Exploring Belém: A Guide to the Best and Worst Places to Visit
Belém, the capital city of the Brazilian state of Pará, is a vibrant and colorful destination that is full of culture, history, and natural beauty. Known for its delicious cuisine, stunning architecture, and rich cultural heritage, Belém is a must-visit for anyone exploring Northern Brazil. To make your trip to Belém even better, we’ve prepared a guide to the 10 best places to visit and 5 places to avoid. Ready to explore? Let’s go!
1. The Estação das Docas
A beautiful waterfront complex located on the banks of Guajará Bay, the Estação das Docas is a must-see for anyone visiting Belém. Once a busy port warehouse, the complex has been transformed into a modern shopping and cultural hub, complete with restaurants, bars, markets, artisan shops, and theaters. You can enjoy a drink or a meal while taking in the stunning views of the bay or catch a show at the Teatro Maria Sylvia Nunes.
2. Forte do Presépio
Built in 1616, the Forte do Presépio (Fort of the Nativity) is one of the oldest structures in Belém and a symbol of the city’s colonial past. The fort was built to protect the region from Dutch invaders and served as a military prison, government palace, and even a school at different times in its history. Today, it houses a small museum with exhibitions on the history of Belém and the Amazon region.
3. Mangal das Garças
A beautiful park located in the heart of Belém, the Mangal das Garças is a paradise for nature lovers. The park is home to a variety of Amazonian vegetation, including palm trees, orchids, bromeliads, and carnivorous plants. You can also spot several species of birds, including herons, toucans, macaws, and storks. Don’t miss the chance to climb the 47-meter-high Belém Tower for panoramic views of the city and the bay.
4. Ver-o-Peso Market
If you want to experience the true flavors and colors of Belém, head to the Ver-o-Peso Market, one of the oldest and largest markets in South America. The market is a lively and chaotic mix of stalls selling fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, nuts, spices, herbs, sweets, handicrafts, and Amazonian remedies. You can also find traditional dishes such as tacacá, a soup made with jambu leaves, shrimp, and tucupi sauce.
5. Círio de Nazaré
The Círio de Nazaré is the biggest religious festival in the Amazon and a major cultural event in Brazil. Held in October, it attracts millions of pilgrims from all over the country and abroad to pay homage to Our Lady of Nazaré, the patron saint of Belém. The highlight of the festival is the procession of the image of the Virgin Mary through the streets of Belém, accompanied by thousands of devotees, musicians, and dancers.
6. Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi
The Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi is a research and educational institution that focuses on the natural and cultural diversity of the Amazon region. The museum houses collections of zoology, botany, paleontology, anthropology, and archaeology, as well as a library, a botanical garden, and a greenhouse. The museum is a great place to learn about the Amazon’s flora and fauna, indigenous cultures, and environmental issues.
7. Basílica de Nazaré
The Basílica de Nazaré is a beautiful church located in the heart of Belém and one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Brazil. The church was built in the 18th century and renovated several times over the years. It houses the image of Our Lady of Nazaré, which is believed to have miraculous powers. The church is a great example of Baroque architecture and a peaceful place to reflect and pray.
8. Estação Ciência
The Estação Ciência is a science museum located in the historic district of Utinga, a short drive from central Belém. The museum offers interactive exhibitions, workshops, and activities that explore scientific topics such as physics, chemistry, biology, and astronomy. The museum is a great place to take kids and families for a fun and educational day out.
9. Parque da Residência
A beautiful park located in the center of Belém, the Parque da Residência is a popular spot for jogging, picnicking, and enjoying nature. The park features a lake, a playground, a skate park, and several walking paths. The park is also home to the Museu do Estado do Pará, a cultural institution that houses collections of art and history related to Pará.
10. Praça da República
The Praça da República is a historic square located in the center of Belém, surrounded by impressive colonial buildings such as the Palácio Lauro Sodré and the Teatro da Paz. The square is a great place to relax, people-watch, and take photos. You can also visit the Museu do Círio de Nazaré, which is dedicated to the history of the festival and its traditions.
Places to Avoid in Belém
1. The neighborhood of Guamá
The neighborhood of Guamá is known for its high crime rate and poverty. Tourists are advised to avoid walking around the area at night and to take taxis or public transportation instead.
2. The neighborhood of Terra Firme
Another dangerous area in Belém, the neighborhood of Terra Firme should be avoided by tourists, especially at night. The area is known for drug trafficking and violence.
3. The river beaches
While the beaches along the Amazon River may look tempting, they are not safe for swimming due to the high levels of pollution and the risk of piranhas and alligators.
4. Cheap street food vendors
While street food is a popular and delicious option in Belém, tourists should avoid cheap and suspicious-looking vendors, as they may not follow proper hygiene and food safety standards.
5. Football matches
Football (soccer) matches in Belém can be fun and exciting, but they can also be overcrowded and violent, especially during big matches. Tourists should be cautious when attending matches and avoid confrontations with fans of rival teams.
Now that you know the best and worst places to visit in Belém, you’re ready to experience this fascinating city for yourself! Don’t forget to try the local cuisine, dance to the rhythms of carimbó, and immerse yourself in the rich culture of the Amazon. Have a great trip!