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Fortaleza is a major city on Brazil's northeast coast, and the capital of Ceará state.
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Points of Interest in Fortaleza
Quite an effort has been put into restoring colonial architecture over the last years. Still there is no area that is completely "clean", but the stretch from the beachfront of Praia de Iracema, via Dragão do Mar and to Praça do Ferreira is steadily improving and worth a walk.
- History Train and Step-by-Step History are two free tours offered on alternating Saturdays in the city centre. Show up at Banco do Nordeste, Rua Floriano Peixoto 941, at 1:15 PM. Both last about 3 hours. Basic Portuguese is a must.
- Praça do Ferreira is the main city square, with stores, restaurants, a movie theater and plenty of benches.
- Praça José de Alencar has plenty of greenery and is the place to catch the city's best street performers.
- Theatro José de Alencar. On the south side of the above square. The architectural landmark of the city, finished in 1912, has performances almost every evening. Visits every hour on the hour, except noon. R$ 4, 30 minutes.
- Dragão do Mar Cultural Center, Rua Dragão do Mar 81 - Iracema, ☎ 85 3488 8600. Opened in 1999, the center has an art museum, a library, a cinema, and surrounding nightlife.
- Museu de Arte e Cultura Popular, Rua Senador Pompeu 350, centre. Located in an old prison, now the Centro de Turismo, along with a handicraft market and a tourist information. Displays many fine examples of folk art as well as boats and other cultural relics.
- The sunset, either from Ponte Metalica, Praia Iracema, or the beach by the fish market, Mucuripe.
- Parque Ecologico do Cocó, the city's largest green area, near the Iguatemi-mall. No lawns, but a nice walk in the woods.
- Metropolitan Cathedral of Fortaleza, Rua Monsenhor Tito Guedes, no number - Centro, ☎ 85 3231-4196. The closer you get, the worse it looks, with a parking lot and all. But it still has nice mosaics. French architect George Mounier allegedly was inspired by the Cologne cathedral. Note the 40 year span between the initial works and the inaugural mass, above the main entrance. Masses daily except Mondays.
- Museu do Ceará, Rua São Paulo 51 - Centro (one block north of Pr. do Ferreira). In a late 19th-century seat of state government. Explains the history of the state of Ceará and its capital. Free.
- Museu do Automóvel (Veteran Car Club do Brasil), Rua Desembargador Manuel Sales Andrade 70 (Walk some 7 blocks up Av. Cel. Miguel Dias from Shopping Iguatemi's main entrance, then turn right.), ☎ +55 85 3273 3129. 9-12, 14-17, closed Mondays and Sunday afternoons.. Some 60 cars on display, mostly of US make, ranging from 1917 to 1995(!). Notably two funeral cars from the 30's. R$ 7.
- Estoril, Rua dos Tabajaras 397, Praia de Iracema (Near Pirata Bar). This mansion, built in 1925 as Vila Morena, and later used as a casino, a restaurant(when its current name was applied) and a rather political bar, is of peculiar architecture. It was virtually rebuilt in the 90's, and is undergoing another refurbishment to be used for public cultural arrangements.
- Mercado dos Pinhões, Praça Visconde de Pelotas, Praia de Iracema (Two blocks inland from the shops at Rua Monsenhor Tabosa). This former meat market was imported piece by piece from Europe and set up in 1897. Refurbished and now used as a handicrafts fair.
- Mini Siará (Museu de Miniaturas), Rua José Avelino 250 (Right off Dragão do Mar). Tue - Sat 2 PM - 5 PM. More cute than really interesting, this tiny museum has about 25 scale models of Fortaleza's colonial buildings, and also a couple of scale landscapes. R$ 5.
Fortaleza is one of the largest cities in Brazil and certainly one of the most vibrant. Temperatures range from 23-31 C with rare exceptions. July - November has virtually no rain. February - May can have its share, but mostly at night. Fairly safe for a Brazilian city this size (about 2,5 million ), but stay alert when wandering away from Beira Mar, especially after dark. Despite being quite a party town, the carnival in Fortaleza is rather feeble, although growing bigger by the year, with the largest parades being Maracatu-style.
