I wasn’t too impressed with Fortaleza, the fifth largest city in Brazil. It’s very modern, doesn’t have much to see, but it has beautiful urban beaches. The fact it has beaches doesn’t exactly warrant a visit to this city in the northeast. Also, the humidity was terrible, at least for me. It didn’t bother my friend Mike at all.
The beachfront promenade along Avenida Beira Mar at Praia de Meireles was my favorite thing about Fortaleza. It goes on for several blocks and has a lot of small restaurants and snack stands along the way. You’ll even find locals selling crafts and souvenirs.
The beach is nice and many people were swimming, but it was recommended not to swim there because of pollution. Praia do Futuro, to the east of the city, is supposedly the best beach for swimming.
Fortaleza’s sights are few and unimpressive. The most interesting thing I saw was the street market at Mercado Central. All kinds of goods were strewn along the streets for a few blocks. It was fun to watch the locals haggling with each other.
Across the street from the market is Forte Nossa Senhora de Assunção. It’s an active military base. Interestingly, it was built by the Dutch in 1649 as Fort Schoonenborch and captured by the Portuguese just a few years later in 1654. Also near the market is an imposing cathedral, Catedral Metropolitana.
Praça dos Martires
To the west of the fort there is a nice, shady park, Praça dos Martires. Laid out in 1890, it has a couple fountains in disrepair, but I enjoyed relaxing on a bench under the trees for a good 20 minutes. Next to the park is a refurbished colonial hospital, Santa Casa da Misericordia.
Centro de Turismo
Further down from the hospital is the Centro de Turismo. This large red building complex was formerly a prison, but now holds small craft shops in the cells.
Praça do Ferreira
A few blocks south from all of those places is Praça do Ferreira. It’s an important square surrounded by a few colonial buildings and connected with several streets full of shops.
Theatro José de Alencar
Perhaps the most important landmark of the city besides the fort is Theatro José de Alencar. It is a beautiful theatre that opened in 1910. It was undergoing restoration during our visit.