Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in Fortaleza
Praia do Futuro is an urban beach popular for its good swimming and beach barracas (restaurants).
Unlike many stretches of beach along Fortaleza’s coastline, Praia do Futuro does not have a coral reef near the shore, which makes it a preferred spot for paddling. Several of the once rustic barracas have become large restaurants and entertainment venues in recent years, however, you will still find some that have remained unchanged for decades. Many of the barracas come alive on Thursday night when locals head to Praia do Futuro for a spot of crab eating and forró (Brazilian country music).
Praia do Futuro is not as busy as the other urban beaches in Fortaleza, and you are advised to catch a taxi to the area, particularly if you are visiting at night.
The Brazilian state of Ceara is famous for its long coastline and numerous beaches. In the city of Fortaleza, Meireles Beach is one of the busiest stretches of coast, packed with the highest concentration of hotels and seaside restaurants serving up traditional Brazilian food and drink.
Located just east of city center in the middle class Meireles neighborhood, Meireles Beach is a popular spot for morning joggers, and in the evenings, it’s surrounded by the famous Feirinha de Artesanato (Artisan Fair) where vendors sell locally made crafts and textiles. It’s a great place to pick up Fortaleza embroidered lace.
Like many northeastern Brazilian cities, Fortaleza is famous for its handicrafts, particularly its embroidered white lace textiles. One of the best places in the city to pick up locally made gifts and souvenirs is at the Mercado Central.
The market got its start as a meat, fruit and vegetable market housed in a small wooden building in 1809. In 1931 the government prohibited the sale of meat and produce within the market, so the industry was forced to shift to crafts. The market as it stands today was built in 1998 to include better facilities and more space for vendors. The four floor market, located in city center, houses dozens of shops on each floor selling textiles, woven hammocks, paintings, clay sculptures, leather bags, palm baskets, T-shirts and other items. Visitors who want to take home a taste of their travels can also pick up local cashews and bottles of cachaça, the traditional Brazilian spirit made from sugarcane juice.
Just to the west of Fortaleza’s Central Market sits the early 20th-century Art Nouveau-style Jose de Alencar Theater. Construction on the theater began in 1904, but it wasn’t until June of 1910 that it officially opened, named after Fortaleza-born novelist and dramatist Jose de Alencar.
Besides the 800-seat concert hall, the theater also includes a theater garden designed by Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, an outdoor state and a small annex with another 90-seat theater. Even after a century, the Jose de Alencar Theater remains at the cultural center of Fortaleza, with regular performances and artistic activities. So important is the theater to the city of Fortaleza that it was featured on the official poster promoting Fortaleza as a venue for the 2014 World Cup.
Opened in 1932, the Museum of Ceara was the first public museum in the Brazilian state of the same name. Located in Fortaleza and housed within the former Legislative Assembly in city center, the museum presents the history and culture of the state, including its various indigenous peoples, through its collection of some 12,000 articles and artifacts.
Indigenous artifacts, furniture, coins, medals, paintings, flags, weapons and archaeological relics are divided into thematic exhibitions, like the Friar Tito Memorial, which celebrates the Ceara-born Dominican friar who played a critical role in the struggle for human rights in the mid-20th century. Other highlights include a collection of 75 million-year-old fossils and a stuffed goat named Yoyo who wandered the streets of Fortaleza a century ago.
Housed within the former public jailhouse in downtown Fortaleza, the Center of Tourism (Centro de Turismo do Ceara) has been fully restored to include art and traditional local craft shops, the Museum of Art and Popular Culture (Museu de Arte e Cultura Popular) and a tourist information center.
For most visitors, the main draw of the Center of Tourism is the shopping, and along with the Central Market (Mercado Central), it represents one of the best places in the city to buy local crafts for gifts or souvenirs. The vendors mostly specialize in textiles, particularly the embroidered white lace Fortaleza is known for. Within the mid-nineteenth century building, vendors set up shop inside old prison cells, making the Center of Tourism an interesting stop for history lovers as well as shoppers.
