With its leafy streets, grassy parks and lively street scene, Belem is a fantastic introduction to Brazil. As well as being the capital of the state of Para, it’s also considered the gateway to Brazil’s lower Amazon region. It’s anchored by the characterful Cidade Velha district, dotted with beautifully preserved Portuguese colonial architecture. If trips to Algodoal and Ilha de Marajó are on your Brazilian itinerary, Belem is a great home base.
Things to do in Belém
Hugging the riverfront, Cidade Velha is Belem’s charismatic historic district. It’s dotted with beautiful Portuguese buildings, including the imposing Forte do Castelo. You can also stop by Mercado Ver-o-Peso, a sprawling open-air market selling everything from freshly caught Amazonian fish to homemade handicrafts.
When the sun sets, Estacao das Docas buzzes with energy. The waterfront development features a trio of converted warehouses where you’ll find an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants and bars.
Belem is home to brilliant museums showcasing everything from national treasures to Brazilian art. The Museu de Arte de Belem is a highlight, housed in a magnificent palace that once served as the city hall.
While it’s not overly impressive from the outside, the Basilica Santuario de Nazare boasts a lavish interior. If you want to escape the heat, you can settle into a cushioned pew and gaze up at its gleaming marble columns, dazzling stained-glass windows and ornate woodwork.
Cidade Velha is compact and walkable, which means the best way to get around is on foot. Local buses run throughout the city and make the trip to Aeroporto Val de Caes in around 40 minutes. Taxis are usually the fastest way to get from A to B, but if you’re travelling further afield, you can find Belem’s long-distance bus station three kilometres east of the town centre.