Belém, located near the mouth of the Amazon River in northern Brazil, is the capital and largest city of the state of Pará.
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 Castelo", at the banks the Pará river. Belém is, in a way, a synthesis of the culture and the history of Pará and the Amazon.
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.
Brasília - 2140 km
São Paulo - 2970 km
Rio de Janeiro - 3450 km
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.
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 and Macapá. Bus Pratinhas to/from Presidente Vargas, and Marex to/from Prça da República. Taxi to center R$ 20-30 (negotiate!).
Passenger terminal at the north end of the docks. Many daily boats to nearby islands, including twice to Ilha do Marajó. Also to Macapá, Santarém and Manaus, with connections further north and west.
For a Brazilian city its size, Belém suffers from a complete lack of urban bus terminals. The number of buses passing Avenida Presidente Vargas is nothing short of astonishing, and you can get virtualy anywhere within Greater Belém from here. The challenge lies in finding the right bus, and also getting onboard, as it will stop anywhere on a stretch of some 2-300 metres, or atempt 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.
If you for some strange reason find yourself in possesion of a bike while in town, there are actually a great number of cycle lanes along the main avenues.
Although central Belém looks quite unappealing upon first sight, there is a vast number of well preserved colonial buildings within the city limits, especially those that house official bodies. Belém has many attraction, here are some of many attractions the city offers.
Mangal das Garças - the region's vegetation, animals and food can be appreciated in this large park just off the city centre
Estação das Docas (Station of the docks)
Complexo Feliz Lusitânia (Complex Happy Lusitania)
Casa das Onze Janelas (Eleven House of Windows)
Mercado Ver-o-Peso (See-the-Weight Market) - a large and lively traditional market set in a respectable historic building, trades regional items and offers a good taste of the local culture.
Mercado Ver-o-Rio (See-the-River)
Forte do Castelo
Praça Batista Campos (Batista Campos Square)
Museu de Artes de Belém (Belém Arts Museum)
Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi (Emílio Goeldi Museum)
Praça da República (Republica Square)
Teatro da Paz (Theater of Peace), Tue - Fri 9 AM - 5 PM, Sat - 2 PM, Praça da República, Rivals the Manaus opera house as a symbol of the rubber boom's riches. Guided tours every hour on the hour last 30 minutes.
Parque da Residência (Park's Residence)
Bosque Rodrigues Alves (Botanical Garden Bosque Rodrigues Alves)
Many of the city's highlights can be taken in with a walk down the shoreline, 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.
Belém has a range of regional specialties. See Pará for the full menu.
Regional Ice Creams: made with fruits like Açaí, Cupuaçú, Taperebá, Bacurí, Graviola, etc. Best ice cream maker is Sorveteria Cairú, several branches around town, including at Docas (Station of the docks).
Tacacá: a delicious soup made with shrimp, tucupi (a broth made with wild cassava) and jambu (Acmella oleracea). It must be served extremely hot in a cuia and it can be served with pepper or not.
Caldeirada Paraense: is made with fish, srhimp, eggs, onion, potatoes, tomatoes, red pepper, tucupi and jambu. It must be served hot with rice and pirão.
Maniçoba: is made with leaves of Manihot, salted pork, dried meat and some smoked ingredients, such as bacon.
Pato no Tucupi: is made with duck (pato), jambu and tucupi, the same liquid used to prepare Tacacá. People eat this food with rice and pepper.
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.
Botequin, Some 3 km South from Praça da Republica, Live music and DJs, good on Wednesdays
Açaí Biruta, By the bay, next to the cathedral, Mostly reggea, some rock. Beached boat built in, hammocks. Good on Sundays.
Mormaço, By the Mangal You should try the genuine beer from Pará, which is called CERPA and can be easily found.
There are two main areas for accommodation, both featuring the full range:
On and around Avenida Presidente Vargas on the very edge of the commercial center, and also close to many sights, but rather seedy and not too safe in its smaller alleys at night.
The area around the bus terminal and São Bráz, somewhat easier going.
Hotel Ver O Peso, opposite of ver o peso market, Terasse with view of Market and Amazon River.
Three places within 50 meters of each other at Travessa Frutuoso Guimarães, some three blocks inland from the Docas.
Fortaleza, Kitchen and laundry, popular among backpackers, friendly and funny owner/manager speaks French, virtually no sound barriers between rooms. Basic.
Hotel Palácio, High ceilings, restaurant for cheap lunch.
Vitória Régia, Basic Just down the street is the nicer
Belém is still a quiet town, although some say that it is sailing up as one of the most risky Brazilian cities (August 2007). Even at daytime you should not wander too far off, especially not in deserted streets. Always ask at your hotel for safe areas.
Ilha do Mosqueiro is the closest beach area from Belém, some 80 km away. Buses at least every half hour from the bus statioin. Boats on weekends and high season.
Icoaraci some 25 km north of the centre offers a pleasant bayside walk with quite a few bars and restaurants. Car ferry for Ilha do Marajó leaves from here. Local buses from downtown.
Crispim is possible a day trip.
Santarém (Brazil) two hours from Belém, by plane.
Brasília three hours from Belém, by plane.
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