Fortaleza is often called Brazil's "Brazilian Miami." The capital of Ceara state boasts an array of beaches, a cosmopolitan nightlife and a vibrant tourism scene.
Away from the beachfront, you can explore Fortaleza's old world charm at the Jose de Alencar Theatre and the Metropolitan Cathedral. You can also visit the Mercado Central, which is filled with local crafts and souvenirs.
1. Visit the Metropolitan Cathedral
If you’re a history buff, you’ll love a visit to the Metropolitan Cathedral. This neo-Gothic church has a history going back as far as the late 16th century and is the third largest in Brazil.
It’s also worth a trip to the Mercado Central, which specialises in handmade goods from Ceara and is one of the best places to pick up locally made souvenirs. This market houses dozens of shops selling everything from woven hammocks to clay sculptures and embroidered white lace textiles.
The Jose de Alencar Theatre, built in Art Nouveau style, is another must see in Fortaleza. This historic building is a landmark in the city and features colourful stained glass windows.
2. Visit the Mercado Central
The Mercado Central is an excellent place to buy souvenirs and gifts. With over 500 stores you’ll have plenty to choose from.
The city also has a bustling arts scene and coastal-inspired gastronomy. Try a crab dish at one of the many restaurants on Praia do Futuro or sample local fish and seafood at Mucuripe Beach.
If you’re a foodie, Fortaleza is the place to go. The restaurants are surprisingly good and the food is fresh and cheap.
3. Go to the beach
Fortaleza is a popular vacation destination for Brazilians and international travellers alike, offering superb beaches, exuberant nightlife and fascinating cultural sights in the capital of Ceara. With around 15 different beaches, the city boasts 300 days of sunshine per year and plenty of things to do both day and night!
Amongst the most famous beaches in Fortaleza are Praia do Futuro, Iracema Beach and Meireles Beach. They are favourites amongst both holidaying Brazilians and European tourists, who come here to sunbathe and take part in water sports such as stand-up paddle boarding or fly-boarding.
Fortaleza's beaches are also great places to go for a bite to eat, as you can sample fresh seafood that is caught right on the beach. Try 'Crab Thursday' at a local fisherman's 'barraca' or dine at one of the chic beach-front restaurants that overlook the sea.
4. Try some seafood
You'll find plenty of restaurants serving delicious seafood in Fortaleza. Start at Mucuripe Beach, where you can watch jangadas (old sailboats) as they bring in the daily catch.
When it's time for a meal, head to Rua das Tabajaras and its cross streets, which are lined with restaurants and patios. Many of the establishments sacrifice quality for high turnover, but with a bit of discernment you can eat well in Fortaleza.
Other neighborhoods to explore include Varjota, which has a lively dining scene that is mostly frequented by locals, and Aldeota, where you can dine at a range of refurbished warehouses and repurposed warehouse spaces. In addition to traditional cuisine, you'll also find a variety of international options.
5. Watch the sunset
Whether you're a local or visiting Fortaleza for the first time, one of the best things to do is watch the sunset. There are plenty of different ways to do this, from the beach to a top hotel rooftop bar.
A stroll along the Beira Mar boardwalk is a great way to while away the hours watching the sun set over the sea. This promenade stretches between high-rise hotels and the beach and there are always plenty of things going on, with vendors selling everything from food to handicrafts.
If you're looking for a little more culture, head to the Mercado Central, which is full of sprawling stalls selling all sorts of goods. It's also worth a visit to the Metropolitan Cathedral. This neo-Gothic church is a must-see and it holds up to 5,000 people.