Belém

Belém, located near the mouth of the Amazon River in northern Brazil, is the capital and largest city of the state of Pará.

Understand

Belém is on the banks of the Bay of Guajará, which is formed by a set of islands and river mouths on the estuary of the Amazon river. Its river port helps putting into motion the Northern region of Brazil.

The city was established in 1616, after the construction of "Forte do Presépio", today "Forte do Castelo", on the banks the Pará river. Belém is, in a way, a synthesis of the culture and the history of Pará and the Amazon with native Indian influence in the food and culture. It became an extremely wealthy city with the Rubber Boom at the end of the 19th century and many beautiful colonial buildings from this era are still visible.

Every year, in the second Sunday of October, it is celebrated in Belém, one of the largest catholic procession of the world, Círio de Nazaré.

Get in

By bus

Huge bus terminal a few kilometers east of the center. Many local buses pass here. It is possible to travel by air-conditioned coach to Belém from most major points in Brazil. However, due to its relative isolation, travel times can be quite lengthy (Example 27 hours to Fortaleza) - especially from the south.

By plane

There are regular international flights linking Belém to Cayenne, Georgetown, Paramaribo and Miami, and many direct domestic flights linking Belém to Brasilia, Fortaleza, Manaus, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Macapá. Bus Pratinhas to/from Presidente Vargas, and Marex to/from Prça da República. Taxi to center R$20–30 (negotiate!).

By boat

Passenger terminal at the north end of the docks. Many daily boats to nearby islands, including twice to Rio Branco. Also to Macapá, Santarém Belem and Manaus, with connections further north and west. Locals sling hammocks to sleep but air conditioned cabins are available on the larger boats. This is a great way to travel see (and hear) the river, and meet people. Beware, as soon as you leave the boat you will be greated by friendly taxi drivers who'll offer you a flat price for the way to your accommodation - their friendly offer is 2 to 3 times the regular fare. Just get out on the street and hail a taxi there.

Get around

By bus

There is one major long distance coach terminal at São Braz. There are many local busses travelling all over the city at often exhilirating and reckless speeds. The number of buses passing Avenida Presidente Vargas is nothing short of astonishing, and you can get virtually anywhere within Greater Belém from here. The challenge lies in finding the right bus, and also getting on board, as it will stop anywhere on a stretch of some 2–300 metres, or attempt to pass straight. Do as the locals: Wave and run for it!

Another transport "hub" is in front of the bus terminal, next to São Bráz, only slightly less chaotic.

Most buses run until about 11PM, but minibuses go virtually around the clock on major roads.

By taxi

There are many taxis in the city. Many taxi drivers are willing to negotiate a fair flat-rate price based on where you want to go. The taxi fares are far more expensive than the bus fares but if you need to get somewhere fast without waiting or dealing with packed busses, it's a good option.

By bicycle

If you for some strange reason find yourself in possession of a bike while in town, there are actually a great number of cycle lanes along the main avenues.

See

Fishing port and market-hall Ver-o-Peso seem from Forte do Castelo

Belém is a lively and friendly city but it can look quite unappealing at first sight. There are a lot of modern high rises, but between them particularly in Cidade Velha and Campinas there are a vast number of well preserved colonial buildings, from the rubber boom and earlier. Many of the grander ones now house official bodies and there has been a recent drive to preserve them. Belém has many attraction, here are some of many attractions the city offers.

Do

Many of the city's highlights can be taken in with a walk along the rivers edge, starting with the docks and continuing to the old fort. Numerous old churches along the way are worth a look, and the bustling market life is not to be missed.

Eat

Belém has a range of regional specialties. See Pará for the full menu.

Caldeirada Paraense
Maniçoba

Budget

Splurge

Drink

The refurbished warehouses by the riverside, Estação das Docas (or simply Docas) offer a number of outside tables, and fairly expensive menus. Amazon beer has an in-house brewery and on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights offers an all you can drink and eat special for R$36.

You should try the genuine beer from Pará, which is called CERPA and can be easily found.

Sleep

There are two main areas for accommodation, both featuring the full range:

Budget

Three places within 50 meters of each other at Travessa Frutuoso Guimarães, some three blocks inland from the Docas.

Just down the street is the nicer

Stay safe

Belém is now a large city, take care when walking after nightfall along Presidente Vargas and the back streets that lead off from it. Although no worse (and perhaps better) than other Brazilian cities there is still a lot of poverty so try not to have jewellery or cameras on show when walking around. The city is generally safe and friendly during daytime. Estacao das Docas is always a safe if rather touristy option. The Umarizal area has up market local bars and restaurants. Avenida Joao Paulo Segundo (previously called Avenida Premeiro de Dezembro) has some more "down to earth" and very local bars. Generally there is a lot of night life Thursday, Friday and Saturday ask for advice. Although worth a visit try and avoid Estacao da Docas which is really only for tourists.

Go next

Ilha de Mosqueiro (Mosqueiro Island)
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