Fortaleza is a major city on Brazil's northeast coast, and the capital of Ceará state. It is one of the largest cities in Brazil and certainly one of the most vibrant. The city is perhaps the most popular domestic package tour destination, and Europeans are following suit. Despite being quite a party town, the carnival in Fortaleza is rather feeble, though growing bigger by the year, with the largest parades being maracatu-style. There are 2.55 million inhabitants in the city, and 3.5 million in the metropolitan area.
HistoryThe official history of Fortaleza as a permanent settlement dates back to the 17th century, when the Dutch had a brief dispute with the Portuguese over the territory. The first settlement was known as Fort Schoonenborch and it was founded by the Dutch West Indian Company in 1649. During Portuguese and Brazilian rule, the city has had several names, always beginning with Fortaleza (fortress in Portuguese).
However some local historians fiercely defend the thesis that the very first European to land in South America — allegedly the Spaniard Vicente Yáñez Pinzón — did so where the city's port is situated today, in January 1500, i.e. a few months before the Portuguese Pedro Alvares Cabral's much celebrated arrival in Porto Seguro.
Probably the most proudly remembered occasion of local history was the abolition of slavery in 1884, four years ahead of Brazil as a whole. The mulatto Dragão do Mar, native of Aracati, reached a near-mythical status for his role in the boycott of slave ships starting in 1881, and is still widely recognized.
CultureThe author José de Alencar is so important for the identity of the city of Fortaleza (and also the state), that its inhabitants are nicknamed Alencarinos. He eagerly discussed the origins of the people, languages and geographical names of the region. Most important in this context is the novel Iracema, with its renowned main character lending her name to several neighborhoods and inspiring statues around town.
Traditional folklore, a fusion of European, African and native traditions, is manifested through dances and songs unique to this region:
- Bumba-meu-boi or Boi-Ceará - songs and dances with Luso-Iberican influence dedicated to the religious cult of the ox
- Dança do coco - of African origin, this is a dance danced by males on the beach but elsewhere it's danced by couples
- Torém - an indigenous dance originating among the Tremembé people
- Maracatu - a dancing procession of African origin originally danced to honor kings
- Violeiros, Cantadores e Emboladores - a musical manifestation, often used as a way to express social criticism
- Reisado - an event held every Epiphany, where people go from house to house singing and dancing and receiving gifts
Fortaleza is in the tropics and therefore, the weather is always warm but never extremely hot. Temperatures range from +23-31°C with rare exceptions. There is usually a breeze blowing from the east softening the temperature and forming the sand dunes. The relative humidity is usually between 55-75%. July - November has virtually no rain. February - May can have its share, but mostly at night.
DistrictsThese districts are probably the most interesting for visitors:
- Centro — downtown and its Praça do Ferreira is full of shops and restaurants
- Praia de Iracema — just northeast of downtown. Popular among travelers, this district features affordable accommodation and lively nightlife
- Praia de Meireles — a little further east along the beach, with some major hotels.
- Praia do Futuro — Far east (8 km) of downtown, it's the best beach in Fortaleza. On the downside the sea can be rough here and the water is often polluted by oil
- Mucuripe — The commercial port of Fortaleza
Tourist officeSeveral municipal tourist information offices around, the most convenient being at the airport, the Central Market and Beira Mar (halfway between McDonald's and the fish market).
Pinto Martins International Airportphone: +55 85 3392-1234The terminal was opened in 1998 and extended in 2014 for the FIFA World Cup. Services here include federal police, post office, health authorities, Internet cafe, tourist information and travel agencies.
There are flights from almost every major city in Brazil and internationally from Bogotá Buenos Aires (Gol), Frankfurt (Condor), Lisbon (TAP), Miami (LATAM) and Praia (TACV). The status of flights can be checked online.
Allow at least an hour for immigration control if you fly in from abroad. Double it if there is another international flight shortly before yours.
From the airport to the cityThere is an urban bus 404 Aeroporto/Benfica which runs frequently between the airport and the center, where you can find buses to virtually anywhere in Fortaleza (not recommended at night). This bus also stops at the main bus station. Going to the urban beaches can either be done this way, or by crossing the parking lot(keep slightly to the right) and the highway (somewhat on your left) and catch the 027 Siqueira Papicu/Aeroporto, which will take you pretty straight to Praça Portugal/Shopping Aldeota in 25 minutes, traffic allowing. (Not recommended at night) From here you can either walk some 7 blocks along Avenida Desembargador Moreira to the beach of Meireles, or you can wait for Circular 1 which passes within a block of most hotels in Meireles and Praia Iracema. Reverse this process (Start with Circular 2) to get to the airport, which is slightly easier as the bus then stops right in front of the terminal, and not on the highway.
There are two types of taxis, follow the signs: Airport taxis are more expensive, and have fixed prices. Most tourist areas fall within the most expensive zone, charging R$ 32,40 (R$ 48,60 on rate 2). Regular taxis offer just about the same comfort, and run on the meter, stopping at about R$ 25 (R$ 40 rate 2) to Praia de Iracema or Meireles. Bargaining is tough out here, but fairly easy in the opposite direction.
phone: +55 85 3230-1111The main bus station has buses to most all of the country, often via connections. Expresso Guanabara has the most extensive network from here, and also sells tickets near Beira Mar: Loc Autos, Av. Abolição 1840 and Bem Estar Tur, Rua Tabajaras 580. Note that most lines within the state of Ceará have their last coach leaving around 6-7PM. Buses to neighbouring towns, within some 100 km, often leave from the train station in the centre. Tucked into a corner of the terminal are the booths of the "cooperativas alternativas", which operate vans to many nearby destinations, including Canoa Quebrada. They may be slightly faster and cheaper than the regular buses, but also less spacious and no advance bookings accepted.
