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Fortaleza Travel Guide

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The fifth largest city in Brazil, sunny Fortaleza spreads out along a particularly scenic, emerald-green stretch of the Atlantic.

The city beaches of Iracema, Meireles, and Mucuripe (connected by busy Avenida Beira-Mar) surround th e city center.

Within the center stand several 19th century buildings, but outside of the center, li ttle remains of the city's history.

The city was founded in the 17th century when the Dutch built Schoonenborch Fort on the banks of the Pajeú River, later seized by the Portuguese and renamed Fortaleza de Nossa Senhora da Assunҫão, the building today is a major city landmark and an active regional headquarters for the Brazilian Army.

Despite its lack of historical sights, the city is not without its attractions. Apart from the lovely beach scene, Fortaleza has modern art and cultural centers, a long tradition of fine regional craftwork, rich cuisine, and a buzzing nightlife.

The city is particularly lively during Fortal, a raucous out-of-season carnival held every July.

Map of Fortaleza Ceará Brazil

Map of Fortaleza Ceará Brazil

BEACH NEIGHBORHOODS

IRACEMA

The most famous beach neighborhood in Fortaleza, Iracema is named for the novel written by Ceará-born writer José de Alencar (1829-1 877).

Iracema, the novel's main character, is a Tabajara Indian woman described as a "maiden with lips of honey". She has become a symbol of the city, immortalized in statues at the beach, at Praia de Mucuripe, in the Palácio do Governo, and near Messejana Lake. Though the water is unsuitable for swimming, Iracema's promenade along Avenida Beira-Mar is always busy, particularly at sunset.

The best lookout point here is at Ponte Metálica (also called Ponte dos Ingleses). This pier was built in 1906 when there was no port in the region and ships had to anchor far from shore.

Cultural life is particularly lively in the historical buildings in the neighborhood, particularly along Rua dos Tabajaras.

MEIRELES AND MUCURIPE

These adjacent beach neighborhoods could not be more different.

Meireles is home to family-friendly hotels and luxury apartment buildings. It also holds Fortaleza's most traditional craft market, open daily at 6pm in the front of the Clube Náutico Atlético Cearense.

Located right in the middle of the urban center, Mucuripe is home to Fortaleza's fishing community.

The Mercado de Peixe (Fish Market) is best visited in the late afternoon, when the market's 30 kiosks sell savory appetizers. The neighborhood first comes to life at 6am, when the rafts bring in their daily catches of fresh fish.

The beaches at Mucuripe and at neighboring Titanzinho are both popular with surfers.

FUTURO BEACH

Eight of Fortaleza's 25 kilometers of coastline are taken up by Praia do Futuro, the prettiest, cleanest beach in the city.

Barracas (kiosks) line the promenade, offering freshwater showers, beach chairs and umbrellas, and drinks and food. Avenida Zezé Diogo ofters the most traditional barracas.

From 4pm onward during the week (especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays) and all day on weekends, the promenade features live music and comedy acts. It should come as no surprise that Ceará is the birthplace of many of Brazil's best comedians, including Renato Aragão, Chico Anisio, and Tom Cavalcanti.

THE CITY CENTER

Map of Fortaleza City Center Ceará Brazil

Map of Fortaleza City Center Ceará Brazil

A trip around the historical center of Fortaleza should include a visit to the Museu do Ceará, near Praia de Iracema. Many consider it to be the most important museum in the city.

Other important sights include the nearby historical Praҫa dos Leões, and the Praҫa do Ferreira, at the very heart of the city. The Praҫa dos Leões (Lion Square) is so named for the prominent life-sized bronze statues of the animal.

Officially named Praҫa General Tibúrcio Cavalcante, it was built in 1914. Imposing 18th century buildings ring the square, including the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário, and the Palácio da Luz.

The church was built 1755 and the Ceará state government restored it to what is today. The Palácio da Luz, once the seat of the government, is now home to the Academia Cearense de Letras (Ceará Academy of Letters).

CEARÁ MUSEUM

The ten-room Museu do Ceará has a collection of some 7,000 pieces. The collection includes items belonging to Father Cicero as well as original texts by the folk cordel poet Patativa do Assaré (1909-2002).

The Ceará, Serra e Mar room highlights the geography of Ceará, while the Escravidão e Abolicionismo area examin es Fortaleza's prominent role in Brazil's abolitionist history.

The most notable part of this history involves the 1884 freeing of slaves, four yea rs before the official prohibition of slavery. Rua São Paulo, 51.

FERREIRA SQUARE

Founded in 1825, Praҫa do Ferreira is the city's main square. The buildings that surround the square are rich in history.

The Cine São Luiz took 20 years to build (it was finished in 1958) and mixes neoclassical and art deco elements. The cinema has a fine Carrara marble staircase and three crystal chandeliers from the former Czechoslovakia.

Farmacia Osvaldo Cruz has functioned as a pharmacy since 1932 in a building dating from 1890.

The Palacete Ceará, built in 1914, headquartered the legendary Iracema Club, an old meeting place for high society. Photographs of the elite in early 20th century eveningwear decorate Pastelaria Leão do SuI. This is a classic spot for anyone who wants to savor a wafer- thin pastel (deep-fried pastry) accompanied by sugarcane juice. 