The official history of Fortaleza as a permanent settlement dates back to the 17th century, when the Dutch had a brief dispute with the Portuguese over the territory. However some local historians fiercely defend the thesis that the very first European to land in South America -allegedly the Spaniard Vicente Yáñez Pinzón- did so where the city's port is situated today, in January 1500, i.e. a few months before Portuguese Pedro Alvares Cabral's much celebrated arrival in Porto Seguro.
Probably the most proudly remembered occasion of local history was the abolition of slavery in 1884, four years ahead of Brazil as a whole. The mulatto Dragão do Mar, native of Aracati, reached a near-mythical status for his role in the boycott of slave ships starting in 1881, and is still widely recognized.
The author José de Alencar is so important for the identity of the city of Fortaleza (and also the state), that its inhabitants are nicknamed Alencarinos. He eagerly discussed the origins of the people, languages and geographical names of the region. Most important in this context is the novel Iracema, with its renowned main character lending her name to several neighborhoods and inspiring statues around town.
In Brazil, Fortaleza is also known for its crop of comedians and the forró music and dance, all gaining popularity countrywide. The city is perhaps the most popular domestic package tour destination, and Europeans are following suit. Sadly, the latter comes with its share of holiday prostitution.
Several municipal tourist information offices around, the most convenient being at the airport, the Central Market and Beira Mar(Half way between McDonald's and the fish market).
The monthly listing Olheiro can befound in he receptions of most large hotels, or downloaded as .pdf .
There are two nice city beaches, Praia de Iracema and Meireles. Some people discourage bathing here, although they are mostly rated green by authorities . The whole stretch from the Ponte Metálica (aka Ponte Inglesa) pier to the fish market is paralleled by the Avenida Beira Mar, very nice for an evening stroll. A string of shacks line the beachfront, mostly good for drinking and people watching. Some of these, particularly when serving in the sand, have up to three different menus with varying prices. Sunbeds can be charged up to R$ 30 a day, although the real price is R$ 3-5. Unless otherwise stated, cross the street for food. The busiest strip (with the most expensive beer), including the bulk of beggars, prostitutes and vendors, is right in front of McDonald's, to avoid these go east of the market. A selection listed from west (Praia de Iracema) to east (Fish market):
- Babagula, more sandwiches, playground for children. Subway is cohabiting.
- Satéhut, Dutch run with some Indonesian on the menu. Clean toilet!
- Veraneio, the hedges protect you!
- Joca, Gay.
- Beira Mar Grill, decent food.
- Volta da Jurema, near Othon Palace. Nice sunset.
- G2, a notch cheaper than the rest.
The most attractive urban beach is Praia do Futuro, about 5 km (unsafe to walk) from Meireles. Windy, with rather strong currents and undertows, swimming can be a challenge, but for a dip it's fine. Some 150(!) beach shacks, here a selection from north (closest to Beira Mar) to south, with their special features:
- Marulhos. Reggae music and good food. Try the escondidinho.
- Croco Beach. Plenty gringos. "After Beach" with live music on Sundays, sunset to eightish, no forro! Taxi drivers get a R$ 2 commission for each head they land here, -get a discount on the fare!
- Sorriso do Sol. Reggae and cannabis.
- Vira Verão. Young Brazilian crowd. If you're lucky, you'll get a table.
- Vila Galé. Belongs to the hotel. Perhaps the neatest appearance, definitely the most expensive!
- Chico do Carangueijo. Clean, popular, good food, specializing in crab, sometimes live music.
- Côco Beach and Boa Vida. Mainly foreigners and their crew, live forro.
At the very end of Praia do Futuro its name changes to Caça e Pesca. Freshwater swimming in a strong current where the river Cocò meets the ocean.
There is good surfing on the beaches, and frequent competitions at Praia do Futuro.
- Chandler Surf, 411 Rua 24 de Maio, ☎ +55 85 8803-4487, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. is a surf school working at Meireles Wednesday - Sunday afternoons, R$ 17-35 an hour, including board rent.