- To Natal 8 times daily (3 of these stopping in Mossoró) by Nordeste and Guanabara R$ 35-150, 6–8 hours.
- To Salvador daily at 7PM by Itapemirim. R$ 190. 22 hours.
Taxi to Beira Mar is about R$ 15 and 15–20 minutes. The bus 099 Siqueira - Mucuripe / Barão de Studart (on Sundays this line is substituted by 078 Siqueira - Mucuripe, bus stop around the corner) will take you the same place in around 30 minutes,right from the doorstep of the bus station! If you are heading for Praia de Iracema (or anywhere else west of Av. Barão de Studart), take two lefts from the bus station's main entrance, then cross the street, and take the bus 073 Siqueira - Praia de Iracema. The bus 404 Aeroporto - Benfica takes you to the airport in less than 15 minutes.
Rodoviária Antônio BezerraA second, smaller bus station. Most all lines here are en route between the main bus station and western Ceará (such as Jeri or Sobral. Access from Av. Desembargador Moreira by bus 076 Conjunto Ceará / Aldeota in about 40 minutes.
Rodoviária de MessejenaA third bus station, has lines by the companies São Benedito (for Canoa), Fretcar and Expresso Guanabara mostly en route between the main bus terminal and the southern and eastern parts of Ceará.
By carFortaleza is connected to the rest of Brazil by Federal Highways BR-116, BR-222, BR-020 and BR-304 plus State Highways CE-040 and CE-085. Driving in Fortaleza itself is not recommended, as the streets are mostly in a very bad shape.
OrientationMost tourists will not go more than 5 blocks from the sea, except for the airport and bus station, and perhaps a shopping mall. The following main streets will take you from the city centre to the fish market, by way of Dragão do Mar and the beaches Iracema and Meireles, totalling some 6 km: Avenida Almirante Barroso, Av. Beira Mar (until Rua Ildefonso Albano, where it's cut off by an artificial beach -the aterro.), Av. Historiador Raimundo Girão, Av. Beira Mar (from Av. Rui Barbosa). This last three km section of Beira Mar (literally Sea Side) is by far the most attractive part of the city, with police stands and patrols making it fairly safe around the clock, although rather deserted from midnight to dawn. The Avenida Beira Mar with its broad pavement stops at the fish market. From here to the beach of Praia do Futuro is the port area, backed by a refinery and slums. Walking here at daytime can be risky; at night, it's asking for trouble.
By busLike any major Brazilian city, Fortaleza can be done almost entirely by bus. Ticket price is R$ 2,40 (Sundays and a few holidays R$ 1,80), and if you get off at a terminal (there are nine such bus terminals in Fortaleza) you can change lines without paying again. But if you change buses somewhere else, you will need to buy a new ticket. Most lines run 7 days a week 0500-2300, give or take. The lines listed here, deemed most useful for tourists, will run roughly every 10 minutes daytime weekdays, frequencies perhaps halved nighttime and weekends, and down to once an hour after midnight. Only the most useful parts of the routes are described. Some lines have the number 1 or 2 after their names, only to indicate direction, others don't. I.e. the very same bus with the same number and name could be running either from A to B, or from B to A. Ask!
- Centro/Beira Mar Caça e Pesca is comfy and air conditioned. It runs Beira Mar and all along Praia do Futuro. Returning it swaps Beira Mar for Abolição. This bus can get very packed from Praia do Futuro before sunset. Risk of muggings at Praia do Futuro bus stops after dark.
- Circular 1/2 - runs 24 hours a day Downtown - Mercado Central - Dragão do Mar - Historiador Raimundo Girão - Abolicão - Desembargador Moreira/Shopping Aldeota.
- Grande Circular 1/2 - runs 24 hours a day. Downtown - Dragão do Mar - Historiador Raimundo Girão - Abolição - Praia do Futuro - Terminal Papicu - Shopping Iguatemi.
- Centro Iguatemi - R$ 3,00. Last bus leaves Iguatemi at 2200, does not run on Sundays. Comfy and air conditioned. City centre - Monsenhor Tabosa - Abolição - Desembargador Moreira (Shopping Aldeota), leaves you inside the Iguatemi shopping mall.
- Canoa Quebrada R$ 150.
All 4000-odd taxis in town run on the same meter system, except the special cabs at the airport. Start price is R$ 4, then R$ 2 per km on rate 1 and R$ 3/km on rate 2. The latter is charged every day from 20:00 to 06:00, Saturdays also from 13:00 to 20:00 and all Sunday, public holidays, and the whole month of December. Waiting is charged R$ 20 per hour.
It is mandatory for taxis to display the fare system on one of the rear side windows. Do not take a cab without such a posting.
Cab drivers in Fortaleza are fairly honest, although a few will put the meter on rate 2 too often. The meter should always run unless you have fixed a price before getting into the car. Most trips that would exceed R$ 10 on the meter are negotiable, and when you pass R$ 30 on the meter a discount of up to 50% could be obtained if you bargain well. Taxi stands are abundant, but it can often prove easier to negotiate the fare if you hail one off the street.
