- South: The most affluent area of the city and also where most tourists stay. Contains the Ponta Negra beach and most upscale hotels, shopping malls and restaurants
- East: Contains the city's Historical Center, impotant sights such as Forte dos Reis Magos and Ponte de Todos, and beaches that mix visitors and locals such as Praia do Meio and Praia dos Artistas. Also contains the entrance to Parque das Dunas
- North: An industrial/working class area which is now the most populous of Natal. Contains the Redinha beach, which provides some nice views of the city and with very local feel
- West: A mostly poor and in some parts run-down area, it contains the intercity bus terminal that can be used to reach other cities, like Tibau do Sul
Nowadays Natal is one of the 8 most visited cities of Brazil. Unlike other large cities of the Northeast of Brazil, like Recife or Salvador, Natal does not have a fascinating Historical Center or a vivid nightlife. In contrast, it is regarded as being significantly calmer than other large cities in the region, and as having a superior quality of life. Many rich Brazilians and foreigners alike have summer houses in the city.
One of the primary reasons to visit Natal is to use it as a base to explore the wonderful state of Rio Grande do Norte, including beaches like Pipa, Baía Formosa, Barra do Cunhaú and Genipabu, and lakes like Carcará and Coca-Cola (See #Go next). The city has many lodging options and a couple of good and reasonably priced restaurants.
Governador Aluízio Alves International AirportThere are numerous direct flights from most important Brazilian capitals, including São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Fortaleza, Salvador, Belo Horizonte and Brasilia. TAP flies daily to Lisbon.
To get to the city, take the Natal bus at the doorstep of the terminal, R$ 2.60. To get to Ponta Negra, get off after abot 15 minutes at Natal Shopping, cross the pedestrian bridge and take any bus with Ponta Negra in its name, -another R$ 2.
The airport is far from town and complicated or expensive to get to, because no reasonable quality bus connection exists.
A taxi to Ponta Negra is more than R$ 43 at fixed prices, possibly a few R$ cheaper on the meter. 40 minutes.
By busNatal's bus station is about 3 km southwest of the city center, and some 5 km northwest of the Ponta Negra beach. A taxi to the latter is about R$ 25. Bus No 66 does the same run in about 45 minutes.
- To Fortaleza 8 times daily (3 of these stopping in Mossoró) by Nordeste. R$ 35-150, 8-10 hours. Also by Guanabara.
- To Recife by Progresso, R$ 42-60, 4½ hours.
- To João Pessoa every hour.
A bus ticket in Natal (as of June 2018) is R$ 3.65. It's recommended doing a bus card if one plans really using the bus, since in addition to being more easy (no hassle with exchanges) it's possible to get a second bus without paying if this is done in less than one hour after the first one.
The bus stops at the shopping centers Midway Mall, Via Direta and Natal Shopping cover most of the city. The "Line R" bus of Trampolim da Vitória company goes from Midway Mall to the International Airport for R$ 2.50 and is the only one going there.
Renting a car may be convenient if you, as many visitors, plan to use Natal as a base for day trips outside the city. Even the beaches at the neighboring municipalities of Parnamarim and Extremoz are complicated to reach using public transport.
You may explore the coast on the beach rather than a road, by hiring the service of a dune Buggy driver. It costs typically R$ 320 per vehicle or R$ 80 per person if you join a group. You may find cheaper services, but be aware of unlicensed drivers; accidents caused by unskilled Buggy drivers sometimes occur.
By taxi or public transport
- Taxis: flag at R$ 4.15, per kilometer R$ 2.15 (rate 1) or R$ 3 (rate 2)
- Buses: cost R$ 2.90 and get very crowded at peak hours
- Urban trains: very cheap (R$ 0.50), but do not reach any major tourist sights
phone: +55 84 3202-2006address: Avenida Presidente Café Filho, s/n, Praia do ForteThe star-shaped fortress is the oldest and most important historical construction of Natal. It was built in 1598 to protect the coast against French pirates, and during the colonial period it was perhaps the most important of Brazil's defense barriers. It is located in the water, accessible using a pedestrian path from Praia do Forte. For about 300 years, it worked as military quarters, administration office and prision, and it was also for some time under Dutch control. The name of the fortress is due to the statues of the Biblical Magi in the entrance.
Ponte Newton NavarroThe imponent bridge over the Potengi river, with 1.8 km length and up to 100 meters high, links the North and East parts of the city and is a sight to not be missed. It can be observed from Forte or Redinha beaches.
phone: +55 84 201-3985address: Av. Alm. Alexandrino de Alencar, s/n, TirolAn 11.7 million-m² nature reserve located next to the coast, dividing the East and South parts of the city, and famous for its sandy dunes. In the entrance of the park is Bosque dos Namorados, with various recreational facilities and orientation on exploring the rest of the park.
