Fortaleza is a major city on Brazil's northeast coast, and the capital of Ceará state.
View of Fortaleza's coast.
One of Fortaleza's many monuments to Iracema, here at the very Praia de Iracema
Fortaleza is one of the largest cities in Brazil (about 2,5 million) and certainly one of the most vibrant. Temperatures range from 23-31 C with rare exceptions. July - November has virtually no rain. February - May can have its share, but mostly at night. The last years the city has seen an increase of crimes (ranging from petty to violent), so stay alert when wandering away from Beira Mar and other public areas, especially after dark. Despite being quite a party town, the carnival in Fortaleza is rather feeble, although growing bigger by the year, with the largest parades being Maracatu-style.
The 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. 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 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.
The 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.
In Brazil, Fortaleza is also known for its crop of comedians and the forró music and dance, all gaining popularity countrywide. The city is perhaps the most popular domestic package tour destination, and Europeans are following suit. Sadly, the latter comes with its share of holiday prostitution.
Several municipal tourist information offices around, the most convenient being at the airport, the Central Market and Beira Mar(Half way between McDonald's and the fish market).
The modern terminal building of the international airport Pinto Martins (Telephone +55 85 3392 1200) was opened in 1998. An extension of the same size should be ready by 2014. Services here include federal police, post office, health authorities, internet cafe, tourist information and travel agencies. Airlines fly to almost every major city in Brazil and also other capitals of South America, mostly via São Paulo. Today's flights can be checked online.
Direct flights to Europe:
Other international flights:
- The Miami route keeps opening, closing and reopening again. Delta is currently having their go. Otherwise the direct route from [Manaus] is an alternative to Sao Paulo.
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.
There 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's now a direct bus connecting airport to Beira Mar/Praia de Iracema (the main beach). It's R$ 10,00, runs between 6.30-22.30. Bus 917 Aeroporto/Beira-mar
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.
The main bus station (Telephone +55 85 3230 1111) 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 6-7 PM. Buses to neighbouring towns, within some 100 km, often leave from the train station in the centre.
- 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 7 PM by Itapemirim. R$ 190. 22 hours.
Taxi to Beira Mar is about R$ 15 and 10-15 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 25 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.
A second, smaller bus station is in the western suburb of Antonio Bezerra(1,2 km down the road from the urban bus terminal with the same name). 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.
A third bus station opened early 2010 in the southern suburb of Messejana (next to the urban bus terminal with the same name), and 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.
Most 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. From the fish market, where the Avenida Beira Mar with its broad pavement stops, 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.
Many years in the planning, and quite some time under construction, always halted by budget quarrels, Metrofor promises to take you there and back in no time. Whenever it will be operational.
As any major Brazilian city, Fortaleza can be done almost entirely by bus . Ticket price is R$ 3,40 (rare exceptions, like Sundays at R$ 3,20), and if you get off at a terminal you can change lines without paying again. 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 nightime 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 - 24 hours!!! City center - Mercado Central - Dragão do Mar - Historiador Raimundo Girão - Abolicão - Desembargador Moreira/Shopping Aldeota.
- Grande Circular 1/2 - 24 hours!!! City Centre - 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.
- 917 Aeroporto Beira Mar - R$ 10,00 - Express bus from airport to Beira Mar, passing through Monsenhor Tabosa shopping street.
A slowly increasing number of buses, although this far none belonging to the above mentioned lines, are monitored in real-time and you can check how far your bus is from your stop. 
All 4000-odd taxis in town run on the same meter system , except the special cabs at the airport. Start price is R$3,62, then R$1,81 per km on rate 1 and R$ 2,72/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$ 18,10 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 if you hail one off the street.
Average bargained prices to out-of-town-destinations:
- Cumbuco R$ 80 return same day.
- Canoa Quebrada R$ 150.
By moto taxi
Depending on the traffic flow, this can be a rather scary experience. In general about half the price of a cab, starting at R$ 4 for runs up to ten blocks or so.
Brazilian 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 daytrips to outlying beaches. Rental shops are virtually everywhere. 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.
You can rent bikes in Fortaleza.
Recently the municipality made roads for cycling and they covered a good part of the city. You can try to download their app and rent a bike from the spots located throughout the city.
Colonial façades at Dragão do Mar
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.
- History Train and Step-by-Step History are two free tours offered on alternating Saturdays in the city centre. Show up at Banco do Nordeste, Rua Floriano Peixoto 941, at 1:15 PM. Both last about 3 hours. Basic Portuguese is a must.
- Praça do Ferreira is the main city square, with stores, restaurants, a movie theater and plenty of benches.