Cooperativaphone: +55 85 3261-4181
Fortalezaphone: +55 85 3254-5744
By moto taxi
Moto taxi companies
Ágil Moto e Táxiphone: +55 85 3252-5555
Ande Cooper Moto Táxiphone: +55 85 3256-1795
Fortaleza is covered by some e-hailing services, notably Uber.
Rental carBrazilian city traffic makes this option a bit frustrating for anyone who honks less than once a minute while driving back home. The city is best covered by bus and cab, but a car can make many day trips to outlying beaches. Rental shops are virtually everywhere, and they have motorcycles for rent too. Despite huge signs claiming low prices, you will hardly end up paying less than R$ 60 for the most basic car, plus fuel. Beach buggies start at R$ 100.
Quite an effort has been put into restoring colonial architecture over the last years. Still there is no area that is completely "clean", but the stretch from the beachfront of Praia de Iracema, via Dragão do Mar and to Praça do Ferreira is steadily improving and worth a walk.
One thing worth seeing is the sunset, either from Ponte Metalica, Praia Iracema, or the beach by the fish market, Mucuripe.
Architecture and statuesSeveral architectural styles are represented in Fortaleza contemporary (Centro Cultural Dragão do Mar), modern (Mausoleum of Castelo Branco), classical (Museu do Ceará), neo-classical (central railway station), art deco (Cine São Luis), art noveau (Theatro José de Alencar) and neo Gothic (cathedral).
address: Praça José de AlencarA theater on the south side of the eponymous square. The architectural landmark of the city, and also declared a National Historic Landmark. Finished in 1912, there are performances almost every evening. Visits every hour on the hour, except noon. R$ 4, 30 minutes.
Metropolitan Cathedral of Fortalezaphone: +55 85 3231-4196address: Rua Sobral 1Its sooty façade gives the cathedral a somewhat brutal look. But it still has nice mosaics, and the 75m high towers and its size (its capacity is 5000 persons) are impressive. The main western façade has large windows and the sun lights up the church during the evening mass. French architect George Mounier allegedly was inspired by the Cologne cathedral. Note the 40 year span between the initial works and the inaugural mass, above the main entrance. Masses daily except Mondays.
Estoriladdress: Rua dos Tabajaras 397, Praia de IracemaThis mansion, built in 1925 as Vila Morena, and later used as a casino, a restaurant(when its current name was applied) and a rather political bar, is of peculiar architecture. It was virtually rebuilt in the 90's, and is undergoing another refurbishment to be used for public cultural arrangements.
Mercado dos Pinhõesaddress: Praça Visconde de Pelotas, Praia de IracemaThis former meat market was imported piece by piece from Europe and set up in 1897. Refurbished and now used as a handicrafts fair with a variety of cultural events five days a week from Afro-Brazilian culture and art to contemporary dance and the local forró music style..
Ponte dos Ingleses (Metálica)address: Rua dos CaririsConstruction of this pier started in 1923, but it has never functioned as a port as intended. Its sunset view is reputedly the best in the city.
Iracema StatueAlso known as the Guardian of Iracema, this statue was constructed to honor the author José de Alencar. The statue depicts the protagonist in his novel Iracema. Another one stands in Messejena Lake in the south of the city.
Seminário da PrainhaA catholic seminary with a neoclassical church from the 19th century. If you're interested in the city's local religious history or want to do some genealogical studies, this is the right place to visit.
Fortaleza railway stationAn all too common sight in South America; Fortaleza has a beautiful railway station... but traffic ended in 1975.
Squares and parks
Dragão do MarThe square at Rua Dragão do Mar is culturally a very lively place. Several artisans are selling their work there, musicians are performing and there are several bars and restaurants with international cuisine as well as night clubs of different styles. Then there's also the cultural center, described below.
Praça do FerreiraThe main city square named after the pharmacist Antônio Rodrigues Ferreira and is surrounded by stores, restaurants, a movie theater and plenty of benches. Inaugurated in 1829, it has been rebuilt several times and is surrounded by many buildings of historical importance. The square of today features a time column and a small garden, just like the original version.
Praça José de AlencarPlenty of greenery and the place to catch the city's best street performers. The square, which formerly functioned as a bus station is today frequented by small market stalls and food carts. On the southern side of this square is the eponymous theater building.
Praça PortugalSix blocks from Beira-Mar, this square is lined by elegant restaurants and shopping. Major public events are often held here; for instance during the FIFA World Cup 2014 Praça Portugal was one of the venues for the FIFA Fan Fest. In the Christmas season, you will find a huge Christmas tree in the middle of this square.
Parque Ecologico do CocóThe Cocó Ecological Park is the city's largest green area, near the Iguatemi-mall. One of the largest urban parks in South America, it's a piece of jungle in the middle of Fortaleza and is the most important showpiece of Fortaleza's ecological heritage. The park is popular for recreation among the locals and the place for seeing some local flora and fauna without leaving the city.
Museu de Arte e Cultura Popularphone: +55 85 3488-7411address: Rua Senador Pompeu 350Located in an old prison, now the Centro de Turismo, along with a handicraft market and a tourist information. Displays many fine examples of folk art as well as boats and other cultural relics.
Museu do Cearáaddress: Rua São Paulo 51In a late 19th-century seat of state government. Explains the history of the state of Ceará and its capital.