Parque da Cidadeaddress: Av. Omar O’ Grady, s/n, CandeláriaA 640,000-m² nature reserve located between the South and West parts of the city. The main sight is the "eye-shaped" tower designed by the premium architect Oscar Niemeyer.
Historic CenterNatal's Historic Center is in the Cidade Alta e Ribeira neighborhoods, including also some buildings of Tirol e Petrópolis. It was declared a national heritage site in 2010. Although the city dates from 1599, most of the historical buildings were constructed in the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, in different styles including colonial, neoclassic, art-déco and modern.
Memorial Câmara Cascudophone: +55 84 3211-8404address: Praça André de Albuquerque, 30, Cidade AltaThe memorial, built in 1875 in neoclassic styles, is about the life and work of Luis da Câmara Cascudo, Rio Grande do Norte's most famous anthropologist and folklorist who lived between 1898-1986.
Igreja de Santo Antôniophone: +55 84 3211-4236address: Rua Santo Antônio, 683 - Cidade AltaChurch in baroque style built in 1766. The metallic bird on its tower gives the church the nickname "Igreja do Galo". Contains a museum with religious artwork.
phone: +55 84 3222-3669address: Praça Augusto Severo, s/n, RibeiraThe biggest and oldest theatre of the city, built in 1898 in French style.
phone: +55 84 3212-1904address: Av. Junqueira Alves, nº 417, Cidade AltaPalace built in 1907 as a residence, which would later become one of the most luxurious hotels of the city. Now it is a cultural center.
address: Rua Ulisses Caldas, 81 - Cidade AltaCity hall of Natal, built in 1922 in eclectic style.
Rua Chileaddress: RibeiraHistorical street with houses from the 19th century. Contains one of the former palaces of the state government. Nowadays contains restaurants, museums, clubs and cultural centers.
phone: +55 84 3211-6218address: Rua Aderbal Figueiredo, 1980, PetrópolisBuilt in the 19th century, it was first an orphanage and later a public prison. Now it contains about 40 shops specialized in local handcrafts, plus an art gallery, a club and a restaurant.
Ponta NegraThe favorite beach of tourists and wealthier locals. Excellent water quality and infrastructure, with many restaurants and utility shops in the beach front. Contains Morro do Careca, the tallest sand dune of Natal and one of the city's most famous landmarks. Near Morro do Careca the ocean is very calm, which makes it one of the favorite spots to bring kids to the water.
Via CosteiraConsists of 10 km of beaches on the east side of Parque das Dunas, linking the South and East parts of the city. It is contiguous with Ponta Negra beach, so you can walk from one beach to another. Contains no infrastructure other than a university and some luxurious hotels. For that the reason, the beach is always almost empty.
Areia Pretaaddress: Av. Gov. Silvio PedrosaBeach in the East region with darker sands. The buildings in the beach front cast shadows on part of it during the afternoon.
Praia dos Artistasaddress: Av. Pres. Café FilhoBeach in the East region. Former glamorous beach that is nowadays more popular among locals. Contains, however, decent tourist infrastructure, including hotels, bars, and restaurants. May be preferable for lodging if you want to stay closer to the Historical Center.
Praia do Meioaddress: Av. Pres. Café FilhoContiguous with Praia dos Artistas, and sharing similar characteristics with it. Cheap food and warm water.
Praia do Forteaddress: Av. Praia do ForteContiguous with Praia do Meio, and where Forte dos Reis Magos is located. Also has a view of Ponte de Todos. The beach does not have almost any infrastructure, however, and will usually be almost empty.
RedinhaThe only beach in the North region. Mostly frequented by locals, and known for the cheap food. The beach has also a platform that goes to the sea, and by walking to the tip of the platform, you can have a wonderful view of Ponte de Todos and the rest of the city.
- Hire a buggy with a driver and travel along the coast, both North and Southwards. The coast of the State of Rio Grande do Norte affords a rare combination of dunes, lagoons, sandstone cliffs and vegetation in between.
- Watch the sunset by Potengi River. A good spot is near the Army base and there are some ships on the river.
- The To a Toa Boat Cruise at the Potengi river to watch the sunset. You will see the city from different angles, pass through historical places and neighborhoods, mangrooves, river beaches. Recorded guiding in English and Portuguese.
phone: +55 84 3211-6218address: Rua Aderbal Figueiredo, 1980, Petrópolis (at Centro de Turismo)A weekly party that happens every Thursday at the old prision (Centro do Turismo), and also every Tuesday during January. It is especially geared towards tourists and there you can learn to dance forró, one of the most popular musical styles from the Northeast of Brazil.