JOSÉ DE ALENCAR THEATER

The most important architectural landmark in the city, the Teatro José de Alencar was built between 1908 and 1910. Its builders imported the metal structure from Scotland, and the building features many eclectic design elements, including stunning art nouveau stained-glass windows. Noted landscape artist Burle Marx designed the side garden. The unique stage inside can move forward, up, and down. Each thea ter box bears the name of a work by native novelist José de Alencar; a painting on the proscenium arch also honors the novelist. Declared a national heritage site in 1964, the theater offers guided tours in English and Spanish. Praҫa José de Alencar, Centro.

DRAGÃO DO MAR ART AND CULTURAL CENTER

Opened in 1998 and installed in a modern, attention-grabbing building near the beach, the Centro Dragão do Mar de Arte e Cultura is the major cultural center in Fortaleza. Its calendar features diverse arts and entertainment programming for all tastes.

In its 30,000 square meters (323,000 square feet) of space there are several arthouse movie theaters, a traditional theater, a planetarium, a public library, and areas for temporary and permanent exhibitions.

Dragão do Mar (Sea Dragon) was the nickname given to abolitionist icon Francisco José do Nascimento (1839- 1914). A jangadeiro (raftsman) from nearby Aracati, he became famous in 1881 for refusing to transport slaves along the Ceará coast.

Visitors can learn about the daily life of cowherds and other workers in the sertão region of Cariri at the Memorial da Cultura Cearense. The Museu de Arte Contemporanea do Ceará focuses mainly on the work of local artist José Leonilson Bezerra Dias, known only as Leonilson (1957-1993).

It also fea tures experimental work by contemporary artists, from both Brazil and abroad. Rua Dragão do Mar; 81, Iracema. 

PUBLIC MARKETS

The two large public markets in Fortaleza's center will satisfy anyone looking for insight into the local cultural scene. The 559 stores in the recently restored Mercado Central sell traditional food and regional items (Avenida Alberto Nepomuceno, 199, Centro).

Approximately 2000 shoppers frequent the non- touristy Mercado São Sebastião each day. It sell a combination of fish, kitchen utensils, and brightly colored north eastern fruits, including exotic varieties.

OFF T HE BEATEN TRACK

JOSÉ DE ALENCAR'S HOUSE

The small farm Algadiҫo Novo houses the ruins of an old sugar mill. It also contains a preserved part of the 19th century house where Cearense writer José de Alencar was born and lived.

Though the house is not well maintained and serves better as an actual museum, it is well worth paying a visit. Local researcher José Ari gives guided tours in the mornings. Avenida Washington Soares, 6055, Messejana. 

TAPIOCA

Tapioca is a delicacy enjoyed throughout the Northeast, but it is only in Fortaleza that it has its own food court. This is the Centro das Tapioqueiras, a collection of 26 kiosks with outdoor tables and parking. It stands along local road CE-040 (Km 10 exit), in route to the east coast beaches in the direction of Messejana. The menu includes traditional tapioca as well as more unusual preparations filled with chicken, sun-dried beef, shrimp, banana, and chocolate. Avenida Washington Soares, 10215, Messejana).

CACHAÇA MUSEUM

The Museu da Cachaҫa, 25 kilometers (16 miles) southwest of Fortaleza in the municipality of Maranguape, recounts the history of cachaҫa production in Ceará. The farmhouse, which belongs to Fazenda Ypióca, and was built in 1846, is the main building of the museum. The old mill displays machinery, photographs, bottles, sugar crushers, and immense vats used in the production of pinga (another name for the potent Iiquor).Visitors can follow up their guided tour with a stop at the gift shop and bar. Rua Senador Vigílio Távora). 

CRAFT STORES

The rich, varied craftwork of Ceará is on display in various neighborhoods throughout Fortaleza. The two mainstream options include the popular night market at Praia do Meireles and the city center's Centro de Turismo, which sells regional products from 99 separate stores.

Market highlights include the fabric, wood, and leather craftwork as well as sweet treats 0ike brown-sugar rapaduras) and cachaҫas. The building housing the market dates from 1850, and served as the public jail until 1970.

In addition to the market, the building features two modest museums, the Museu de Arte e Cultura Popular and the Museu dos Minerais (Rua Senador Pompeu, 350, Centro).

Visitors can find more interesting work at the four branches of the Centro de Artesanato do Ceará (Ceart), which receives govenment support. Here artisans sell hand-made work such as hammocks, ceramics, straw and liana basketwork, and labirinto, a painstakingly made lace of Arab origin. (brances: Aeroporto Pinto Magalhães, Shopping Iguatemi, Centro Dragão do Mar e Arte e Cultura, Aldeota).

 

DUNE-BUGGGY AND 4X4 TRIPS

Visitors looking for dune buggy trips in Fortaleza should head to Praia do Meireles, near the Clube Nautico.

Drivers offer day-long trips to the beaches just outside of Fortaleza, which include Morro Branco and Canoa Quebrada. Longer trips are also possible: the journey to Jericoacoara takes two days, while the trip to Natal (in Rio Grande do Norte), takes four.

These longer trips can only carry two passengers and their luggage in the buggy; the buggies typically pick up passengers at their hotel (contact: Cooperativa de Buggy de Fortaleza).

Trips over 300 kilometers (190 miles) can handle groups of up to six people in the comfort of an airconditioned 4X4 vehicle, with overnight stops at hotels. Your choice of destinations includes Jericoacoara, Guaramiranga, Natal, Lenҫois Maranhenses, and São Luis do Maranhão.

Fortaleza travel guide and tourism information such as accommodation, festivals, transport, maps, activities and attractions in Ceará, Brazil - Brazil Travel Guide

Fortaleza travel guide and tourism information such as accommodation, festivals, transport, maps, activities and attractions in Ceará, Brazil - Brazil Travel guide

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