Mini Siaráaddress: Rua José Avelino 250More cute than really interesting, this tiny museum has about 25 scale models of Fortaleza's colonial buildings, and also a couple of scale landscapes.
phone: +55 85 3488-8600address: Rua Dragão do Mar 81Opened in 1999, the center has 30,000 m 2 of attractions including an art museum, a library, a cinema, a planetarium, an amphitheater, art workshops and the Culture Memorial of Ceara. The surrounding offers some of the highlights of Fortaleza's nightlife.
Museu da Escritaphone: +55 85 3244 7729address: Rua Dr. Walder Studart, 56The Museum of Writing was reopened in 2012. As the name suggests, you can see typewriters from different eras, pens, feathers, cartridges and books including a collections of Bibles.
There are two nice city beaches, and . Some people discourage bathing here, although they are mostly rated green by authorities. Iracema is often the place for large events and gatherings, in particular the New Year celebrations. The whole stretch from the Ponte Metálica (aka Ponte Inglesa) pier to the fish market is paralleled by the Avenida Beira Mar, very nice for an evening stroll. A string of shacks line the beachfront, mostly good for drinking and people watching. Some of these, particularly when serving in the sand, have up to three different menus with varying prices. Sunbeds can be charged up to R$ 30 a day, although the real price is R$ 3-5. Unless otherwise stated, cross the street for food. The busiest strip (with the most expensive beer), including the bulk of beggars, prostitutes and vendors, is right in front of McDonald's, to avoid these go east of the market. A selection listed from west (Praia de Iracema) to east (Fish market):
- Babagula, more sandwiches, playground for children. Subway is cohabiting.
- Satéhut, Dutch-run with some Indonesian on the menu. Clean toilet!
- Veraneio, the hedges protect you!
- Joca, Gay.
- Beira Mar Grill, decent food.
- Volta da Jurema, near Othon Palace. Nice sunset.
- G2, a notch cheaper than the rest.
- Marulhos. Reggae music and good food. Try the escondidinho.
- Croco Beach. Plenty gringos. "After Beach" with live music on Sundays, sunset to eightish, no forro! Taxi drivers get a R$ 2 commission for each head they land here,get a discount on the fare!
- Sorriso do Sol. Reggae.
- Vira Verão. Young Brazilian crowd. If you're lucky, you'll get a table.
- Vila Galé. Belongs to the hotel. Perhaps the neatest appearance, definitely the most expensive!
- Chico do Carangueijo. Clean, popular, good food, specializing in crab, sometimes live music.
- Côco Beach and Boa Vida. Mainly foreigners and their crew, live forró.
Be aware, that the slums (favelas) of the city are located next to Praia do Futuro, and that the beach may not be safe even in daytime. Nevertheless, as tourism business has grown bigger at the beach, also police presence has increased. At the very end of Praia do Futuro its name changes to . Freshwater swimming in a strong current where the river Cocó meets the ocean.
- There is good surfing on the beaches, and frequent competitions at Praia do Futuro.
phone: +55 85 8803-4487address: 411 Rua 24 de MaioA surf school working at Meireles Wednesday - Sunday afternoons.
Aldeia Surf Schoolphone: +55 85 9444-7496, +55 85 8610-4092Offers surf lessons and surf trips every day of the week. Based at Hotel Vila Galé.
- Kite and windsurfing are very popular in Ceará. If you aren't familiar with the sports, there are several schools on the beaches. Good conditions most of the year, with winds up to 40 knots.
phone: +55 85 98809-2507address: Praia do FuturoEquipment (Naish dealer) and classes. Helpful with info about out-of-town spots.
- A couple of motorized schooners and a catamaran do 2 hour cruises along the city beaches at R$ 30 per person, setting out daily at 10:00 and 16:00 from near the Iracema-statue, where they also have their ticket booths. The latter departure is better, as you get the sunset. Bring swim-gear. Minimum of ten people required and thus it's often cancelled in the low season. Another schooner takes you all the way to Cumbuco at 09:00, lands you for lunch and has buses you back to Fortaleza before 5PM. R$ 130.
- In addition it's possible to rent a boat with a skipper for sightseeing or fishing at your own pace.
Beach ParkSouth America's biggest water park with the world's biggest toboggan. The park also features a hotel and a concert stage.
- The nearest golf club is in neighbouring Iguape, some 30 minutes by car from Beira Mar.
CinemasOba has the full programme for the city's cinemas.
- Shopping Aldeota and Shopping Del Paseo are walking distance from Beira Mar, along Av. Desembargador Moreira.
- The largest complex is at the Iguatemi-mall, with some 12 showrooms mostly displaying the latest fare from Hollywood.
- At Dragão do Mar rooms, you will find mostly alternative films (art, cult, history), either foreign or national.
EventsEvery Sunday tents are built up in Parque de Cocó offering entertainment and activities from gymnastics courses to ziplining. Ziplining is particularly popular so you should be standing in line already at 7AM. These activities and events are free of charge.
FortalFortaleza´s Salvador-style out-of-season carnival (allegedly the largest in Brazil) kicks off in a purpose-built area near Praia do Futuro. Direct buses from the Papicu terminal. Thursday - Saturday from dusk till dawn. End of July.
Vida e ArteA range of Brazilian music and other performances. January.
CarnivalAlthough carnival here is rather dull, the city's pré-carnaval is a major happening, all the way from New Year until the real thing starts in February or March. Several venues, the most accessible at Dragão do Mar Saturdays from 3PM. There's also another carnival the last week of July.
Gay paradeThe local Gay Parade, officially named Parada pela Diversidade Sexual de Fortaleza, happens along Beira Mar on the last Sunday of June, in memory of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York.
