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Natal, the capital of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, is a city on the Atlantic coast. Natal has some great beaches, historical sites, and nature areas, and it is a frequently used base for exploring the paradisiac beaches and nature of the Rio Grande do Norte state.
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Points of Interest in Natal
- Forte dos Reis Magos (Fortaleza dos Reis Magos), Avenida Presidente Café Filho, s/n, Praia do Forte (next to Ponte Newton Navarro), ☎ 84 3202-2006. everyday, 08-16. The star-shaped fortress is the oldest and most important historical construction of Natal. It was built in 1598 to protect the coast against French pirates, and during the colonial period it was perhaps the most important of Brazil's defense barriers. It is located in the water, accessible using a pedestrian path from Praia do Forte. For about 300 years, it worked as military quarters, administration office and prision, and it was also for some time under Dutch control. The name of the fortress is due to the statues of the Biblical Magi in the entrance. R$ 3.
- Ponte Newton Navarro (Ponte de Todos). The imponent bridge over the Potengi river, with 1.8 km length and up to 100 meters high, links the North and East parts of the city and is a sight to not be missed. It can be observed from Forte or Redinha beaches.
- Parque das Dunas, Av. Alm. Alexandrino de Alencar, s/n, Tirol. 84 201-3985. An 11.7 million square meters nature reserve located next to the coast, dividing the East and South parts of the city, and famous for its sandy dunes. In the entrance of the park is Bosque dos Namorados, with various recreational facilities and orientation on exploring the rest of the park.
- Parque da Cidade (Parque da Cidade Dom Nivaldo Monte), Av. Omar O’ Grady, s/n, Candelária. A 640,000 square meters nature reserve located between the South and West parts of the city. The main sight is the "eye-shaped" tower designed by the premium architect Oscar Niemeyer.
Natal's Historic Center is located at the Cidade Alta e Ribeira neighborhoods, including also some buildings of Tirol e Petrópolis. It was declared a national heritage site in 2010. Although the city dates from 1599, most of the historical buildings were constructed in the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, in different styles including colonial, neoclassic, art-déco and modern.
- Memorial Câmara Cascudo, Praça André de Albuquerque, 30, Cidade Alta, ☎ 84 3211 8404. tue-sun 08:30-18. The memorial, built in 1875 in neoclassic styles, is about the life and work of Luis da Câmara Cascudo, Rio Grande do Norte's most famous anthropologist and folklorist who lived between 1898-1986. free.
- Igreja de Santo Antônio (Igreja do Galo), Rua Santo Antônio, 683 - Cidade Alta, ☎ 84 3211 4236. mon-fri, 08-16, sat, 08-14. Church in baroque style built in 1976. The metallic bird on its tower gives the church the nickname "Igreja do Galo". Contains a museum with religious artwork.
- Teatro Alberto Maranhão, Praça Augusto Severo, s/n, Ribeira, ☎ 84 3222-3669. The biggest and oldest theatre of the city, built in 1898 in French style.
- Solar Bela Vista, Av. Junqueira Alves, nº 417, Cidade Alta, ☎ 84 3212-1904. Palace built in 1907 as a residence, which would later become one of the most luxurious hotels of the city. Now it is a cultural center.
- Palácio Felipe Camarão, Rua Ulisses Caldas, 81 - Cidade Alta. City hall of Natal, built in 1922 in ecletic style.
- Rua Chile, Ribeira. Historical street with houses from the XIX century. Contains one of the former palaces of the state government. Nowadays contains restaurants, museums, clubs and cultural centers.
- Centro de Turismo de Natal, Rua Aderbal Figueiredo, 1980, Petrópolis, ☎ 84 3211-6218. everyday, 09-19. Built in XIX, it was first an orphanage and later a public prision. Now it contains about 40 shops specialized in local handcrafts, plus an art gallery, a club and a restaurant.
As in the most of Brazil, in Natal's urban beaches you may use the chairs and tables provided by kiosks. It may be free as long as you consume, or you may be charge a small fee (like R$ 5). This can be negotiated up front.
- Ponta Negra (accessible from Av. Eng. Roberto Freire). The favorite beach of tourists and wealthier locals. Excellent water quality and infrastructure, with many restaurants and utility shops in the beach front. Contains Morro do Careca, the tallest sand dune of Natal and one of the city's most famous landmarks.
- Via Costeira (accessible from the freeway of same name, or walk from Ponta Negra beach). Consists of 10 km of beaches located on the east side of Parque das Dunas, linking the South and East parts of the city. It is contiguous with Ponta Negra beach, so you can just walk from one beach to another. Contains no infrastructure other than a university and some luxurious hotels. For that the reason, the beach is always almost empty.
- Areia Preta, Av. Gov. Silvio Pedrosa. Beach in the East region with darker sands. The buildings in the beach front cast shadows on part of it during the afternoon.
- Praia dos Artistas, Av. Pres. Café Filho. Beach in the East region. Former glamorous beach that is nowadays more popular among locals. Contains, however, decent tourist infrastructure, including hotels, bars, and restaurants. May be preferable for lodging if you want to stay closer to the Historical Center.
- Praia do Meio, Av. Pres. Café Filho. Contiguous with Praia dos Artistas, and sharing similar characteristics with it.