- Genipabu - Dunes, fresh water lagoons and dune buggy rides.
Alecrim neighborhoodAlecrim, in the East side, is the main center of popular street in Natal, where 40% of the shops in the city are located. It is hosts the city's most traditional farmer's market, that happens every Saturday, from 06:00 to 15:00, in the crossing of Coronel Estevam and Presidente Quaresma, gathering more than 400 sellers.
address: Avenida Bernardo Vieira, 3.775, TirolBy far the largest shopping mall of the city, containing 270 shops, 7 cinema rooms, 4 gourmet restaurants and one theater.
address: Av. Engenheiro Roberto Freire, 8790, Ponta NegraShopping mall with about 100 shops, with the obvious advantage of being located at Ponta Negra, where most visitors stay. It is about 750 m from the beach, but since it is in the extreme north of Ponta Negra, it may not be so close to where you are staying.
phone: +55 84 3219-3207address: Av Eng Roberto Freire, 8000, Ponta NegraA commercial center with about 164 shops, most selling local handcraft. It is next to Praia Shopping.
- Mangai, Two locations, one at Ponta Negra, the original one In Lagoa Nova, near the stadium. Excellent regional food. Highly rated and a must if you wish to get to genuine local cuisine. +55 84 3206 3344
phone: +55 84 3219-4469address: Via Costeira, 8828Once voted the best restaurant in town.
- Pizza - If you like pizza, there are three main pizzerias that offer a fixed price menu (about R$15) and you can eat all that you want. "Bella Natal" can be found in "Cidade Jardim" shopping center, and "Vila Mangiare" and "Cantina La Nonna" can be found on Salgado Filho avenue.
- Beach food The most typical beach food is "ginga com tapioca" and the best is served at Redinha market (don't go there on Sundays as it's very crowded).
address: Av. Eng. Roberto Freire 2610, Ponta Negra, NatalExcellent restaurant specialized in shrimp dishes. The only drawback is the long line of people waiting for a table from around 6:30PM to 9PM. Has 3 other branches in Natal.
A Cantina da Praiaaddress: Ponta Negra beachfront
O Boiadeiroaddress: Ponta Negra beachfront
phone: +55 (84) 99943-4222address: Avenida Erivan França, 901Regional food. Very tasty biju (tapioca), filled with many different flavors to choose from. It also sells regional items and cachaça.
phone: +55 84 2030-2290address: Rua Hernani Hugo Gomes, 365 Capim Macio, Natal-RNGelatos, frappés and more, all made without artificial flavors. Great gelato!
Near the city center is the Ribeira district with quite a few options. A nighttime cab to Ponta Negra runs close to R$ 50. Buses 46 and 54 do the stretch in about 45 minutes.
Buraco da Catitaaddress: Rua Câmara Cascudo, RibeiraLive music most nights.
phone: +55 (84) 3219 2227address: Rua Poeta Jorge Fernandes, 45, Ponta NegraEach room has it's own bathroom. Lockers. Kitchen facilities. Free wi-fi.
Pousada Ponta Negraaddress: Rua Afonso Magalhães 115Kitchen facilities.
address: Ponta Negra
RepublikaA bit back from the beach.
Pousada MaravistaOne small block from the beach. Balcony breakfast with a view.
phone: +55 84 4005-0000address: Rua Francisco Gurgel 1160, Ponta Negra
phone: +55 84 3220-8900address: Av. Senador Dinarte de Mariz 5525, Via Costeira
- Extremoz, in the metro area of Natal, contains the renowned Genipabu beach and the quieter Pitangui. Both beaches are surrounded by natural dune parks where it is possible to various activities such as sandboarding, dromedary rides and buggy rides
- Parnamirim, in the metro area of Natal, contains the visitable Barreira do Inferno rocket launch center, the biggest cashew tree of the World, and well-known beaches like Pirangi do Norte
- Nísia Floresta contains 22 transparent lakes and beaches, Praia de Búzios being the most well-known
- Tibau do Sul contains several kilometers of amazing beaches surrounded by cliffs, including Praia da Pipa, one of the most famous of Brazil's Northeast. If you have time, it is worth staying more than a day trip
- Canguaretama contains the beautiful Barra do Cunhaú beach
- Ceará-Mirim is a historical/coastal town that prospered in the past during the Sugar Cane era
- Baía Formosa, at the border with Paraíba, is the most unspoiled and preserved paradise of Rio Grande do Norte's South Coast