Easy to Learn language schoolphone: +55 85 3267-1622address: Rua Frei Mansueto, 1018, MeirelesPortuguese private classes for foreigners are around R$ 40.
Changing cash EUR or USD into BRL is done close to interbank rates, meaning that it's better value than cash advances on credit or debit cards. Many travel agencies exchange money,you mostly get slightly better rates moving away from Beira Mar.
Pão de AçúcarThere is a very convenient Pão de Açúcar round-the-clock supermarket by the intersection of Av. Abolição and Av. Desembargador Moreira. Although more expensive than most other shops, it has a good selection of groceries, including many imports, and also some fresh foods. Fresh sandwiches and pizzas until 8PM.
Mercado São SebastiãoFor a true abundance of fruits and vegetables, in addition to meat, fish and whatever else you could think of for your kitchen, visit Mercado São Sebastião, at the east end of Av. Bezerra de Menezes, 4 blocks south and 5 west of Praça José de Alencar in the centre. The earlier you arrive, the greater the variety.
Sebo O Geraldophone: +55 85 3226-2557address: Rua 24 de Maio 950Behind a modest façade there is a vast selection of used books, including hundreds of titles in English (although much outdated) and a little something in many other languages.
phone: +55 85 3458-1212address: Av. Dom Luiz, 500220 stores on five floors, specializing in brand clothing. Also has a cinema, a food court and covered parking.
phone: +55 85 3456-5500address: Av. Santos Dumont, 3131 – Aldeota85 stores, mostly domestic chains. Has a cinema.
phone: +55 85 3477-3560address: Av. Washington Soares, 85 - Água FriaThe largest mall in Fortaleza and one of the best. Everything from C&A, to Zoompe and Lacoste. A huge 24-hour supermarket, large food court and the biggest cinema in town.
phone: +55 85 3404-4000address: Avenida Washington Soares, 4335Six floors of all kinds of stores from fashion, food and sports equipment to different services and entertainment.
phone: +55 85 3404-3000address: Avenida Bezerra de Menezes, 2450 - Bairro São GerardoIn the west of the city, in addition to the stores also features a cinema multiplex including one 3D auditorium.
Handicraft and markets
Centro Cultural de Artesanato do Cearáphone: +55 85 3131-6531address: Santos Dumont 1589Local handicrafts cultural center
Centro de Turismophone: +55 85 3231-3566address: Rua Senador Pompeu, 350
phone: +55 85 3454-8586address: Avenida Alberto Nepomuceno, 199Artesanal center with over 500 vendors. Clothing, food products, books and other art are products you can find at the "Central Market".
Fortaleza is a fishing port, so fresh seafood is readily available in the restaurants. If you are a bit more courageous, buy your shrimp/lobster/squid/whatever, straight from the fish market stalls, and hit one of the nearby shacks to fry it for you. One kilo of mid-sized shrimps is about R$ 15; R$ 3 for frying; then plenty of beers! Thursday is crab day in Fortaleza, especially in the many shacks at Praia do Futuro. If you prefer beef, there are options for a rodízio (grilled meats en masse with a big buffet of salads and side dishes; but watch out for expensive drinks and desserts in these establishments).
Northeast (Brazil)#Eat and Brazil#Eat present some regional and national specialties worth trying. In addition to this, as you're in the topics it's easy to find:
- Fresh fruits: the variety is indescribable and the prices are low. Every self respecting grocer will have at least four different types of bananas for sale. Dozens of tropical delicacies (jabuticaba, sapoti, siriguela, murici, umbu, cajarana, carambola etc. etc. etc.) are unavailable anywhere else. Go to a supermarket and check them out.
- Suco: juice made of fresh fruits or frozen pulps. Check the stalls to have a notion of what`s best in the season.
If your accommodation has bad or no breakfast, most large hotels let you take part in theirs for about R$ 10-12.
BebeluA local (Ceara state) fast food chain — locations all around the city. Brazilian-style sandwiches and salads.
Cantinho do Frangoaddress: Rua Torres Câmara, 71A place for informal dining, featuring retro decor and specializing in chicken dishes. Large servings, attentive service, air-conditioned and they also make dishes to go.
address: Rua Azevedo Bolão, 571Local dishes from seafood to lamb at an affordable price. The service is reportedly fast as well.
address: Av. Professor Gomes de Matos, 302A bar in the Montese district also serving food. Typical Brazilian cuisine with a large selection of beers.
Vilanyphone: +55 85 3263-5056address: Rua Olga Barroso, 331A simple restaurant but with fresh and delicious seafood and fish.
Satéhutaddress: Ilha 01 Modulo 05Located right on the beach, this restaurant is Dutch-run. It features typical Dutch and Indonesian cuisine.
Maciel Lanchesaddress: Av. Monsenhor Tabosa 1010For a cheap and good lunch, try Maciel Lanches. The normal mix of rice, beans, farofa and vegetables comes with some four different options, like chicken, fried or boiled beef, all fresh. At R$ 4 it includes a softdrink. Also has a few à la carte options and fresh juices.
Mucuripe Grilladdress: Avenida Beira Mar, 3980Local (Cearán) cuisine. Has good feijoada.
SorbetThere is bad, watery, plastic flavoured ice cream galore in Fortaleza, as elsewhere in Brazil. Try these for some good sorbet — sorvete in Portuguese:
Sorveteria 50 Saboresaddress: Several branches: At the fish market; At NauticoRegional sorvetes, flavors like tapioca and caipirinha.