The history of Nossa Senhora de Assuncao Fort dates back to 1649, when it was built by the Dutch under the direction of Captain Matias Beck as Forte Schoonemborch. Just five years later in 1654, the fort was captured by the Portuguese and renamed after the patron saint of Fortaleza. When Fortaleza was officially founded in 1726, it was named after the fortress.
Since 1942, Nossa Senhora de Assuncao Fort has been a Brazilian army headquarters, but parts of the fort remain open to the public. Two such areas include a museum dedicated to General Antonio de Sampaio, a local Ceara war hero from the nineteenth century War of Paraguay, as well as the cell where the mother of Jose de Alencar, a famous Brazilian novelist from Ceara, was jailed.
Surrounded by pink sand dunes, sandstone cliffs and a winding river, Canoa Quebrada is a laid-back beach town blessed with a stunning, natural environment. While the town has grown with the times, it hasn’t lost that mystical feel that first attracted Italian hippies to settle in the area in the 1970s.
People visit Canoa Quebrada for its natural beauty and a healthy dose of the simple life - swim in the aquamarine waters, eat fresh seafood, party at night, and sleep it off on the miles of soft white sand.
There are many ways you can explore the sand dunes, cliffs and rainwater lagoon. Activities available range from buggy tours, kite surfing, horse riding or sailing in the bay – it is possible to visit the area in a day from Fortaleza but, unless you’re pushed for time, this is the kind of place where you don’t want to rush.
Canoa Quebrada’s main street has several bars and restaurants but if you can’t bear to tear yourself away from the beach.
The Fortaleza Beach Park complex is on Fortaleza's coast. Its main attraction is its enormous Aqua Park, with waterslides, waterfalls, and an artificial river, although you can choose to base yourself at one of the Park's on-site hotels.
The complex is a combination of resort, hotels, restaurants, shops, a sailing raft museum, water park and beach. Over 700,000 people visit the Aqua Park every year, which is the largest and best-equipped water park in Latin America.
You can surf in a wave swimming pool and, if you are adventurous, try out the Insano (Insane) water slide. Listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the highest water slide, its 135 ft (41 m) is the equivalent to the height of a 14-story building. With the angle and slope, the slide provides extremely rapid descents at speeds of 65 mph (105 km/h)!
There are plenty of water play attractions for the kids too.
More Things to Do in Fortaleza
Fortaleza is blessed with many spectacular beaches and Cumbuco Beach is no exception. Just 45 minutes drive from the city and attached to a small fishing village, the beach is distinguished by its rolling white sand dunes and empty stretches of sand lined with coconut trees.
Cumbuco Beach is a popular spot for kite surfing, sand boarding and buggy tours - the latter involving a hair-raising ride over the bumps and inclines that will leave you giddy and white-knuckled and most likely eager for more!
There are more sedate activities available including horse riding and boat rides, although the most popular activity is of course soaking up the sun on the beach.
The beach fills up with locals on weekends but there is little to do in the Cumbuco at night – you’ll need to return to the city if you want to party.
Morro Branco’s red colored cliffs are an easy day trip from Fortaleza. While looking strikingly red from a distance (particularly when contrasted with the surrounding white dunes), when explored up close, you can see that the sand cliffs have a number of pink, cream and beige colored hues that together form their distinctive overall color.
The area can be explored via a warren of tracks that flow, maze-like, between the cliffs. Local guides are on hand at the Morro Branco village, to steer you through and point out the most interesting sections. You can also arrange buggy rides along the beach here or walk to the lighthouse.
Morro Branco craftsmen fill small bottles with the sand of varying tones to create a quite unique souvenir. You can buy the colored sand bottles along the beach and in the village.
Half-moon shaped Lagoinha Beach is a stunning beach that was once a favorite hiding place for pirates. It has a reputation as being the most beautiful beach in the state and its good looks are intensified by its tranquility, being far enough away from Fortaleza to escape the crowds.
These days, Lagoinha is home to a small fishing community. Tours by buggy, on horseback or on a jangada (sail boat) can also be arranged here. Alternatively, sit and take in the beach’s gentle curve, which is dotted with coconut palms and sand dunes. Beyond the palm trees you’ll also find streams and a freshwater lagoon.
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