldom had that pleasure: the beach is abandoned at 5, and at 6 it is dark night.
Be careful: A walk in the beach in the mild afternoon, may mean a return in the dark, as one day happened to Fernanda.
Hard to understand
In the excellent museum of Brennand Institute, it was the love to Netherlands that led to display a piece clearly out of the context, or was it an attempt to integrate in the museum the (also out of context) temporary display, next door – the wax french dolls representing Fouquet’s trial?
And why could we photograph everything, except the weapons and the wax dolls?
Trash in the Beach
Brazilians are not very careful about the cleanliness of their beaches, but things may change. Too many people do each day cleaning of the garbage that locals throw to the sand, and they are trying to educate the new generations.
n the Sunday I spent there, a passing boat repeated a message to keep the beach clean and hundreds of students covered the beach, with plastic bags in hand, picking the smallest piece of garbage. Meanwhile, they offered a bag to each person, convincing them to collect their own garbage.
The problem is that, when I asked a student how many times they do this campaign each year, the answer was: just today. Anyway, let’s hope that is a start.
Selling in the Beach
A shopping mall is a concentrated series of shops, waiting for the customers to pass by. “Boa Viagem” beach, in Recife, is just the opposite : a series of moving shops, passing by the customers.One day, I decided to note everything they were selling. I quickly gave up, and decided to note what they were NOT selling in the beach. There’s the exhaustive list:
I really can’t remember anything else not sold in the beach!
Mercado S. José: Real Market
More than 500 shops, with all kind of articles, from food and beverage to witchery, will, for sure, have what you need.
If you are not buying, a stroll along its corridors and stalls is something you shouldn’t miss.
What to buy: Anything you need
What to pay: Not much, if you can be taken as a Brazilian…
Culture House: Shopping in Jail
An old detention house, closed in 1973, was transformed under Brennand’s supervision, in a shopping mall.
The architecture was preserved, and the cells were occupied by dozens of small shops, selling local crafts.
Together with “Feirinha”, in Boa Viagem Beach, this is one of the best places to buy handicrafts, with the shops side-by-side, in an open and fair competition
Feirinha: Popular Market
A popular market of local crafts takes place each Saturday and Sunday, from 4 PM to 19PM in Boa Viagem square.
It’s a good solution for those staying in the beach and not wanting to go to town to buy souvenirs, but I didn’t check the prices.
A friend introduced me to a taxi driver that uses to work for him, and is a trusty person. “Seu” Roberto, more than an excellent professional was a friend, a guide, and a bodyguard. Always charging much less than the table in display at my hotel’s lounge, he took us everywhere, suggesting sights, stops, restaurants, patiently waiting all the time we wanted and watching our security.
Respectful and kind, he quickly became more than a good professional, a trusty friend.
We used his taxi to… everything! It was his idea taking us to Igarassu, that we would miss without his support. He also checked the tide hour, to suggest trip scheduling. Absolutely perfect.
My best tip about Recife will surely be: don’t hesitate – phone Roberto, and if you tell him that it was Avelino’s suggestion you’ll get a prompt smile.
Phone: +558 191 020 402