Barbarescoaddress: Several tiny branches around townA sorveteria that has generally received good reviews. Also offers other snacks such as coffee and sandwiches.
phone: +55 85 3244-3848address: av. Barão de Studart, 2023Reportedly the best sorveteria in town.
phone: +55 85 3261 3411address: Rua Osvaldo Cruz, 640 - AldeotaItalian restaurant with typical dishes like carpaccio, pizzas, pastas and risottos, that surprisingly also offers a selection of sushi. This restaurant has a particularly good wine selection, the staff is attentive and the ambience is nice. On the downside, some dishes are pricey.
phone: +55 85 3224-9997address: Avenida Dom Luís, 1113Japanese restaurant in the Bougainville mall. Wonderful Japanese cuisine with a range of warm and cold (sushi, sashimi) dishes.
Churrascaria Ghellerphone: +55 85 3219-3599address: Av. Monsenhor Tabosa 825This is arguably the best value Brazilian barbecue restaurant in the tourist area. If you are not too hungry, you can also pay R$ 22 per kilo. Tuesdays and Saturdays there's a stand-up comedian at 21:00, adding R$ 10 per person to your bill.
address: Avenida Beira Mar, 4550Arguably the best Sushi in Fortaleza. Also fried fish with stir fried vegetables, etc. Try the Barca - a 'boat' of fish with up to 50 pieces of your choice served on a bed of salad.
address: Avenida Almirante Barroso, 812Italian restaurant with Italian cooks, regarded as a piece of Italy in Fortaleza. Online reviews reveal they make great pizzas. They make dishes to go as well.
phone: +55 85 3198 6000address: Av. Beira Mar, 3698Shrimp and other seafood and fish in all variations — including large dishes to share. They also have hundreds of wines to choose from.
address: Av Abolição 3500A churrascaria, ie. a restaurant specializing in Brazilian barbecue, though they have other Brazilian specialties too, like feijoada. Both a buffet and à la carte.
Alfredo O Rei da Peixadaaddress: Avenida Beira Mar, 4616One of the oldest restaurants in Fortaleza, specializing in traditional Cearán fish dishes. Opinions on online reviews of this restaurant are mixed — both when it comes to the food and to the service.
La Francephone: +55 85 3242-5095address: Rua Silva Jatahy 982, MeirelesPerhaps not authentic French, but a varied menu, including escargots, and a selection of wines.
Traditionally, Fortaleza nightspots have their dedicated day of the week, like Pirata (below) on Mondays. So, when asking around for a place to go, always be specific on when.
For daytime drinking, which can be quite a party, specially on weekends, see the Beaches-section above. For a non-alcoholic refreshment; grab a chilled coconut from a stall at Beira Mar, starting at R$ 2,00!
CentroThe downtown (Centro) area is surprisingly scarce on waterholes, which would be more than welcome after a hot afternoon's walking. An even more surprising exception is found in the recently (2010) refurbished park Passeio Público (officially Praça dos Mártires): A small kiosk with outdoor seating serving lunch and cold drinks. Daily until 5PM.
Internacionaladdress: Avenida Beira Mar 4456With Belgian and Dutch owners Filip and Marco, has grown into a kind of ex-pats hangout, good food. Free WiFi. Occasional live music.
address: Rua dos Tabajaras, 325A crowd of happy tourists (many domestic) dances to forró and axé music. Overpriced at R$ 35. Most large hotels have discounted tickets for their guest (and occasionally others), ask in the reception.
Praia de IracemaThe largest concentration of watering holes, very practical if you want to hit and miss and don't have a car, is at Dragão do Mar, Praia de Iracema. This area features refurbished colonial buildings, loads of open air seating, live music (sometimes charged), and happy hour beer. Fridays and Saturdays the party is everywhere:
Café Santa Claraaddress: Avenida Santos Dumont, 3131Excellent coffee, some extremely sweet varieties, good bites, and extreme air-conditioning in a pleasant, old-worldly setting. Slow service, though.
Armazemaddress: Avenida Almirante Barroso, 444The biggest party in town on Wednesdays, when it attracts mostly foreign men and a fair share of working girls. Also opens on Saturdays with a more mixed crowd. Live forro on a big stage and a separate eurotechno-lounge.
address: Rua Dragão do Mar, 207Brazilian and international rock and pop cover bands. Later electronica DJs. Thursdays and Sundays(packs from 9PM) good. Mostly well off students.
Donna Santaphone: +55 85 99910-4340address: Rua Dragão do Mar, 308Gay, transvestite and more.
Music Boxaddress: Rua José Avelino, 387Gay
address: Rua Dragão do Mar, 108Famous for its Chope de Vinho — is it wine or beer after all?
Bueno Amici'saddress: Rua Dragão do Mar, 80Informal, variety of styles, most famous for its Samba!
Acervo Imaginárioaddress: Rua Pessoa Anta, 194Live music on weekends, dancing student crowd.
A smaller version of this can be found along Rua Norvinda Pires, and the neighbouring part of Rua Desembargador Leite Albuquerque, centering on the rock-bar Maria Bonita, pagode-neighbour Bebedouro and the more mixed style Fafi, plus a few more. Cobblestones calls for flat shoes! Thursday to Sunday.
Another area of interest is Varjota, inland from Mucuripe. Plenty of bars and restaurants. Take Rua Frei Mansueto from Beira Mar, 5-10 blocks.
address: Rua Delmiro Gouveia 420, VarjotaThoroughly decorated as a Ceará countryside joint, although the prices are nothing of the kind. Live classic forro. Good spot on Tuesdays. Mainly age 30+. Next door restaurant.
