The Top Things to See and Do in Fortaleza, Brazil

Fortaleza is a vibrant coastal city in northeastern Brazil brimming with exciting adventures
Fortaleza is a vibrant coastal city in northeastern Brazil brimming with exciting adventures | © Ranimiro Lotufo Neto / Alamy Stock Photo
Georganne Hassell

With approximately 16mi (26km) of coastline, Fortaleza is home to dozens of white sand beaches. However, it’s anything but a sleepy surfer town. Catch a show at the Dragão do Mar Center of Art and Culture, hunt for souvenirs at the Mercado Central or visit the neo-gothic Catedral Metropolitana in one of the largest cities in northeastern Brazil.

Fortaleza welcomes tourists each year to enjoy its palm-tree-flanked shoreline, cosmopolitan theaters and lively nightlife. Despite its warm climate and tropical beaches, it doesn’t attract the same attention as Salvador or Recife. Explore the beaches, shop in the market and don’t leave without trying freshly caught shrimp cooked and drizzled with garlic oil. Make the most of your trip to Brazil by checking out these things to do in Fortaleza.

1. Browse the Mercado Central de Fortaleza

Market

Mercado Central, Fortaleza, Brazil.
© Yadid Levy / Alamy Stock Photo

This giant market should be your one-stop souvenir shop – you’ll find every handicraft imaginable in one of the shops lining Mercado Central’s four stories. While the market has been in operation since 1809, it shifted focus from fresh produce when the government banned the sale of food in favor of textiles, woven baskets and other artisan goods in the 1900s. But don’t worry – you can grab a bite to eat here today.

2. Whiz down water slides at Beach Park

Amusement Park

Close to a million visitors pour into this resort each year – and with good reason. It’s the biggest water park in Latin America – home to four hotels and an abundance of flumes, pools and lazy rivers. Drop down the 135ft (41m) Insano, once lauded as the tallest water slide in the world, or unwind in the sauna. It’s a great way to entertain the kids (young and young at heart) for an afternoon.

3. Eat local delicacies at Kina do Feijão Verde

Restaurant, Brazilian

The open-air Kina do Feijão Verde has been serving regional dishes, unique to northeastern Brazil, since 1999. Order up classics such as carne de sol (salted, sun-dried meat), baião de dois (black-eyed peas and rice) or panelada (cow stomach stew), then wash it down with one of the national beers on offer. Feeling fancy? Sip on one of the regional wines as a digestif, and top it off with a dessert, such as the delícia de abacaxi (pineapple delight).

4. Immerse yourself in culture at Dragão do Mar

Architectural Landmark

Dragao do Mar Art and Cultural centre Fortaleza Ceara Brazil South America
© robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo
With a name like Dragão do Mar (Dragon of the Sea), you’re sure to have a good time. This cultural center is a hive of activity, with a concert venue, a planetarium and two museums – the Museu de Arte Contemporânea and the Memorial da Cultura Cearense – to discover. Catch a movie at the cinema (most films are in Portuguese), or stop by for an evening beer at Órbita Bar – you can’t miss its colorfully painted exterior.

5. Savor an ice cream from 50 Sabores

Ice Cream Parlour, Dessert

Fortaleza’s year-round warmer temperatures mean that ice cream is always in order. Our top pick for sorvete (ice cream) is 50 Sabores – although the shop usually has more than a hundred different flavors. There are now more than 10 branches of this frozen dessert store across the city. Check out the Brazilian fruit flavors and the liquor-infused caipirinha, or get a taste of the tapioca ice cream. Warning: the servings are huge, so stick with one scoop.

6. Explore mangrove swamps at Parque Ecológico do Cocó

Forest, Park

Aerial view of the Rio Coco Ecological Park and the city of Fortaleza in the background.
© Pulsar Imagens / Alamy Stock Photo
While Fortaleza is known for its top beaches, you shouldn’t overlook the Parque Ecológico do Cocó, one of the largest in South America, with 2,855 acres (1,155ha). The park was created in 1989 to raise awareness and preserve the local area, including an enormous mangrove swamp. Take a boat trip up the Rio Cocó to see for yourself how magical the mangroves are. Also, keep your eyes peeled for monkeys.

7. Marvel at the Catedral Metropolitana de Fortaleza

Building, Cathedral, Church

Catedral Metropolitana de Fortaleza
© Kim Kaminski / Alamy Stock Photo
Nearly 40 years of back-breaking work led to the building of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Fortaleza. Completed in December 1978, the neo-gothic-style cathedral is the third largest in the country. About 5,000 worshippers can fit inside, and it’s worth a look to explore the architecture and sheer magnitude of the church. Stop by at night to see the lights illuminate the stained-glass windows from the inside.

8. Try hip cuisine at Moleskine Gastrobar

Restaurant, Brazilian

Fortaleza has plenty of beach-style bars. However, for an excellent beer selection, try out Moleskine Gastrobar, a foodie hotspot in the city. It’s as urban-hipster as you can get in a Brazilian beach town. The menu features a lot of grilled meats, though consider starting with its popular bobó de camarão (shrimp and manioc purée appetizer). Wash it down with an ice-cold beer or craft cocktail.

Kylie Madry contributed additional reporting to this article.

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