Belem City Guide
One of Belem's most attractive aspects is its location at the mouth of the Amazon River. It makes an ideal launching point for boat journeys into the Amazon, yet it also provides close access to coastal destinations. With Belem's bohemian coffee shops, fragrant mango trees, and bustling marketplaces, you may just want to stay in town for the duration of your visit. ¶ As the capital of the state of Para in northern Brazil, Belem is a thriving urban centre. It was first established in 1616, and you'll see the crumbling grandeur of its original colonial architecture next door to modern office buildings. A Belem city guide will mention the majestic Cathedral of Se and the modern Convention and Fair Centre of the Amazon. Residents gather under the greenery of Belem's central park on weekends, when the city comes alive with music performances, outdoor theatre, and vendors selling street snacks.
Things to do in Belem
One of the first things to do in Belem is visit the Estacao das Docas by the riverfront. Here, you'll find renovated warehouses which have been transformed into colourful restaurants, bars, shops, and theatres, along with splendid views of the river and historical displays. Travel down the bustling waterfront to the Mercado Ver-o-Peso, notable for its turrets and overwhelming displays of live animals, tropical fruits, and medicinal herbs. There are plentiful fine art museums in Belem, but one of the finest is the Museu de Arte de Belem with its contemporary oil paintings and antiques. This is housed in the elaborately decorated Palacio Antonio Lemos, which dates back to the rubber boom and features sleek wooden floors that you must wear slippers to walk on.
Things to see in Belem
Catch a glimpse of Belem's beginnings by visiting the Museu de Arte Sacra, which is comprised of the Bishop's Palace and Santo Alexandre Church. This was Belem's first church, dating back to the 17th century. It still retains its original plaster and cedar detailing, providing insight into how this riverfront city must have looked when it was founded. Another example of intriguing things to see in Belem is the Basilica Santuario de Nazare, with its sooth marble columns, deep stained wood, ornate tile work, and abundance of stained glass. You can glimpse wildlife in the city's Bosque Rodrigues Alves, with its shady pathways and animal enclosures hosting jungle cats and colourful birds. With a small castle on the grounds, this is particularly popular with families.
The main airport serving Belem is Belem/Val de Cans–Julio Cezar Ribeiro International Airport. It links Belem with both regional and international destinations. You can also get to Belem by bus. There's a large bus terminal in the eastern part of the city providing coach links to the rest of Brazil. Boat passengers enter Belem at the passenger terminal at the northern end of the docks. Many of these boats offer leisurely cruises down the Amazon, with accommodations ranging from hammocks to air conditioned cabins. For local Belem transport, many residents travel by bus or the more informal mini buses.
Like the rest of Brazil, festivals play an important role in the culture of Belem. The city bursts to life during the Cirio de Nazare celebrations in October, which is the largest religious festival in Brazil. The celebrations last for 15 days, involving processions, music, and dancing. The Easter carnival and Semana Santa are also important religious Belem events that are celebrated with jubilance, including fireworks, children's pageants and Catholic services to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Raveland is a lively music festival that brings popular local electronic acts and DJ's to the city, and residents dance the night away.
Restaurants in Belem
At the mouth of the Amazon, the city's culture draws in Indian influences and this is reflected in the cuisine. Typical dishes include duck cooked in yucca juice, or the creamy dish called "Vatapa," which combines exotic spices such as ginger and allspice with peanuts, bread crumbs, and coconut milk. ¶ Some of the best places to try these traditional dishes are at the restaurants in Belem at Estacao das Docas, or in the renovated docks near the Mercado Ver o Peso. Here you can see fresh ingredients from the market transformed before your very eyes in the waterfront cafes.