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Only 7 km (4 miles) and a blue Atlantic bay separate the sister cities of Recife and Olinda, but they often seem worlds apart. Founded by the Portuguese as Pernambuco’s first colonial capital, Olinda’s historic center is preserved in time. And yet despite the magnificence of its hilltop baroque churches, it is no museum town. Its colonial homes shelter a thriving art and restaurant scene as well as locals devoted to keeping its cultural traditions alive – and authentic.

Meanwhile, Pernambuco’s present capital of Recife was founded by the Dutch – who knew a thing or two about islands crisscrossed by canals. Recife is a study in ...

Only 7 km (4 miles) and a blue Atlantic bay separate the sister cities of Recife and Olinda, but they often seem worlds apart. Founded by the Portuguese as Pernambuco’s first colonial capital, Olinda’s historic center is preserved in time. And yet despite the magnificence of its hilltop baroque churches, it is no museum town. Its colonial homes shelter a thriving art and restaurant scene as well as locals devoted to keeping its cultural traditions alive – and authentic.

Meanwhile, Pernambuco’s present capital of Recife was founded by the Dutch – who knew a thing or two about islands crisscrossed by canals. Recife is a study in contrasts in which the architectural treasures of its dense colonial center clash with the vertical sprawl of beach neighborhoods such as Boa Viagem. Chaotic yet compelling, Recife is rife with colors and textures, not to mention music; homegrown genres include maracatu, frevo, and manguebeat. Capital of a strong regional artistic and culinary culture, Recife puts its proud traditions on display during Carnaval, which – along with Olinda’s – is among the most spectacular on the planet.

Michael Sommers
About the Expert

Michael Sommers is the author of Moon Brazil and Moon Rio, as well as the blog Thrill of Brazil. He has been living in Salvador, Brazil since 1999.

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Michael Sommers for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Recife is located where the Beberibe River meets the Capibaribe River to flow into the Atlantic Ocean. It is a major port on the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Language: Portuguese
  • Currency: Brazilian Real
  • Research: Wikipedia | Recife | Olinda
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    The weather is hot and sunny year-round, although expect extra heat and tourists during summer (high-season) and extra rain between April and June.