[from our special guest Daniel]
Belém do Pará is the capital of the state of Pará, in the north of Brazil, near the mouth of the mighty Amazon. It is known as the “metropolis of the Amazon” and it has accumulated a rich history since its foundation 400 years ago. During the rubber fever it became the first Latin American city to have electricity, and its splendour was such that it was known as the “Paris of the tropics”. This rich historical heritage, combined with the native Indian and African influences, have resulted in a very interesting city surrounded by lush jungle.
WE LIKE THE MOST: Its food. The sunset seen over the river. The parts of the city that are being restored. The recovery of the riverfront.
WE LIKE THE LEAST: Dirt and a certain state of neglect that resemble dangerously New Delhi. The Mangal das Garças, and its faded scarlet ibis and its fridge for butterflies. The lack of interest on tourism shown by the authorities. The chaotic traffic.
HOW TO GET THERE: We do not advice driving to Belém. It is connected by air to plenty of other Brazilian cities. The Amazon river can be used too, from Manaus or Santarém.
CAREFUL WITH: The chuva da tarde (afternoon rain); every day at three o’clock there is a heavy and brief dowpour. Do stay indoors while it lasts. As in any other major Brazilian city, pay special attention to your personal safety. In the area around the Ver-O-Peso market there are pickpockets operating.
FAVOURITE PLACES: The Bosque Rodrigues Alves and the Jardim Zoobotánico Emilio Goeldi. Complexo Feliz Lusitania. Ver-O-Peso Market. Estação das Docas. The Praça da República on a Sunday morning. Icoarací.
PIECE OF ADVICE:
- the restaurants in the Ver-O-Peso market are an unforgettable and really cheap experience.
- açai is the staple diet of Belém. Although it has become fashionable in the rest of the country, what you find in other regions of Brazil is a substitute. In Belém açai is eaten pure, usually really thick, with no other accompaniment than manioc flour. If you find it too bitter you can add sugar to it.
- the worst time of the year to visit Belém goes from December to May, when it can rain non-stop all day long.
- even though most of the Historic Centre is in a state of neglect, it is worth walking from rua Siqueira Mendes to Praça do Carmo, always paying attention to your own safety.
- your gastronomic taste of Belém should include the jambú pizza from the Café Imaginario, any ice-cream from the Cairú ice-cream parlours and an Amazon fish at the Remanso do Peixe.
- the best place to buy marajoara ceramics is Icoarací. If you are looking for something more sophisticated, a good place in terms of creativity and variety is the Polo Joalheiro Sâo José Liberto.
- Icoarací also has a riverfront with lots of bars. It’s a good and traditional alternative to the interesting Estação das Docas in Belém itself.
- Cotijuba and Mosqueiro are islands that can be easily reached from Belém and that will allow you a close contact with the Amazon jungle. You will also be able to enjoy a river beach with waves!
WEATHER FORECAST: The weather in Belém for the next 10 days
[Don’t forget to check out the list of other destinations already covered in this blog, here]