Belem, Brazil is a bit of a mystery. At the surface, at least, it appears to be a city in a confused status between shambles and riches. Along the port stand buildings that seem they could be ready to crumble at any given moment. The waters of the port are filled with garbage and beaten down boats and ship. However, just a short walk away from the derelict old center there is an old riverside boardwalk beautifully manicured and home to a number of different restaurants and pubs. Belem will grow on visitors who manage to look past the ramshackle state of the center to see the beauty and character of the city.
Time Needed: 2-3 Days
Budget: 30-50 US$
Things to do in Belem
- The Historic Center: The truth is that the old center has been left to rot away with time. However, the old buildings painted in fading colours of bright yellow, blue, pink and orange can be very photogenic as well. It is worth an afternoon to head down here and shoot some photos.
Markets: Belem has some of the best markets in all of Brazil. You can find nearly anything within the stands of these markets from Acai to potions remedying any ailment. The two best markets are the Mercado Ver-o-Peso and the Acai Market.
- Parks: There are two large reserves within the city. Both are worth a visit especially if you’re hoping to see some of the local wildlife but don’t have time to head into the jungle on a wildlife expedition. You will also find some of the world’s largest lily pads here in the parks. Closest to the center the Museu Emilio Goeldi is the smaller but more developed of the two parks. Farther out of the center you’ll find the huge Bosques Municipal Rodrigues Alves.
Where to Eat in Belem
Belem is actually one of the better places to eat in Brazil, which is a surprise to many people. Along the waterfront you will find a number of different restaurants. The local brewery is a great place to start a big night as about 20 dollars will get you an all you can eat buffet and all you can drink beer before 10pm on Wednesdays. There is also a nice bistro called Cozinha da Bistro which serves nice sized meals for between 8-15US$.
Where to Stay in Belem
I advise against sleeping near the old center of the city as it is messy and can be quite rough at night. The better district to stay in is called Nazare. While I was in Belem I stayed at the city’s Hosteling International chapter. The hostel is very well kept, but don’t expect to find huge amounts of people here.
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