- Praça José de Alencar has plenty of greenery and is the place to catch the city's best street performers.
- Theatro José de Alencar on the south side of the above square. The architectural landmark of the city, finished in 1912, has performances almost every evening. Visits every hour on the hour, except noon. R$ 4, 30 minutes.
- The Dragão do Mar culture center, opened in 1999, has an art museum, a library, a cinema and surrounding nightlife.
- Museu de Arte e Cultura Popular, Rua Senador Pompeu 350, centre. Located 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.
- The sunset, either from Ponte Metalica, Praia Iracema, or the beach by the fish market, Mucuripe.
- Parque Ecologico do Cocó, the city's largest green area, near the Iguatemi-mall. No lawns, but a nice walk in the woods.
- Cathedral, city centre. The closer you get, the worse it looks, with a parking lot and all. But it still has nice mosaics. 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.
- Museu do Ceará, Rua Sao Paulo 51, one block north of Pr. do Ferreira, centre. In a late 19th-century seat of state government. Explains the history of the state of Ceará and its capital. Free entry.
- Museu do Automóvel (Veteran Car Club do Brasil), Rua Desembargador Manuel Sales Andrade 70 (Walk some 7 blocks up Av. Cel. Miguel Dias from Shopping Iguatemi's main entrance, then turn right.), ☎ +55 85 3273 3129, . 9-12, 14-17, closed Mondays and Sunday afternoons.. Some 60 cars on display, mostly of US make, ranging from 1917 to 1995(!). Notably two funeral cars from the 30's. R$ 7. edit
- Estoril, Rua dos Tabajaras 397, Praia de Iracema (Near Pirata Bar). This 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. edit
- Mercado dos Pinhões, Praça Visconde de Pelotas, Praia de Iracema (Two blocks inland from the shops at Rua Monsenhor Tabosa). This former meat market was imported piece by piece from Europe and set up in 1897. Refurbished and now used as a handicrafts fair. edit
- Mini Siará (Museu de Miniaturas), Rua José Avelino 250 (Right off Dragão do Mar). Tue - Sat 2 PM - 5 PM. More cute than really interesting, this tiny museum has about 25 scale models of Fortaleza's colonial buildings, and also a couple of scale landscapes. R$ 5. edit
The monthly listing Olheiro can be found in the receptions of most large hotels.
Souvenirs and clothing is cheaper and more varied at the Feirinha or Mercado Central.
There are a couple of locals (although they will sometimes tell you otherwise) that speak some English who approach tourists on the beaches being very helpful. In the end they are not. They want your money, -watch out!
There are two nice city beaches, Praia de Iracema and Meireles. Some people discourage bathing here, although they are mostly rated green by authorities. 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. 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.
The most attractive urban beach is Praia do Futuro, about 5 km (unsafe to walk) from Meireles. Windy, with rather strong currents and undertows, swimming can be a challenge, but for a dip it's fine. Some 150(!) beach shacks, here a selection from north (closest to Beira Mar) to south, with their special features:
- 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 and cannabis.
- 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 forro.
At the very end of Praia do Futuro its name changes to Caça e Pesca. Freshwater swimming in a strong current where the river Cocò meets the ocean.
There is good surfing on the beaches, and frequent competitions at Praia do Futuro.
- Chandler Surf, 411 Rua 24 de Maio, ☎ +55 85 8803-4487 ([email protected]), . is a surf school working at Meireles Wednesday - Sunday afternoons, R$ 17-35 an hour, including board rent. edit
Kite and Wind Surfing
Good conditions most of the year, with winds up to 40 knots.
- Windzen, Praia do Futuro (Next to Vira Verao), . Equipment (Naish dealer) and classes. Helpful with info about out-of-town spots. edit
A couple of motorized schooners and a catamaran do similar 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 time is better, as you get the sunset. Bring swim-gear. Minimum of ten people required- 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 5 PM. R$ 130.
The nearest golf club is in neighbouring Iguape, some 30 minutes by car from Beira Mar.
- 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 there's a more alternative selection.
- Ceará Music Brazilian rock, pop and techno during three days in October by the hotel Marina Park. About R$ 40 per night.
- Fortal  Fortaleza´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 Arte  A range of Brazilian music and other performances. January.
- Although 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 3 PM.
- The local Gay Parade, officially named Parada pela Diversidade Sexual de Fortaleza, happens along Beira Mar on the last Sunday of June
There are a few private lesson on offer for foreigners who want to learn Portuguese. These typically cost around R$ 20 per hour.
- Easy to Learn language school. Rua Frei Mansueto, 1018, Meireles, Phone 3267 1622 - Portuguese private classes for foreigners are around R$ 40
Job opportunities for travellers are scarce.
