Things to Do in Recife
Constructed in the 19th century, Malakoff Tower (Torre Malakoff) is a historic military building and clock tower located in old town Recife. It was used as an entrance to the arsenal storage area, a strategic lookout point and also as an astronomic observatory. The tower was named after Malakoff Fortress, a defense center used in the Crimea War.
Today, it has been converted into a cultural center and is still a functioning observatory, complete with telescopes, binoculars, and knowledgeable staff. The observatory holds special events for eclipses, full moons and more. During the day visitors can take in panoramic views of Recife’s historic center, winding waterways, and high-rises that lie on the skyline in the distance. The center is also home to eight halls that host cultural events and rotating exhibits that generally focus on photography and music.
An important cultural landmark in an unexpected place – the House of Culture (Casa da Cultura de Pernambuco) in Recife is a prison turned artisanal crafts market located in the city’s center. Built on the waterfront in 1850s, the three-wing prison maintained it’s original structure when it was repurposed into a cultural center and craft fair in the 1970s.
Today, the former prison cells have been converted into small shops selling colorful crafts that are typical in the region. The interior is donned with traditional northeastern folkloric art and decorations, and the region’s favorite musical genres, like frevo and forró, ring through the halls. The grounds outside have been converted to host concerts, as well as a space for food vendors, who sell northeastern treats like bolo de rolo (guava-swirl cake) and stuffed tapioca pancakes.
The House of Culture is not only one of the best places to get one-of-a-kind souvenirs in Recife, but is also a taste of Northeastern traditions. The colorful, unique culture of the tropical northeast is distinctive from the rest of Brazil – this is manifested in the art, music, food and crafts that visitors will find at the House of Culture.
One of the most important cultural centers in Recife, the Francisco Brennand Ceramic Workshop (Oficina Ceramica Francisco Brennand) attracts tourists, locals, artists and amateurs alike. This impressive sculpture gallery and garden honors the works one of Brazil’s renowned ceramic artists, Francisco Brennand. Founded by the artist himself, Brennand created the workshop on a large piece of land located within the bustling city of Recife to showcase his life’s work, as well as create a workshop for sculpture and ceramic artists.
The expansive grounds are dotted with galleries, outdoor sculptures, and ponds amid a tropical landscape. Visitors can roam freely on the winding paths, in and out of the breezy buildings and workspaces and admire Brennand’s famously exotic, sensual and mysterious sculptures. Highlights include an ornate ceramic gazebo, intricate ceramic tiles, a sundial and sculptures incorporated into fountains and ponds.
With its castle-like façade and sprawling complex of museums, galleries and gardens, the Ricardo Brennand Institute has fast become one of Recife’s most important cultural attractions. Inaugurated in 2002, the cultural center is the brainchild of its namesake, collector Ricardo Brennand, and is renowned for its fascinating collection of historic artifacts, including a large section devoted to Brazil’s Dutch settlers.
Highlights of the museum include the world’s largest collection of armory, dating from the 14th to the 19th century; a sizable collection of paintings by Dutch artist Frans Post; an array of
exquisite antique furniture; and a selection of rare Dutch coins.