Brazil’s fifth largest city lies in the northeast of the country and travellers are drawn to the superb beaches, lively party atmosphere and intriguing cultural sights. After all ‘Fortaleza’ means ‘fortress’ in Portuguese and this vibrant city boasts plenty of cultural spots from forts, museums and sprawling parks.
Beaches and more beaches
Play time in Fortaleza is very much focussed around the glorious stretches of urban beaches that dominate a 34km stretch along Brazil’s Ceará state. And the most popular beachside hangout is undoubtedly the Praia do Futuro, Future Beach, where sunworshippers and watersports enthusiasts alike congregate on the 8km long beach which is lined with swaying palm trees and a promenade studded with barracas (stalls) which serve up fresh local food. Try surfing and kitesurfing against the challenging ocean waves, or take it all in onboard a schooner cruise. Shop and tan on the Meireles beach (pictured above) which features the local Feirinha de Artesanato (Handicraft Fair). To immerse yourself in the fabled Fortaleza party scene head to buzzing Iracema at sun set. Talking of which, the most impressive sun set can be seen at the Ponte dos Ingleses headland.
Discover the local heritage
Fortaleza has been controlled by both the Dutch and Portuguese in its time, resulting in an intriguing legacy evident within the local architecture, museums and landmarks.
The French designed Gothic-Roman Fortaleza Cathedral (pictured above) is the third largest church in Brazil – able to seat 5,000 people - and after 40 years of construction, finally opened in 1978.
Don’t miss a stop at the birthplace of the city; Fortaleza de Nossa Senhora de Assunção (Fort of Our Lady of the Rising) which was built by the Dutch in 1649 and originally named Fort Schoonenborch, before the Portuguese arrive and changed the name.
And include a visit to the enigmatic Old Iracema Statue on the city’s Volta da Jurema, which represents the traditional face of Fortaleza. The well-known Brazilian novelist José de Alencar penned the novel ‘Iracema’ about the Portuguese explorer Martim Soares Moreno and his wife Iracema, whose name is given to the statute and to the beach (see above).
Shop ‘til you drop
Check out the lively Feirinha da Beira Mar market which sells an impressive array of items produced by craftsmen from Ceará state. In all some 600 stalls ply their trade along the promenade. Snap up some local clothing and accessories rafted from lace and leather.
If you prefer boutique shopping, head to the beating heart of the city at Praça do Ferreira which is lined with impressive historical buildings. This bustling area is packed with shopping opportunities, from independent shops, to larger scale malls.
Check out the nightlife
As well as a diverse range of restaurants, bars and nightclubs, Fortaleza is also known as being the comedy capital of Brazil. Impromptu comedy routines are performed at the local theatres and even beach huts! Music also dominates this part of the country with forro pe music shows popular locally.
Eat ‘til you burst
Serious foodies should head to Fortaleza’s Varjota district, which is diminutive in size but packs an almighty punch bar and restaurant wise! In fact there are more eateries here per square km than the rest of the city. As you’d expect there is a diverse choice of cuisine with Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Arab and Japanese all amply represented. Stay after dark and soak up the nightlife which revolves around the bars and nightclubs.
Learn a little at Fortaleza’s Museums
Stop by the Dragão do Mar cultural center which is home to an interesting art museum, as well as a library and a cinema. Explore the Museu de Arte e Cultura Popular which is housed within a disused prison and features excellent exhibits of folk art, traditional boats and Brazilian relics. Make your last stop at the Cachaca Museum, about 30km outside of the city, to learn how this 17th liquor is produced to a time-honoured recipe.
Football in Fortaleza
World Cup fever is already building as Fortaleza is one of the 12 host cities. The newly refurbished Estadio Castelao Stadium will host key matches. This stadium is home to the two local teams, Fortaleza Esporte Clube and Ceara Sporting Club.
Image credits; 1; Ricαrdo CC-A-2.0, 2; JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MD CC-ASA-3.0