Olinda is a city in the north-eastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco. It hosts one of Brazil's most famous carnivals and is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO due to its XVI and XVII-century buildings. Many bars, restaurants, artist and craftspeople studios add charm to the old-town setting.
For its unique historic value the town however has fallen into bit of despair: result of lack of maintenance and care. Many church towers and walls look as if ready to crumble anytime; neighborhood walls are graffitied and trash is everywhere. Depends on which way the wind is blowing, wafts of urine smell is in the air. It's hard to like the town as one arrives, but it does have a way of growing on you if you give it a chance.
Olinda was founded in 1537 by the Portuguese Duarte Coelho Pereira. It owed its rapid rise to the sugar cane cultivated in the Pernambuco area. From the 16th century onward, religious missions built many churches and convents. The city was, however, pillaged by the Dutch in 1631. One of the few surviving buildings is the Church of São João. The Portuguese returned in 1654. Most of the buildings at Olinda date from the 18th century.
The nearest airport is Recife Guarapes Airport. A taxi to/from the airport will cost some R$65. Alternatively, walk across the new skywalk to take the metro all the way to Recife's central station (end stop); fare R$. Once out of the metro gate, walk around the buses that are in the station as part of the metro/bus connection system. Instead, walk around to behind them on the public street where three buses can take you to Olinda: 992 (Pau Amarelo), 983 (Rio Doce/Princesa Isabel), 958 (Costa Azul); fare R$3.35.
Olinda is approximately 7 km from the center of Recife, with plenty of local buses runnning in between. The only bus stop in Olinda is Praça do Carmo, the central park. When arriving in town, ask to be dropped off in front of the post office; when departing, the bus shelter sits squarely in front of the park on the main street; you can't miss it. (See above for bus details).
Olinda is all for the eyes it's not tangible, it's all desire. No one says, "That's where I live." They just say, "That's where I see."
-- Celebrated Brazilian poet Carlos Pena Filho,
in his poem Olinda.
Olinda's beautiful scenery and architecture make for a pleasant sightseeing all around. Colonial architecture, belvederes and the blue sea paint a relaxed environment that is second to none among Brazilian traditional cities.
Igreja Nossa Senhora do Carmo, Praça do Carmo. edit
Convento São Francisco, Praça do Carmo. Mon-Fri 7AM-11:30AM, Sat 7AM-12PM, 2PM-5PM. The Mosteiro de São Bento (1582) and Convento São Francisco (1585) are very important buildings of baroque Brazil. The Convento São Francisco is a large building containing the convent proper, the Capela de São Roque chapel and the Igreja de Nossa Senhora das Neves church.edit
Igreja Nossa Senhora da Graça and Seminario de Olinda, (on the hill above Rua Frei Alfonso Maria). 8-11:30AM, 3-5PM. Built in 1549.edit
Igreja da Sé, Alto da Sé (Cathedral Hights). 8AM-12PM, 2PM-5PM. Also known as Church of São Salvador do Mundo, this was the first church built in Brazil. It was built in 1540 and was briefly a Protestant church during the Dutch occupation in the 17th century. Free. edit
Igreja da Misericórdia. 8AM-12PM, 2-5PM. Built in 1540, with fine azulejos (ceramic tiles) and gilded carvings.edit
Igreja Nossa Senhora do Amparo, Rua Saldanha Marinho. 8AM-12PM. Restored church dating from 1613.edit
Mosteiro de São Bento. 8-11AM, 2-5PM. This huge monastery was built in 1582 and housed Brazil's first law school. In the chapel are exceptional woodcarvings. Holy mass is celebrated on Sun at 10:30AM with Gregorian chant.edit
Contemporary Art Museum of Pernambuco (Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Pernambuco), Rua 13 de Maio, 149, . 9AM-5PM. The museum's collection includes works by famous Brazilian artists, including Portinari, Di Cavalcanti, Cícero Dias, João Câmara, Telles Junior, Eliseu Visconti, Djanira, Wellington Virgolino, Guinard, Adolph Gottielib, Burle Max and Francisco Brennand. The historical building in which the museum is located dates from 1756 and was the only ecclesiastical prision in Brazil during the Inquisition.R$ 5 (R$ 2.50 for students). edit
Olinda Regional Museum (Museu Regional de Olinda), Rua do Amparo, 128, . Tue-Fri 9am-12PM, 2-6PM, Sat-Sun 2-6PM. The museum recreates scenes of domestic and social life of the residents of Olinda in the 1700s. Displays include colonial furniture, decorative arts, painted ceramic tilework, pictures and Brazilian and Portuguese sacred art.R$ 1. edit
Puppet Museum (Museu do Mamulengo), Rua de São Bento, 344., . edit
Sacred Art Museum of Pernambuco (Museu de Arte Sacra de Pernambuco), Rua Bispo Coutinho, 726 - Alto da Sé., ☎ (81) 3184-3154., . Tue-Fri 9AM-1PM. Former city hall (1535) and Episcopal palace (1676), nowadays the building houses a rich collection of religious art with pieces dating back to the 16th century.R$ 1. edit
Quite different from those of Rio and Salvador this is a lively street party, where blocos parade accompanied by frevo and maracatu music. There is a certain activity during the weeks before (and some after), but the party itself explodes on the official dates, from Friday evening until Wednesday morning. Its most famous representative are the giant dolls carried on the shoulders of the people. The parties are non-stop, 24 hours, but the bulk of the crowd fills the streets daytime. When looking for accommodation, bear in mind that the most central streets get very noisy.
