Recife, the capital of Pernambuco, is one of the largest and most important cities on the northeastern coast of Brazil. This lively capital, originally founded by Dutch colonizers, is brimming with a vibrant culture, an interesting old town (which includes the oldest synagogue in the Americas) and some nice beaches.
Recife is located on the Atlantic coast, at the mouth of the Capibaribe, Beberibe and Jordão Rivers, close to the eastern most point of the Americas.
The climate is tropical, with two main seasons: dry (September-March) and rainy (April-August). Average annual temperature is 78.8 degrees Fahrenheit, with limited variation.
The city, which is only two meters above the sea level (some parts are below the sea level), is distributed across rivers, canals and islands. Due to the prevalence of waterways in its geography, Recife is known as the Brazilian Venice. Its 1.5 million inhabitants (3.5 million in the Grande Recife) are called recifenses. Services are the base of the economy. Despite the high incidence of poverty, the municipal Human Development Index (HDI) in 2000 (0.810) was above Brazil's national average (0.800). Recife is famous for its beaches, history, Carnaval, arts and cuisine.
The city can be roughly divided in four major areas: (1) Centro (Downtown), (2) Zona Sul (Southern Zone), (3) Zona Oeste (Western Zone), and (4) Zona Norte (Northern Zone).
- The Centro is composed of the neighborhoods of Recife Antigo (Old Recife), Santo Antônio, São José, Santo Amaro and Boa Vista, which are scattered through a couple of islands and part of the mainland. They are connected to each other by a series of bridges over the Capibaribe River. The Centro contains most of the historic and government buildings in the city. The port, located in Recife Antigo, was once the most active in all of the Americas.
- Zona Sul is the most modern and touristic part of the city, as it was built around the beautiful natural reef beaches that gave the city its name (recife is Portuguese for reef). This area is were most hotels and restaurants are located, as well as the airport and the largest shopping mall. Its most important neighborhood is Boa Viagem, set along the beautiful Boa Viagem beach.
- Zona Oeste is by far the greenest part of the city. It contains remnants of the Atlantic Forest that once covered most of the Brazilian eastern coast. It contains two famous museums (Instituto Ricardo Brennand and Museu-Oficina Francisco Brennand), as well as the Federal University of Pernambuco.
- Zona Norte is mostly a residential area. Throughout the centuries, the neighborhoods along the Capibaribe River were home to the local aristocracy. It contains the city's best schools and hospitals, and is also famous for its parks and bars.
The term Grande Recife is used to describe the Metropolitan Region of Recife, the fifth largest urban agglomeration in Brazil (after Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeio Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre) and the single largest in the Northeast. Grande Recife offers superb touristic attractions both in Recife proper and outside the city limits. Do not miss Olinda or Porto de Galinhas. The first is famous for its natural setting, colonial architecture and carnaval, while the second has been consistently voted the best beach in Brazil. Cabo de Santo Agostinho, Itamaraca Island and Igarassu are known for their beautiful beaches and important historical monuments.
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