Olinda Old Town
Seven kilometers away from Recife, stands Olinda, its elder sister, founded just two years before, in 1535. This colourful city reserves unique delights for visitors, with its beautiful historical buildings, churches, art galleries and restaurants. It has manifold ways to surprise: a privileged sunset, Gregorian-chant masses in monasteries and centennial churches and Maracatu rehearsals in mid-afternoon.
In 1982 it was awarded the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This has ensured it still has the look and feel of an old colonial city so take a stroll down (and up) its steep cobbled streets, stopping off at the many cafes, restaurants, art and cultural centres and at each turn a stunning new view.
Alto da Sé
The first stop when in Olinda is the Alto da Sé, where visitors can have a stunning view of the sea and neighbouring Recife, visit the baroque cathedral (which occasionally holds shows and musical presentations) and eat the famous tapioca (a kind of pancake made with mandioc flour) from any of the many stands on site. An arts and handcraft market right next to it is also sure to please travelers who wish to bring home more than pictures.
Indeed Olinda is home to many artists so its well worth spending a little time looking at the galleries and craft shops to remember your visit or as souvenirs.
A special viewing platform with lift has been created here out of the old water tower, the Caixa D'Agua, for panoramic views of the entire city of Olinda, Recife's port and districts beyond and the multiple shades and blue and green of the Atlantic Ocean and reefs. A perfect spot for those holiday photos and videos.
It is most visited during Carnival, when its steep cobbled streets are filled with colours and sounds for well over the four days of this holiday.
In the lead up to Carnival, which in Olinda can mean any time from New Year on, you can hear and see the bands and dancers practice regularly. If your lucky and have enough energy, you may join in.
Olinda's Old Town boasts some of the oldest and finest churches, monasteries and convents in Brazil, all in a delightful setting due to its UNESCO heritage status and panoramic views. There are many sights to choose from, but from the top (Alto da Sé) downwards some worthwhile visiting are:
Igreja da Sé (do Salvador)
Monasterio de São Francisco
Basilica de São Bento Church and Monastery
Altar of São Bento Church