The capital of the state of Pernambuco saw the light of day as a fishermen's town, yet it grew to later become the government's headquarters. It's the so-called Brazilian Venice due to its many bridges, canals and rivers. Only in the downtown area of the city, there are 39 bridges crossing over 50 canals. Its name stems from a reef that protects all the burg's beaches. Art and culture sprinkle life in general, something that's clearly reflected in its houses, churches and ancient forts. A grand tour down the historic core of town can perfectly kick off at the Republic Square, right where the Santa Isabel Theater and the Palace of State are located. Behind a pavilion of modern buildings, the Patio of San Pedro lies concealed among 18th- and 19th-century houses that hem in the San Pedro Cathedral. The former jailhouse has now been transformed into a popular cultural center equipped with shops and stores selling lace, carpets, rugs, straw-woven handicrafts, embroideries and ceramics. Pretty near the Fuerte das 5 Pontas -currently housing an exhibit of maps and photos about the city's history- stands tall. At a stone's throw from the San Jose Market, visitors will chance on the Pernambuco foodstuff center and the Basilica of Our Lady of Penha. A the Museum of the Northeastern Man, a significant collection allows visitors to turn back time and delve into the sugar-making culture and the most genuine artistic manifestations this city has to offer. Some 16 kilometers from there, by the bank of the Capibaribe River, the studio and museum of fine artist Francisco Brennand is lodged in a former sugar mill restored by the artist himself. This museum is also known as the "Cathedral of Art" with more than 2,000 of Brannand's works of art. Recife, a cultural and folkloric hub, is full of music and rhythms, festivals and arts. Its carnivals drag over a million people down the city streets. Recife's House of Culture next to the subway station, is one of the best spots to listen to some good music and watch traditional dancing. On the other hand, The Gallery shows off a permanent collection with more than 2,000 pieces. Pernambuco's capital has evolved into a major tourist center thanks in part to the developments of the nearby regions of Boa Viagem -south of the city- for many Pernambuco's Copacabana. This is the one area comprising all major hotels, restaurants, clubs and nightclubs in town. The best-rated beaches lie to the south, especially the Sao Jose da Coroa Grande, Tamandare and world-known Porto de Galinhas Beach, featuring crystal-clear waters and charming gullies. You can fly from the capital to the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago, some 525 kilometers offshore.



Unlike many Caribbean islands, French St Martin permits nude or clothes-optional bathing on some beaches.