Recife City Guide

An introduction to the city of Recife


In the northeastern region of Brazil's fifth most populous state, the state of Pernambuco, lays its capital the city of Recife. Located on a coastal intersection of two major rivers, at the approximate aptitude of 2 meters above sea level, with many islands, coral reefs, bright sandy beaches, over fifty bridges, numerous canals and one way streets included, this wonderful city is one of the major ports on the Atlantic Ocean. Recife and is also referred as the Brazilian Venice, also known as Veneza Brasileira, due to their coastal infrastructure similarities.


Founded on 12th March in the year of 1537, Recife was a small anchorage, with fishing shacks, inns and warehouses included. It was governed by wealthy Portuguese colonists, who founded the captaincy of Pernambuco. At its early development, Recife handled sugar exports of the nearby village of Olinda. By the end of 16th century, this small settlement was raided by French and English pirates, and in the year of 1630, Recife was captured by the Dutch forces. Under the rule of the famous Mauricio de Nassau, assisted by many Dutch architects and artists, the very first infrastructural foundations were laid. Recife was then named Mauritsstad, and declared as a capitol of the Dutch colony named Dutch Brazil.

During this period, Recife has been significantly modernized, with its first bridges and streets built, along with the synagogue, which was founded by the first Jewish community. After 24 years of their rule, Dutch were forced to surrender and abandon Brazil, due to a defeat they suffered in the battles against the Brazilians, Africans, Indians and the Portuguese. In the year of 1710, Recife’s inhabitant’s efforts to organize their own municipality were denied by the wealthy leaders of Olinda, thus resulting in the war known as War of the Mascates.

In the year of 1959, Brazilian government had formed an agency named Sudene, also known as Superintendência para o Desenvolvimento do Nordeste, which resulted in Recife’s industrial expansion, mostly in the branches of food, textile, chemicals and minerals processing. Further development of the State of Pernambuco was also reflected in increased population growth and expansion of the commercial areas.

General facts

Recife is spread over the area of 218 km². Surrounded by the inland tropical forests and Atlantic Ocean, this enchanting city includes the Capibaribe River, the Beberibe River, the Jiquiá River, the Tejipió River, the Jordão River and the Pina River; a beautiful Araçá Lake; charming beaches, such as Boa Viagem, Pina and Brasília Teimosa and a huge dam named Prata do Meio and Apipucos.

With a tropical rainforest climate, featuring warm to hot and humid conditions, temperatures in Recife throughout the course of the year in Recife ranges from the average low of 22 °C to the average high of 36 °C. The main Recife’s running industries are chocolate manufacturing, brewing and canning, electronics, shipbuilding, textile processing and tube manufacturing. The International Airport in Recife, as well as two international ports, makes this city one of Brazil's prime business centers.


The oldest and historically most relevant part of the Recife’s central area, filled with many historical structures, buildings and monuments, is known as Old Recife or Recife Antigo. The most important Recife’s landmark is Marco Polo monument, also known as Marco Zero, is believed to represents the very spot of the city’s foundation. This remarkable monument is located on the Rio Branco plaza. Another landmark in Recife is the Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue, which is considered as one of the oldest Jewish temples of worship in whole Latin America.

This synagogue was founded in 17th century by Portuguese Jews. After 20 years of construction, built to serve both as an observatory and a stylish gateway to the Navy Arsenal's Square or Praca Arsenal da Marinha, the Malakoff Tower represents another landmark positioned in Recife. The Golden Chapel, also known as Capela Dourada, is located on the Rua do Imperador. This religious landmark was built in the year of 1606, and it is famous by its luxurious interior, which is covered in unique paintings. One of the most iconic institutional landmarks in Recife is The Ricardo Brennand Institute, also known as Instituto Ricardo Brennand.

Founded in the year of 2002 as a nonprofit organization, it is located in Castelo de São João, a structural complex with a castle resemblance. Surrounded by widespread gardens with numerous sculptures and artificial lakes, this institute features the famous Museum of Armory, a library and an art gallery. Another astonishing landmark in Recife is the famous Francisco Brennand’s Ceramic Workshop, also known as Oficina Cerâmica Francisco Brennand. Beautiful gardens surrounding the workshop, decorated with numerous galleries of Brennand’s artworks, represents a pleasant relaxing outdoor ambient.

The famous Centro Cultural Caixa building represents a symbol of the development and investment in the culture in Brazil. Before conversion into monument, this historical building was home to the Bank of London and the Stock Exchange of Pernambuco and Paraíba. Built in 18th century and named after the city’s patron saint, a beautiful Basílica de Nossa Senhora do Carmo is also considered as a Recife’s landmark, specific for its characteristic painted ceiling, high altar and historical importance to the city. The link between Rio Branco Avenue and Republica Square is the bridge Buarque de Macedo. This important landmark in Recife is originally built in wood during the last decades of 19th century.

General specifications

Recife is considered the fifth largest metropolitan area with approximately 3,743,854 inhabitants and estimated density of 1353 inhabitants per km2, with are 4 hospitals, 83 education institutions, 25 museums, 38 art galleries, two Orchestra houses, 15 theatres, one opera house, more than 40 movie theatres, one airport and two ports included. The city has four major zones; The Center or Centro, South Zone or Zona Sul, West Zone or Zona Oeste and North Zone or Zona Norte.


Recife’s prices are evaluated as average, while the prices on renting vary, from low to average, depending on the location.

Places to go

In addition to the mentioned landmarks above, Recife is the host to many attractions, such as Market of Saint Joseph, also known as Mercado de São José, one of the most popular markets in Recife, which is surrounded by historic landmarks. An interesting place to visit is also Fort Cinco Pontes, which was built in the year of 1630 by the Dutch. It includes the city museum, also known as Museu da Cidade, which takes up two wings of the fort. Another remarkable place to visit is the Dois Irmãos Park, which includes Natural Science Museum and botanical gardens as well.

One of the most fabulous places for exciting water activities is Veneza Water Park. Recife is also known by the hundreds of shipwrecks along its coast, with scuba diving as an underwater attraction for those who dare to approach the shipwrecks and observe the marvelous coral reefs. There are also other two beautiful parks perfect for various activities; the May 13th Park or Parque 13 de Maio, with a playground and a petting zoo included and Jaqueira Park or Parque da Jaqueira, with trails for jogging and bicycle rides included. Recife is also the host of various events, from which the most popular is Recife’s street Carnival.