- Aldeia Surf School, ☎ +55 85 9444-7496 / 8610-4092, e-mail: email@example.com. Offers surf lessons and surf trips every day of the week. Based at Hotel Vila Galé.
Kite and Wind Surfing
Good conditions most of the year, with winds up to 40 knots.
- Windzen, Praia do Futuro (Next to Vira Verao). Equipment (Naish dealer) and classes. Helpful with info about out-of-town spots.
A couple of motorized schooners and a catamaran do similar 2 hour cruises along the city beaches at R$ 30 per person, setting out daily at 10:00 and 16:00 from near the Iracema-statue, where they also have their ticket booths. The latter time is better, as you get the sunset. Bring swim-gear. Minimum of ten people required- often cancelled in the low season.
Another schooner takes you all the way to Cumbuco at 09:00, lands you for lunch and has buses you back to Fortaleza before 5 PM. R$ 130.
The nearest golf club is in neighbouring Iguape, some 30 minutes by car from Beira Mar.
Oba has the full programme for the city's cinemas.
- Shopping Aldeota  and Shopping Del Paseo  are walking distance from Beira Mar, along Av. Desembargador Moreira.
- The largest complex is at the Iguatemi-mall, with some 12 showrooms mostly displaying the latest fare from Hollywood.
- At Dragão do Mar there's a more alternative selection.
- Ceará Music. Brazilian rock, pop and techno during three days in October by the hotel Marina Park. About R$ 40 per night.
- Fortal. Fortaleza´s Salvador-style out-of-season carnival (allegedly the largest in Brazil) kicks off in a purpose-built area near Praia do Futuro. Direct buses from the Papicu terminal. Thursday - Saturday from dusk till dawn. End of July.
- Vida e Arte. A range of Brazilian music and other performances. January.
- Although carnival here is rather dull, the city's pré-carnaval is a major happening, all the way from New Year until the real thing starts in February or March. Several venues, the most accessible at Dragão do mar Saturdays from 3 PM.
- The local Gay Parade, officially named Parada pela Diversidade Sexual de Fortaleza, happens along Beira Mar on the last Sunday of June .
The best concentration of restaurants in town is found in the Varjota neighbourhood, especially along Rua Fredrico Borges and its side streets, starting some five blocks inland from Beira Mar.
Thursday is crab day in Fortaleza, especially in the many shacks at Praia do Futuro.
- For a cheap and good lunch, try Maciel Lanches at Av. Monsenhor Tabosa 1010, near the corner of Rua Ildefonso Albano, from 1045 AM to 145 PM. The normal mix of rice, beans, farofa and vegetables comes with some four different options, like chicken, fried or boiled beef, all fresh. At R$ 4 it includes a softdrink. Also has a few à la carte options and fresh juices.
- Naturalmente Jeri (In Windzen Naish kitesurf and windsurf store - Praia do Futuro near Barraca Vira Verão), ☎ +55 85 3262 0632. Lunch and Dinner. Specialties are crepes and Açaí, also sandwiches, fruit juices, and salads. Hang out for local windsurfers and kitesurfers, especially after beach. Crepes from R$9.
- La France, Rua Silva Jatahy 982, Meireles (Just off Av Desembargador Moreira, two blocks from Beira Mar), ☎ +55 85 3242 5095. Perhaps not authentic French, but a varied menu, including escargots, and a selection of wines. Dishes for 2 at R$ 40-60.
- Parque Recreio. Av. Rui Barbosa 2727. Open air restaurant with grilled meats, sea food and more.
Three options for a rodizio (grilled meats en masse, watch out for expensive drinks and desserts):
- Churrascaria Gheller, Av. Monsenhor Tabosa 825, corner of Antonio Augusto, Praia Iracema, ☎ +55 85 3219 3599. 13:00-late. This is arguably the best value rodizio in the tourist area. If you are not too hungry, you can also pay R$ 22 per kilo. Tuesdays and Saturdays there's a stand-up comedian at 21:00, adding R$ 10 per person to your bill. All you can eat R$ 20.
- Sal e Brasa, Av Abolição. All you can eat R$ 49.
