Recife is the capital of Pernambuco, was founded in 1537 and one of the first Portuguese settlements in America. In the 19th century, the region was taken over by the Dutch, who built bridges and dug channels and gave the city the look it bears to this day. The city's name, "Recife," is a reference to the coral reefs that abound not far off shore.
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One couldn't forget Recife's white sand, crystal clear beaches even trying. The water is warm all year around, which turns the city into the perfect destination for snorkelling, scuba diving or simply bathing in the many pools the coral reefs create along the shore. The busiest beaches, visited by tourists and locals alike, are Praia do Pina and Boa Viagem, which have pubs and restaurants all along the shore.
Recife's old town is a very beautiful neighbourhood that merges the city's rich colonial style with the modern buildings of a bustling metropolis. Some buildings from the 18th and 19th century can be seen in an admirable state of preservation. Among the most commendable are the State Government Palace "Campo das Princesas", the Court of Justice, the Santa Isabel Theatre, and the House of Culture, a former prison that was converted into a cultural space and shopping centre. A walk through the Riviera, where the Beberibe River meets the Capibaribe and both flow into the ocean, is certainly a good cap for that tour.
Less than 5 miles away from the city, the town of Olinda is one of the region's architectural jewels. It's a colonial town, originally founded on March 12, 1535 by Duarte Coelho Pereira, and was Pernambuco's first capital city. Its old town keeps the typical colonial style, the most emblematic building being the Iglesia do Carmo, which doubles as a Carmelite convent, built in the baroque colonial style and inaugurated in 1580. The city has an astounding number of churches for its relatively small size, and they speak volumes of the city's history and the role Christianity played in the region. The old town was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982.
Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue
This was the first synagogue ever built in South America, the building has an interesting story and keeps some of its original features. The construction was started around 1630 by Jewish immigrants who fled the Inquisition. After a couple of prosperous centuries, the building fell out of use. It was forgotten in the course of time and was torn down at the beginning of the 20th century. But in 2000, a team of archaeologists surveyed the place where it used to stand and dug up the original floor-plan, some of its walls and a few ornaments. The house that was built on top of the the synagogue was turned into a museum in 2001, and is now the centre of Jewish culture in Recife. It is located at Rua do Bom Jesus 197.
Pernambuco State Museum
The objects in this museum are arranged in a way that takes visitors on a trip through the history of the state and its capital city. Musical instruments, cooking utensils, works of art, clothing and furniture all have a place in the collection. Created in 1929, it is housed in a 19th century mansion located at Av. Rui Barbosa 960. In addition to the permanent collection, the museum holds the Espacio Císcero Dias, with temporary exhibitions of local and international artists on display, and a specialised library.