The state of Ceará has a large textile industry, and arguably the cheapest clothing in Brazil. Also the capital of hammocks, varieties of which can be found ranging from less than R$ 10 to more than R$ 100. Best place to buy is the range of small shops opposite the cathedral, city centre.
There are handicraft shops all around the city, but the best places to go are the Feirinha da Beira Mar (Beach front fair, daily about 4 PM - 10 PM) and the Mercado Central (Near the cathedral). These places have a large number of stalls and shops, and competition drives prices down.
- There is a very convenient Pão de Açucar 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 8 PM.
- For 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 Geraldo, Rua 24 de Maio 950, Centro (Three blocks south from Praça José de Alencar), ☎ +55 85 3226 2557. Behind 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. About R$ 5 for a paperback. edit
- Livaria Cultura, Av. Dom Luís, 1010 - Meireles (Just west of the football and volleyball courts on Beira Mar, go south for approx. 5 minutes down Ibapina and Távora st. it'll be on a large building on your left - second floor.), ☎ +55 (85)4008-0800, . Has about 100 high quality (albeit somewhat pricy) English books, as well as an abundance in other languages, but mainly in puertogese. This is the biggest (and according to a local friend the best) bookshop in town. edit
- Shopping Iguatemi The 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.
- Shopping Aldeota On Praça Portugal, seven blocks from Beira Mar, with a cinema.
- Shopping Del Passeo Near Shopping Aldeota, with a cinema.
The best concentration of restaurants in town is found in the Varjota neighbourhood, especially along Rua Fredrico Borges and its side streets, starting some five blocks inland from Beira Mar.
Thursday is crab day in Fortaleza, especially in the many shacks at Praia do Futuro.
- For a cheap and good lunch, try Maciel Lanches at Av. Monsenhor Tabosa 1010, near the corner of Rua Ildefonso Albano, from 1045 AM to 145 PM. 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 a la carte options and fresh juices.
- Naturalmente Jeri, (In Windzen Naish kitesurf and windsurf store - Praia do Futuro near Barraca Vira Verão), ☎ +55 85 3262 0632, . Lunch and Dinner. Specialties are crepes and Açaí, also sandwiches, fruit juices, and salads. Hang out for local windsurfers and kitesurfers, especially after beach. Crepes from R$9. edit
- La France, Rua Silva Jatahy 982, Meireles (Just off Av Desembargador Moreira, two blocks from Beira Mar), ☎ +55 85 3242 5095. Perhaps not authentic French, but a varied menu, including escargots, and a selection of wines. Dishes for 2 at R$ 40-60. edit
- Parque Recreio, Av. Rui Barbosa 2727. Open air restaurant with grilled meats, sea food and more.
Three options for a rodizio (grilled meats en masse, watch out for expensive drinks and desserts):
- Churrascaria Gheller, Av. Monsenhor Tabosa 825, corner of Antonio Augusto, Praia Iracema, ☎ +55 85 3219 3599. 13:00-late. This is arguably the best value rodizio 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. All you can eat R$ 20. edit
- Sal e Brasa, Av Abolição, . All you can eat R$ 49. edit
- Boi Preto, Av Beira Mar, . Is it worth it? All you can eat R$ 59. edit
The state of Ceará is renowned for its seafood. Near the fish market are a couple of restaurants:
- Alfredo do Peixe. Many dishes for two at around R$ 40, also meat.. edit
- Hong Kong Arguably 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.
If you are a bit more courageous, buy your shrimp, lobster, squid, whatever straight from the stalls, and hit one of the nearby shacks to fry it for you. One kilo of mid-sized shrimps about R$ 15, R$ 3 for frying, -then plenty of beers!
There is bad, watery, plastic flavoured ice cream galore in Fortaleza, as elsewhere in Brazil. Try these for the real stuff:
- Sorveteria 50 Sabores, Several branches: At the fish market; At Nautico. R$5 for one scoop. edit
- Barbaresco, Several tiny branches around town. edit
If your accommodation has bad or no breakfast, most large hotels let you take part in theirs for about R$ 10-12.
Grab a chilled coconut from a stall at Beira Mar, starting at R$ 2,00!
Fortaleza is a forró-stronghold. Virtually any day of the week you can find a party with live music and this traditional dance, sometimes in quite modern variations (often referred to as forró universitário). On weekends you can choose from literally dozens of places. For a more genuine, tourist-free happening, you must move towards the outskirts of the city, paying up to R$ 30 by cab.
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.
The 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 5 PM.