- Boi Preto, Av Beira Mar. Is it worth it? All you can eat R$ 59.
The state of Ceará is renowned for its seafood. Near the fish market are a couple of restaurants:
- Alfredo do Peixe. Many dishes for two at around R$ 40, also meat..
- Hong Kong Arguably the best Sushi in Fortaleza. Also fried fish with stir fried vegetables, etc. Try the Barca - a 'boat' of fish with up to 50 pieces of your choice served on a bed of salad.
If you are a bit more courageous, buy your shrimp, lobster, squid, whatever straight from the stalls, and hit one of the nearby shacks to fry it for you. One kilo of mid-sized shrimps about R$ 15, R$ 3 for frying, -then plenty of beers!
There is bad, watery, plastic flavoured ice cream galore in Fortaleza, as elsewhere in Brazil. Try these for the real stuff:
- Sorveteria 50 Sabores, Several branches: At the fish market; At Nautico. R$5 for one scoop.
- Barbaresco, Several tiny branches around town.
If your accommodation has bad or no breakfast, most large hotels let you take part in theirs for about R$ 10-12.
Grab a chilled coconut from a stall at Beira Mar, starting at R$ 2,00!
Fortaleza is a forró-stronghold. Virtually any day of the week you can find a party with live music and this traditional dance, sometimes in quite modern variations (often referred to as forró universitário). On weekends you can choose from literally dozens of places. For a more genuine, tourist-free happening, you must move towards the outskirts of the city, paying up to R$ 30 by cab.
Traditionally, Fortaleza nightspots have their dedicated day of the week, like Pirata (below) on Mondays. So, when asking around for a place to go, always be specific on when.
For daytime drinking, which can be quite a party, specially on weekends, see the Beaches-section.
The downtown (Centro) area is surprisingly scarce on waterholes, which would be more than welcome after a hot afternoon's walking. An even more surprising exception is found in the recently (2010) refurbished park Passeio Público (officially Praça dos Mártires): A small kiosk with outdoor seating serving lunch and cold drinks. Daily until 5 PM.
- Internacional, Avenida Beira Mar 4456 (200 m from the fish market). Daily until midnight. With Belgian and Dutch owners Filip and Marco, has grown into a kind of ex-pats hangout, good food.
Free WiFi. Occasional live music.
- Mucuripe, ☎ +55 85 3254 3020. Travessa Maranguape, 108. Fanciest club in town, best on Fridays. Ticket normally R$ 25-30 (everyone pays "half-price", don´t be fooled by vendors on the street that claim that its R$ 50 inside.) Be aware that foreigners with Brazilian girlfriends often are turned back at the entrance. Enter separately.
- Forró do Pirata on Mondays (in high season also on Fridays) in Praia de Iracema. A crowd of happy tourists (many domestic) dances to forró and axé music. Overpriced at R$ 35. Most large hotels have discounted tickets for their guest (and occasionally others), -ask in the reception.
The largest concentration of watering holes, very practical if you want to hit and miss and don't have a car, is at Dragão do Mar, Praia de Iracema. This area features refurbished colonial buildings, loads of open air seating, live music (sometimes charged), and happy hour beer. Fridays and Saturdays the party is everywhere:
- Café Santa Clara, Excellent coffee, some extremely sweet varieties, good bites, and extreme air-conditioning in a pleasant, old-worldly setting. Slow service, though. Tue-Sun 3-10 PM.
- Armazem. 23-04. The biggest party in town on Wednesdays, when it attracts mostly foreign men and a fair share of working girls. Also opens on Saturdays with a more mixed crowd. Live forro on a big stage and a separate eurotechno-lounge. Entry R$ 20.
- Órbita. 20-04. Brazilian and international rock and pop cover bands. Later electronica DJs. Thursdays and Sundays(packs from 9 PM) good. Mostly well off students. Entry R$ 18-23 small beer R$ 4.
- Dona Santa. Gay, transvestite and more.
- Music Box. Gay
- Chope do Bexiga. Famous for its Chope de Vinho (Is it wine or beer after all?)