Local crafts and artwork. Be wary of making your purchases in or near Alto da Sé, as prices there tend to be inflated due to the constant flow of tourists. The Mercado da Ribeira houses a variety of shops.
Musical instruments, such as those used in maracatu and forró.
Sargação, near Praça do Carmo near the beachfront, serves sandwiches and burgers until the late night hours.
Alto da Sé hosts a variety of food vendors, with a lively environment in the early evening.
Mourisco, Praça João Alfredo, offers self service at a reasonable price.
Oficina do Sabor, Rua do Amparo 335, ☎ 3429 3331. Tue-Sat 12-4PM, 6PM-12AM, Sun 5PM-12AM. If you wish to splurge, Oficina do Sabor offers a privileged view of Recife. Try the baked pumpkin stuffed with shrimp or fish, cooked in coconut sauce (R$18).R$15-20. edit
Casbah, by São Pedro square. Open at nights, a very charming gastro-pub in one of Olinda's oldest houses, dating back to the 1500s. Because of the Moor influence in the architecture, they serve a fusion of Brazilian Northeastern and Arab food. Local artists always hanging around the place. A must try! edit
Bike Fit Café, Ladeira da Misericórdia. Olinda's best café spot! Opened Thursday till Sunday in the evenings, they have a variety and pastries and different types of coffee, as well as drinks. They also often host local art exhibits. edit
Olinda's prefeitura (mayor's office) publishes a monthly nightlife guide, available in tourist offices and hotels.
Mercado Eufrasio Barbosa often hosts cultural presentations and live music shows.
Xinxim da Bahiana (Avenida Sigismundo Gonçalves, near Praça do Carmo) hosts live bands and DJs throughout the week. Especially interesting are forró on Wednesday and Saturday nights.
Every other Saturday, the neighborhood of Amparo (adjacent to the Historic Center), hosts a street party featuring the local rhythm of samba de coco.
Casa da Rabeca do Brasil (Rua Curupira, 125), in Cidade Tabajara(outside of town, accessibel by bus or taxi), hosts a forró party every Saturday night.
Maracatu nations often hold open rehearsals throughout the year.
A Casa do Cachorro Preto is a really charming art gallery where local artists exhibit their work. They often have live music, artistic interventions and even an improvised movie theatre. That is the perfect place to get to know the local art scene. Number 99 on Treze de Maio street. You will not miss the beautiful graffiti painted in front.
Olinda has a wide range of options when it comes to lodging. Reservations could be wise in January and February. During carnival prices triple (literally!!!) and you will have to pay for the five nights from Friday to Wednesday no matter what. Private rooms (R$ 500-1000/5 nights) and apartments/houses (R$800 and up) are mostly cheaper, but standards vary greatly, and they are hard to book ahead. If you arrive on Thursday, there is still time.
Albergue de Olinda, Rua do Sol, 333, ☎ +55 81 3429-1592, . Hostel.Dorm bed R$ 35, doubles R$ 80. edit
Pousada Alquimia, Rua Prudente de Morais, 292, ☎ +55 81 3429-1457. Charming pousada with a bit worn, but very clean rooms. Excellent location close to the main square! The owner, Djair, is a very friendly sailor-like guy who makes a great breakfast (included). Small book-exchange (a few non-portuguese) and cool decorations.Double with bathroom R$ 80. edit
Pousada d'Olinda, Praça Conselheiro João Alfredo, 128, ☎ +55 81 3439-1163, . Dorm bed R$ 25, doubles R$ 80. edit
Pousada dos Quatro Cantos, Rua Prudente de Moraes, 441, ☎ 81 3429-0220, . Former colonial weekend house, a delightful place to stay.edit
Casa do Hilton, Rua do Sol, 77.
Pousada do Fortim, Rua do Sol, 151.
Cama e Café Olinda, Rua da Bertioga, 93, ☎ +55 81 3493-2617, . A ventilated room with a view of Olinda, Recife and Atlantic. Owners speak Portuguese, English and German. Internet Wi-Fi, refrigerator, TV, independent entrance and proper bathroom.edit
Pousada de Amparo, Rua do Amparo 191, ☎ 3439 1749, . edit
Take a local bus to Igarassu and visit the oldest church in Brazil.
Take a bus through Igarassu to Ilha de Itamaracá. There are beautiful beaches, as well as the Centro Cultural de Lia, a cultural center that specializes in the local rhythm called ciranda. If in Itamaracá, do not miss the famous Coroa do Avião (a small, beautiful, sandy island), the IBAMA Centro Peixe Boi (a center for the preservation of the manatee) and the Forte Orange (a 17th century Dutch fortress).
Local buses also make the trip to beaches north of Olinda, including Pau Amarelo and Maria Farinha.
To go to old town of Recife, bus 992 (Pau Amarelo) may be the most direct, taking no more than 15 minutes.
To go to and from Boa Viagem (Recife's popular beach front), take bus 910 (Piedade/Rio Doce).
To go to the central bus station (Casa Santa Rita), the same three buses that bring you here from the central metro terminal will bring you there too: 992 Pau Amarelo; 983 Rio Doce/Princesa Isabel; 958 Costa Azul.