Praia do FuturoMany of the shacks at Praia do Futuro host parties nighttime Thursday - Sunday.
Birutaaddress: Avenida Zeze Diogo, 4111Mostly electronica on Fridays.
SouthThe surroundings of the university in the south of Fortaleza hosts some popular bars:
Bar do Pedrinhoaddress: Rua Joaquim Magalhães, 182Located in the "red" district of Benfica, this is a watering hole for members of political organizations, but also university teachers, University Theater students and locals in general. They also serve food like barbecue, green beans and gizzard. Good music and clean bathroom.
Bar do Seu Assisphone: +55 85 3283-8674address: Rua Adolfo Herbster, 190Barbecue, beer and outdoor seating. The service is often slow, but on the other hand people come here to relax, not to stress. It's one of the most popular bars in the Benfica district.
Cantinho Acadêmicoaddress: Avenida 13 de Maio 2370Fairly quick service and a wide variety of snacks and meals. On the downside it's slightly more expensive than other bars in the area. On the weekend there are live music and occasionally even full-scale concerts.
Casa das Artesaddress: Rua Barão do Rio Branco, 2926Located in the Jose Bonifacio district, in this bar and lounge you have the opportunity to get behind the microphone yourself together with local artists.
Suvaco de Cobraaddress: Avenida Gomes de Matos, 406A small place, so go early. Beer, drinks, good food and a rustic northeast Brazilian decor. The service is unfortunately slow.
Most hotels are on the strip Praia Iracema - Meireles - Mucuripe, parallel to Avenida Beira Mar, and up to about 4 blocks inland. Categories are spread about, but Praia Iracema has most budget options. Many cheap deals can be struck at Praia do Futuro, but beware of transport costs and lack of security at night.
phone: +55 85 3091-8997address: Avendia Dom Manuel 89, Praia Iracema
Hotel Caxambuaddress: Rua General Bezerril 22Modern and well-equipped. Rooms with TV and A/C
address: Avenida Almirante Barroso 1006, Praia de IracemaRefurbished 2010. Basic rooms with TV, private bathroom with shower and A/C. There’s free Wi-Fi in all public areas and buffet breakfast.
address: Avenida Desembargador Moreira, 201Small, conveniently located hotel with nice rooms and friendly staff. The rooms have A/C, refrigerator, TV, phone and private bathroom. They also have private parking. Rates include breakfast and Wi-Fi.
phone: +55 85 3052 2450address: Rua Atualpa Barbosa de Lima, 660Just up from Holiday Inn at Historiador Raimundo Girao. Convenient for online booking and cancelling. Similar to other Ibis hotels around the world, the rooms are spartan but functional and clean and include TV, phone and private bathroom.
phone: +55 85 3265 3365address: Av Zeze Diogo, 7260Large rooms with balconies, most with a view to the ocean. Rates include airport transfer, Wi-Fi and breakfast.
phone: +55 85 3248 7627address: Rua Monsenhor Bruno 104Accommodation in large apartments, with bathroom and shower, TV, minibar and phone. Breakfast and Wi-Fi included in the rate. Secure private parking lot.
phone: +55 85 3486-4400address: Av. Dioguinho 4189, Praia do FuturoUpscale and well-equipped rooms (including safe and kettle). On the downside Wi-Fi costs extra. The hotel has two restaurants, a pool bar and a nightclub plus convention and fitness facilities. Online booking.
phone: +55 40 06 95 95address: Av. Presidente Castelo Branco 400, Praia de IracemaStandard rooms have the usual equipment of a mid-range hotel room, but the hotel also has large suites. Pool and several restaurants and bars. Online booking.
phone: +55 85 3466-5000address: Av. Beira Mar, 3980This hotel advertises the range of amenities one would expect from a luxurious hotel at a beach resort. This includes a pool, several shops, a health center, gym and conference center. There are even some other services like an in-house doctor and a beauty salon. The simplest rooms are spacious and equipped with TV, minibar, phone, bathroom and even bathrobes, while the amenities of the Presidential Suite can be compared to those of an apartment.
address: Rua Frei Mansueto, 160Regular amenities for a room in an upper middle-class hotel. Wi-Fi and a light breakfast included in the room rate. Fitness center, pool, conference facilities, laundry and room service.
address: Av. Hist. Raimundo Girao, 800Rooms have TV, minibar and safe. Restaurant, fitness center, business center and a pool.
address: Av. Beira Mar 3470Rooms have TV, telephone, minibar and safe. The hotel has a bar and a restaurant. Free Wi-Fi.
A typical modern two bedroom 65 m 2 flat, fully furnished and equipped 2 blocks from Beira Mar will cost around R$ 70 a day in low season, double in high. Monthly rates are about R$ 1200 low season, R$ 2000 or more peak. Mostly you have to pay electricity on top of this. Be aware that an air conditioner can set you back R$ 20 a day if you leave it running. Dozens of agencies.
Many hotels put "flat" or "residence" in their name. This mostly means that you can buy an apartment there,typically 40-50 m 2 with one bedroom and a tiny kitchen. Many of the owners will rent these out for a price substantially less than the one posted in the reception, particularly for longer terms. Monthly deals can come close to the R$ 1000 mark in low season, including linen change and cleaning. Ask the receptionsts for owners' phone numbers:
address: Avenida Abolicao 2480, Meireles
Flat Atlanticoaddress: Avenida Abolicao 2111, Meireles
If you go for a furnished room with a bathroom (often no fridge or a/c), referred to as a kitchenette (often spelled "Kitnet", or anything in between), you will typically be charged R$ 3-400 a month in high season. Praia Iracema has most of these.