- Internacional, Avenida Beira Mar 4456 (200 m from the fish market). Daily until midnight. With Belgian and Dutch owners Filip and Marco, has grown into a kind of ex-pats hangout, good food. Free WiFi. Occasional live music. edit
- Mucuripe, Travessa Maranguape, 108. tel +55 85 3254 3020 . Fanciest club in town, best on Fridays. Ticket normally R$ 25-30 (everyone pays "half-price", don´t be fooled by vendors on the street that claim that its R$ 50 inside.) Be aware that foreigners with Brazilian girlfriends often are turned back at the entrance. Enter separately.
- Forró do Pirata on Mondays (in high season also on Fridays) in Praia de Iracema. A 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.
The 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 Clara, Excellent coffee, some extremely sweet varieties, good bites, and extreme air-conditioning in a pleasant, old-worldly setting. Slow service, though. Tue-Sun 3-10 PM.
- Armazem. 23-04. The 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. Entry R$ 20. edit
- Órbita. 20-04. Brazilian and international rock and pop cover bands. Later electronica DJs. Thursdays and Sundays(packs from 9 PM) good. Mostly well off students. Entry R$ 18-23 small beer R$ 4. edit
- Dona Santa. Gay, transvestite and more. edit
- Music Box. Gay edit
- Chope do Bexiga. Famous for its Chope de Vinho (Is it wine or beer after all?) edit
- Bueno Amici's. Informal, variety of styles, most famous for its Samba!! Entry R$ 10, small beer R$ 4. edit
- Acervo Imaginário, Avenida Pessoa Anta. Live music on weekends, dancing student crowd. Entry R$ 10, small beer R$ 4. edit
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.
- Arre Égua, Rua Delmiro Gouveia 420, Varjota, . Tuesdays and Fridays from about 8 PM till late. Thoroughly 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. Entry R$ 30. edit
Many of the shacks at Praia do Futuro host parties nightime Thursday - Sunday.
- Biruta, Mostly electronica on Fridays.
Like it or not, Fortaleza has grown into the Brazilian gringo prostitution capital. (At least by repuatation. 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 entries, meaning that a foreign man can have trouble getting in with his Brazilian girl.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
|| Under R$50
|| R$ 50-150
|| Over R$150
Reservations are essential in January, when Brazilian holidaymakers pack in. September-November and March-May have room for bargaining at most posted prices. Many hotels will immediately give you 30% off.
Most hotels are on the strip Praia Iracema - Meireles - Mucuripe, parallel to Avenida Beira Mar, and up to about 4 blocks inland. Categories are spread about, but Praia Iracema has most budget options. Many cheap deals can be struck at Praia do Futuro, but be aware transport costs and lack of security at night.
Charging up to R$ 40 for a dorm bed, hostels are sometimes outpriced by cheap single rooms in the same area.
- Rolling Stone, Rua dos Pacajus 66, Praia de Iracema (Next to Praca da Mincharia), ☎ +5585 3067 5929, . A stone's throw from the waterfront. With the city refurbishing the area, this looks very promising indeed. Dorm bed 25-31 reais, single 50, double 90. edit
- Hostel Terra da Luz, Rua Rodrigues Júnior 278 (Three blocks inland from Dragao do Mar), ☎ +55 85 3082 2260 ([email protected]), . Also triples. Dorm bed R$ 25, single R$ 30, double R$ 90. edit
- Backpackers Ceará, Avendia Dom Manuel 89, Praia Iracema (Up the road from Dragão do Mar), ☎ +55 85 3091 8997, . R$ 25 per person. edit
- Good Hostel & Bar, Rua João Cordeiro, 655, Meireles (700m from main beach Praia de Iracema), ☎ +55 85 2181 2204 ([email protected]), . A brand new hostel that offers free breakfast, a swimming pool, bar and free parking. 4 bed dorm with air conditioning R$ 40, with ceiling fan R$ 30, 6 bed dorm with air conditioning R$ 35, private room R$ 110. edit
A number of cheap options in the city centre, but the area goes seedy and unsafe at night. Unless you have a car, and can stay at Praia do Futuro, your best cost/benefit is probably along Avenida Dom Manuel, between Av. Monsenhor Tabosa and Av. Santos Dumont -just inland from Dragão do Mar. Stick to the main street after dark!
- Hotel Passeio, Rua Dr. João Moreira 221, centre. A bit run-down. Singles around R$25.
- Hotel Caxambu, Rua General Bezerril 22. Modern and well-equipped. Rooms with TV and A/C, singles R$ 25.
- Shammah Hotel, Avenida Almirante Barroso, Praia de Iracema, . Refurbished 2010 Singles R$ 70, doubles R$ 85. edit
- La Maison, Av. Des. Moreira 201. Small, conveniently located hotel with nice rooms and friendly staff. Singles R$100.
