My favorite Things to do in Belem - Understand
Belem is a (somewhat) modern city that has sprawled out of its original colonial center. However the old colonial center has not been abandoned like in many other Brazilian cities (like Fortaleza
) but forms an active part of the city. The old buildings, small streets and tall mango trees are picturesque and make for an interesting discovery experience. Belem is also a gourmet haven by Brazilian standards - expect to find food and beer to be better than average in Brazil. It's actually possible to find more than just Brahma and Heineken beer in this town! Belem does not get many visitors (from Brazil or international travelers) so you usually have the city all to yourself.
Belem is located just south of the equator at the Amazon river delta, just 100 miles inland. The weather is hot and humid year round.
My favorite Things to do in Belem - Safety
Belem is one of Brazil's most dangerous cities (and Brazil is already dangerous by world standards). The good news - most of the neighborhoods that visitors frequent are safe to walk through during the day. In some areas I started to walk very fast and watched very closely anyone approaching me (including from behind).
You just don't want to make yourself a target. After 8 PM you simply can't walk anywhere in the city. The spots below are all in safer neighborhoods with lower crime level - the poor, high crime areas are off limits unless you have local guides, armored cars and exceptional survival skills.
My favorite Things to do in Belem - Get Around
From my limited observations taxi drivers were friendly and courteous. I used EasyTaxi several times as it seemed hard to hail taxis on the street. Since Belem uses most of the old road structure traffic usually snarls through the older parts of town. Don't be in a rush here! A taxi from the Airport to Downtown is about R$40 one-way.
My favorite Things to do in Belem - Sights
Basílica Santuário de Nazaré
This is a beautiful church inside the city grid. It comes with a pleasant little park that gives some respite from the mad traffic.
Praça Batista Campos
Batista Campos is likely the best neighborhood in Belem. Small streets, lots of trees and picturesque buildings. The Praça Batista Campos is a large, surprisingly well maintained park in the middle of it.
Forte do Presépio
In stark contrast to the seedy part area just around the corner the fort area is freshly restored and offers beautiful views over the Amazon river.
The Belem fort never really defended much - but it's a beautifully restored area with more views over the river. Stop by next door Palafita for a beer.
Theatro da Paz
During the late 19th century commodities boom Belem (like Manaus) had used their new riches for a big opera house. Belem's version isn't as grand as Manaus' but it's still worth checking it out.
This brand new mega mall will help you cool down instantly. It's a great place to grab a snack, coffee or ice cream or just spend some hours without being worried about safety.
Bosque Rodrigues Alves - Jardim Botânico da Amazônia
I only had one day in Belem but I would have loved to see this showcase of Amazonian flora and fauna. It's a good idea to plan ahead.
My favorite Things to do in Belem - Eat & Drink
The whole old dock area is called Estação das Docas
a fantastic example of urban revival that is far too rare in Brazil. The old dock area has gotten a face lift and is now a hip pedestrian area with beautiful views over the water. Amazon Beer brews their own beer and you can sit outside in peace and safety.
Palafita is a very low key bar that overlooks the river. But it does so with style! Beers are cheap and the sunset views don't get much better - anywhere in the world!
Xícara da Silva
Hands down the best pizza and likely the best food I had in Brazil. This place gets crowded past 7 PM so come early! The pizza is $13++ but it's as delicious as in Naples and the portions are decent. It's the place the eat after a busy day of exploration.
Continuing the theme in Brazil
- this cafeteria is part of a book store - of course! It serves decent (not great) coffee and gets you out of the heat. Now if you can read Portuguese you can actually buy some books as well :)
This little bakery is just ok and likely not worth your time. However next door is a Middle Eastern fast food joint called Alibaba. But where I want to really send you is the 'Beer Club' up front at Alibaba. Run by a Brazilian with strong German connections it features many artisan beers from Brazil and all over the world. It's reasonably cheap and an easy place to chill.