- Bueno Amici's. Informal, variety of styles, most famous for its Samba!! Entry R$ 10, small beer R$ 4.
- Acervo Imaginário, Avenida Pessoa Anta. Live music on weekends, dancing student crowd. Entry R$ 10, small beer R$ 4.
A smaller version of this can be found along Rua Norvinda Pires, and the neighbouring part of Rua Desembargador Leite Albuquerque, centering on the rock-bar Maria Bonita, pagode-neighbour Bebedouro and the more mixed style Fafi, plus a few more. Cobblestones calls for flat shoes! Thursday to Sunday.
Another area of interest is Varjota, inland from Mucuripe. Plenty of bars and restaurants. Take Rua Frei Mansueto from Beira Mar, 5-10 blocks.
- Arre Égua, Rua Delmiro Gouveia 420, Varjota. Tuesdays and Fridays from about 8 PM till late. Thoroughly decorated as a Ceará countryside joint, although the prices are nothing of the kind. Live classic forro. Good spot on Tuesdays. Mainly age 30+. Next door restaurant. Entry R$ 30.
Many of the shacks at Praia do Futuro host parties nighttime Thursday - Sunday.
- Biruta, Mostly electronica on Fridays.
Like it or not, Fortaleza has grown into the Brazilian gringo prostitution capital. (At least by repuatation. Rio arguably wins in absolute figures.) Many foreigners, especially Europeans, fly in on charters with this as the main attraction. Unfortunately, this affects other travelers, particularly single men. Many Brazilians, including otherwise sympathetic girls, will assume you are there for "business". The main concentration is at "Happy Street" (Rua dos Tremembés), Praia de Iracema, where the clubs Forró Mambo (R$ 20), Café del Mar (R$ 15) and their immediate neighbors serve overpriced drinks. A small group of young females sitting alone at a table along Beira Mar are more than likely to be pros. Any drinking spot that attracts foreigners, is bound to attract working girls, therefore some of them try to filter the entries, meaning that a foreign man can have trouble getting in with his Brazilian girl.
The state of Ceará has a large textile industry, and arguably the cheapest clothing in Brazil. Also the capital of hammocks, varieties of which can be found ranging from less than R$ 10 to more than R$ 100. Best place to buy is the range of small shops opposite the cathedral, city centre.
There are handicraft shops all around the city, but the best places to go are the Feirinha da Beira Mar (Beach front fair, daily about 4 PM - 10 PM) and the Mercado Central (Near the cathedral). These places have a large number of stalls and shops, and competition drives prices down.
- There is a very convenient Pão de Açucar round-the-clock supermarket by the intersection of Av. Abolição and Av. Desembargador Moreira. Although more expensive than most other shops, it has a good selection of groceries, including many imports, and also some fresh foods. Fresh sandwiches and pizzas until 8 PM.
- For a true abundance of fruits and vegetables, in addition to meat, fish and whatever else you could think of for your kitchen, visit Mercado São Sebastião, at the east end of Av. Bezerra de Menezes, 4 blocks south and 5 west of Praça José de Alencar in the centre. The earlier you arrive, the greater the variety.
- Sebo O Geraldo, Rua 24 de Maio 950, Centro (Three blocks south from Praça José de Alencar), ☎ +55 85 3226 2557. Behind a modest façade there is a vast selection of used books, including hundreds of titles in English (although much outdated) and a little something in many other languages. About R$ 5 for a paperback.
- Shopping Aldeota, Av. Dom Luiz, 500 (Praça Portugal, seven blocks from Beira Mar), ☎ 85 3458 1212. Has a cinema.
- Shopping Del Passeo, Av. Santos Dumont, 3131 – Aldeota (near Shopping Aldeota), ☎ 85 3456 5500. Has a cinema.
- Shopping Iguatemi, Av. Washington Soares, 85 - Água Fria, ☎ 85 3477 3560. The largest mall in Fortaleza and one of the best. Everything from C&A, to Zoompe and Lacoste. A huge 24-hour supermarket, large food court and the biggest cinema in town.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Fortaleza on Wikivoyage.