- Ibis Just up from Holiday Inn at Historiador Raimundo Girao. Convenient for online booking and cancelling. R$ 85 single, 149 double. Breakfast R$ 10. Wi-Fi R$ 12/day.
- Hotel Porto Futuro R$ 90 double. Av. Zeze Diogo, 7260 - Praia do futuro. tel +55 85 3265 3365 / 3263 1441, Large rooms.
- Pousada Villa Marina, Rua Monsenhor Bruno 104, Praia de Iracema (Next to Ideal Clube), . Doubles R$ 95. edit
- Vila Galé, Av. Dioguinho 4189, Praia do Futuro, ☎ (+55) 85 34 86 44 00 (”[email protected]", fax: "(+55)), . Located on the beach 15 minutes cab ride from Avenida Beira Mar. Online booking edit
- Hotel Marina Park, Av. Presidente Castelo Branco 400, Praia de Iracema, ☎ (+55) 40 06 95 95 (”[email protected]", fax: "(+55)), . Online booking edit
A typical modern two bedroom 65 m2 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 m2 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:
- Praia Mansa, Avenida Abolicao 2480, Meireles (One block from McDonald's), . edit
- Flat Atlantico, Avenida Abolicao 2111, Meireles. edit
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 Pao de Acucar supermarket at Avenida Abolicao.
- 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.
- Helpful tourist police "Delegacia do Turista" at Avenida Historiador Raimundo Girao 805, phone 3101 2488, just by Hotel Travel Iracema (formerly Othon), Praia Iracema. Some English spoken. 24 hours.
- There are countless stories of single foreign men being robbed by prostitutes, apparent or not, they take back to their rooms. Reportedly they sometimes employ a drug to knock victims out, otherwise they just rely on your voluntarily exagerrated alcohol/drug consumption. Be aware that most 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 be aware beggars that keep touching you.
- Praia do Futuro is bordered by one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in town, the Serviluz slum. Under no circumstances walk through deserted areas of this beach, even if moving between two crowded places. Bus stops are notoriously robbery-ridden after sunset -even if it's only 5:45 PM.
- There have been a number of cases where foreigner have been detained at the airport with large amounts of drugs, particularly cocaine, on their way out of the country. The federal police is working hard: Don't even think about it!
As a rule of thumb, try to avoid drinking tap water.
If you travel west from Fortaleza, into the states of Maranhão, Pará or further, Brazilian authorities recommend that you get a yellow fever vaccination. An International Certificate of Vaccination  can be issued if you have the shot taken at the airport or in the city center. If you already have your booklet, and only need a new shot and the corresponding entry, this is best done at the medical center at Avenida Antonio Justa, one block from Pão de Açucar, weekdays 7 AM to 4:30 PM, free of charge.
There are plenty of laundries around. Those which charge per kg (mostly R$ 6-10) are somewhat cheaper than those which charge per garment. Your clothes are normally ready next day. There is one single self-service laundry:
- Lav e Lev at Avenida Abolição just by the corner of Avendida Desembaragador Moreira. R$ 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. Monday - Friday until 7 PM, Saturday until 2.
- Laundromat at the corner of Av. Abolição and Rua Paulo Barros washes and dries a small load for R$ 17, ready within 24 hours, often much sooner.
- 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.
- 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, 8 AM - 6 PM. Bus 099 Siqueira - Mucuripe / Barão de Studart to/from Avenida Abolição.
- The joint Dutch, Norwegian and Swedish consulate, Rua Rocha Lima 371, Joaquim Tavora (Three blocks off Av. Dom Manoel), ☎ +55 85 3242 0888. At the premises of Emitrade. Bus 077 Parangaba Mucuripe to/from Avenida Abolição. edit
- Museu da Cachaça, . In neighboring Maranguape is the Cachaça Museum, hosted by Ypióca , one of the country's most widespread brands. edit
- Museu Senzala Negro Liberato, ☎ +55 85 3332 1116. Daily 8 AM - 5 PM. A monument of slavery and liberation, with a nearby cachaça-destillery. On the main highway just outside Redenção, some 60 km from Fortaleza R$ 2. edit
- The Jazz and Blues Festival is a continuation of the carnival in Guaramiranga, the weekend after.
Any tour agency, and a number of pushers along Beira Mar, can offer you daytrips, and longer packages, to outlying beaches. The one thing they have in common is the price, -it's fixed in between them, and it's far too expensive. Oceanview is old in the game and has a site with prices. If you are a group of 3-4 persons, a taxi can mostly be negotiated for less.
- 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$ 120 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.
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