- Fortaleza and all neighbouring municipalities share a telephone area code: 85
- Internet is everywhere, with greatly varying comfort, hardware and bandwidth. R$ 3-4 an hour is an OK price in tourist areas—any more is too much. If you go inland you can get down to R$1/h.
- There is a free Wi-Fi zone in the café of the 24-hour Pão de Açúcar supermarket at Avenida Abolição.
- Several post offices along or near Beira Mar: Right in front of the Praia Iracema church; on Av. Monsenhor Tabosa just down from Ideal Clube; a small booth almost in the sand in front of Clube Nautico; in the mall of Scala Residence.
tourist policephone: +55 85 3101 2488address: Avenida Historiador Raimundo Girao 805Helpful. Some English spoken.
- There are countless stories of single foreign men being robbed by prostitutes, apparent or not, who they take back to their rooms. Reportedly they sometimes employ a drug to knock victims out; otherwise, they just rely on your voluntarily exaggerated alcohol/drug consumption. Be aware that virtually all hotels and apartment buildings will register visitors, particularly late-night ones. As soon as you are aware of missing valuables, get the reception to pass you the data of the suspect and go straight to see the police, above. The sooner you act, the greater the chance of getting your stuff back. Money mostly evaporates instantly, though.
- Although most commercial districts of the city are fairly safe, including the center and the tourist area around Beira Mar, pickpocketing, bag-snatching and other non-violent robberies are always a possibility. Never flash valuables and beware of beggars that keep touching you.
- Praia do Futuro is bordered by one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in town, the Serviluz slum. Do not under any circumstances walk through deserted areas of this beach, even if you are going through them between two crowded places. Bus stops are notoriously robbery-ridden after sunset — even if it's only 5:45PM.
- There have been a number of cases when foreigners have been detained at the airport with large amounts of drugs, particularly cocaine, on their way out of the country. The Brazilian Federal Police have been working hard: Don't even think about it!
ProstitutionLike it or not, Fortaleza has grown into the Brazilian gringo prostitution capital. (At least by reputation. Rio arguably wins in absolute figures.) Many foreigners, especially Europeans, fly in on charters with this as the main attraction. Unfortunately, this affects other travelers, particularly single men. Many Brazilians, including otherwise sympathetic girls, will assume you are there for "business". The main concentration is at "Happy Street" (Rua dos Tremembés), Praia de Iracema, where the clubs Forró Mambo (R$ 20), Café del Mar (R$ 15) and their immediate neighbors serve overpriced drinks. A small group of young females sitting alone at a table along Beira Mar are more than likely to be pros. Any drinking spot that attracts foreigners is bound to attract working girls; therefore, some of them try to filter the entrants, meaning that a foreign man can have trouble getting in with his Brazilian girl.
Lav e LevR$ 9,50 to wash a big load, then typically R$ 19 to dry it. Turns out cheaper, plus you have it all ready in less than 2 hours. Add R$ 1,50 per garment for ironing.
LaundromatWashes and dries a small load for R$ 17, ready within 24 hours, often much sooner.
For visa extensions and any other issue between a foreigner and the Polícia Federal, head to their office at Rua Paula Rodrigues 304, Bairro de Fátima, near the main bus station. Open Monday - Friday, 8AM - 6PM. Bus 099 Siqueira - Mucuripe / Barão de Studart to/from Avenida Abolição.
The joint Dutch, Norwegian and Swedish consulatephone: +55 85 3242-0888address: Rua Rocha Lima 371, Joaquim TavoraAt the premises of Emitrade. Bus 077 Parangaba Mucuripe to/from Avenida Abolição.
- Neighboring Maranguape includes the Cachaça Museum, hosted by Ypióca, one of the country's most widespread brands.
- Redenção – see the Museu Senzala Negro Liberato, a monument of slavery and liberation, with a nearby cachaça-destillery
- The Jazz and Blues Festival is a continuation of the carnival in Guaramiranga, the weekend after.
- Cumbuco is a small fishing village, grown into a kite-surfers' paradise. Fresh water lakes with swimming nearby. Dune buggy tours. Horseback riding along the beach. A traditional fishing raft, Jangada, gives you a postcard view of the coastline. Buses from Avenida Abolição R$ 4,50.
- Jericoacoara is among Brazil's finest, and hence makes its way into any global listing. Buses (changing to trucks in Jijoca) twice daily from outside Praiano Palace Hotel at Beira Mar.
- Canoa Quebrada used to be quite rustic, attracting mostly hippies. Now it's slowly growing into a resort town. Can be done as a day trip (R$ 40, many agencies), but is worth a longer stay, particularly for its weekend nightlife.
- Some 16 km outside Fortaleza, at the beach of Porto das Dunas, is a huge water park with slides and other wet interactive fun, Beach Park. Stiffly priced at R$ 170 for a day. The beach right outside the park is very nice, and although you pay nothing to walk in the sand, food and drinks are 2-3 times city prices. Tour agencies in Fortaleza arrange day trips at about R$ 25.
- Costa Sol Ponente — A series of beaches northwest of Fortaleza. (Paracaru, Praia de Lagoinha, Fleixeiras, etc.)