A highlight of northern Brazil, the immaculately preserved colonial town of Olinda enchants travelers with its pastel-colored houses and thriving arts scene. With a laid-back vibe and plenty of worthwhile attractions to explore, many end up lingering longer than expected in this charming historic enclave. Here’s what to see and do in town.
Travelers lucky enough to be in town during carnival are in for a treat, for the Olinda/Recife celebrations are among the most exciting in Brazil. Forget about expensive entry fees (we’re looking at you, Rio) and join the exuberant festivities on the street among a sea of brightly colored revelers and fascinating giant puppets.
Wander around the historic center
Considered the best preserved colonial center in the country, Olinda’s old town delights visitors with its charming old world architecture and technicolored display. Interested in photography? Few places are as Instagram worthy as these colorful streets.
Marvel at its many churches
Whitewashed colonial churches are a dime a dozen in this quaint little town, from dainty little neighborhood shrines to grandiose cathedrals that stretch into the sky.
Get involved in the arts scene
Art is a way of life in Olinda, with numerous galleries and event halls spread throughout town. Those with the financial means should seriously consider picking up a colorful souvenir from one of the city’s countless talented artists.
Learn about the local history
Founded in the 16th century, Olinda was the former state capital and one of the most important settlements in Brazil at the time. A number of local museums offer an insightful education on the city’s past, from the ubiquitous slave trade to its rise to political prowess.
Check out some amazing puppets
Outside of carnival, the best place to see these quirky creations is in the coveted Mamulengo Museum. A much loved Olinda institution, these mammoth puppets tour the state putting on live performances to ecstatic crowds. Over a thousand colorful figurines are on display here, most of which represent local legends such as artists, politicians, or holy men.
Visit some bustling markets
Travelers looking to pick up a memento of their time in this enchanting locale can visit one of the town’s bustling markets and haggle for all sorts of creative souvenirs.
Check out Recife
After a more modern escape? The large and boisterous city of Recife is just a short taxi ride away. Known for its imposing skyscrapers and upmarket malls, it’s the polar opposite of life in sleepy old Olinda. Of course, it’s vivid historical center is a must-visit as well.
Enjoy some amazing views
Stunning vistas of swaying coconut trees amid colorful colonial buildings are commonplace in Olinda, though the best of the lot is from the top of the Caixa d’Agua Alto da Se. Essentially a panoramic tower accessed via elevator, it’s a great way to enjoy Olinda in all its splendor.
Chill out by the beach
Known as Casa Caiada, this attractive stretch of sand is the perfect spot to sit back with some friends and sink a cold beer or two. Just don’t get too tempted for a swim, however, as the region is known to be infested with sharks.