- Praia do Forte, Av. Praia do Forte. Contiguous with Praia do Meio, and where Forte dos Reis Magos is located. Also has a view of Ponte de Todos. The beach does not have almost any infrastructure, however, and will usually be almost empty.
- Redinha (accessible from Av. Dr. João Medeiros Filho). The only beach in the North region. Mostly frequented by locals, and known for the cheap food. The beach has also a platform that goes to the sea, and by walking to the tip of the platform, you can have a wonderful view of Ponte de Todos and the rest of the city.
Natal was founded in 25 december 1599, hence its name (Natal means Christmas in Portuguese). Unlike other Northeastern capitals, it did not quite benefit from the economic boom resulting from the region's sugar cane production. Instead it grew moderately and more organizedly, burgeoning on the state's cattle-raising activities and salt and oil extraction.
Nowadays Natal is one of the 8 most visited cities of Brazil. Unlike other large cities of the Northeast of Brazil, like Recife or Salvador, Natal does not have a fascinating Historical Center or a vivid nightlife. In contrast, it is regarded as being significantly calmer and safer than other large cities in the region, and as having a superior quality of life. Many rich Brazilians and foreigners alike have summer houses in the city.
One of the primary reasons to visit Natal is to use it as a base to explore the wonderful state of Rio Grande do Norte, including beaches like Pipa, Baía Formosa, Barra do Cunhaú and Genipabu, and lakes like Carcará and Coca-Cola (See [#Go next]). The city has many lodging options and a couple of good and reasonably priced restaurants.
- Hire a buggy with a driver and travel along the coast, both North and Southwards. The coast of the State of Rio Grande do Norte affords a rare combination of dunes, lagoons, sandstone cliffs and vegetation in between.
- Watch the sunset by Potengi River. A good spot is near the Army base and there are some ships on the river.
- The To a Toa Boat Cruise at the Potengi river to watch the sunset. You will see the city from different angles, pass through historical places and neighborhoods, mangrooves, river beaches. Recorded guiding in English and Portuguese.
- Forró com Turista, Rua Aderbal Figueiredo, 1980, Petrópolis (at Centro de Turismo), ☎ 84 3211-6218. thu. A weekly party that happens every thursday at the old prision (Centro do Turismo), and also every tuesday during january. It is especially geared towards tourists and there you can learn to dance forró, one of the most popular musical styles from the Northeast of Brazil.
- Genipabu - Dunes, fresh water lagoons and dune buggy rides.
Plenty of seafood restaurants with outdoor seating can be found along the beaches.
- Abade. Once voted the best restaurant in town.
- Pizza - If you like pizza, there are three main pizzerias that offer a fixed price menu (about R$15) and you can eat all that you want. "Bella Natal" can be found in "Cidade Jardim" shopping center, and "Vila Mangiare" and "Cantina La Nonna" can be found on Salgado Filho avenue.
- Beach food The most typical beach food is "ginga com tapioca" and the best is served at Redinha market (don´t go there on sundays it´s very crowded).
- Camarões, Av. Eng. Roberto Freire 2610, Ponta Negra, Natal. Excellent restaurant specialized in shrimp dishes. The only drawback is the long line of people waiting for a table from around 6:30PM to 9PM. Has 3 other branches in Natal.
- A Cantina da Praia, Ponta Negra beachfront (By Quisque 06). Lunch and dinner all you can eat with a view. 12 reais.
- O Boiadeiro, Ponta Negra beachfront (By quisque 04). Lunch and dinner. Thick steaks at around 30 reais.
Ponta Negra nightlife has concentrated along Rua Dr. Manoel Arauju, aso known as Rua da Salsa, a few blocks inland from the beach at kiosk 11. A significant amount of holiday prostitutes blend in. Near the city center is the Ribeira district with quite a few options. A nighttime cab to Ponta Negra runs close to R$ 50. Buses 46 and 54 do the stretch in about 45 minutes.
- Buraco da Catita, Rua Câmara Cascudo, Ribeira (Near the Rodoviaria Velha). Wed - Sat 7 PM - midnight. Live music most nights.
- Alecrim neighborhood (Near Alecrim train station). Alecrim, in the East side, is the main center of popular street in Natal, where no less than 40% of the shops in the city are located. It is hosts the city's most traditional farmer's market, that happens every saturday, from 06 to 15, in the crossing of Coronel Estevam and Presidente Quaresma, gathering more than 400 sellers.
- Midway Mall, Avenida Bernardo Vieira, 3.775, Tirol. By far the largest shopping mall of the city, containing 270 shops, 7 cinema rooms, 4 gourmet restaurants and one theater.
- Praia Shopping, Av. Engenheiro Roberto Freire, 8790, Ponta Negra (At Southeast side of Parque das Dunas). Shopping mall with about 100 shops, with the obvious advantage of being located at Ponta Negra, where most visitors stay. It is about 750 m from the beach, but since it is in the extreme north of Ponta Negra, it may not be so close to where you are staying.
- Shopping de Artesanato Potiguar, Av Eng Roberto Freire, 8000, Ponta Negra, ☎ 84 3219-3207. A commercial center with about 164 shops, most selling local handcraft. It is just next to Praia Shopping.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Natal on Wikivoyage.