Don't know what to do in Recife? Check out 26 must-see tourist attractions and discover the main sights of the capital of Pernambuco

Divided by several rivers, bridges, islets and peninsulas, Recife is known as “Brazilian Venice”, because of the canals that cut through the city.

The city has a charming historic center with 16th century mansions called “Recife Antigo” and is very close to another unmissable attraction in the state: the city of Olinda. Both cities have one of the richest architectural collections in Brazil, with numerous churches and mansions that today house museums, galleries, shops and restaurants.

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The modern side of the city has Boa Viagem Beach and must-see attractions such as the Francisco Brennand Ceramics Workshop and the Ricardo Brennand Institute, and of course, the traditional Boa Viagem market. Check out a list of must-see attractions to visit in Recife and enjoy the best of the capital of Pernambuco.

26 attractions to discover in Recife

ground zero

Recife tourist attractions

Recife Tourist Attractions. Photo: Bruno Lima / MTUR

Known as the founding place of the city of Recife, Marco Zero is one of the most iconic spots in the capital of Pernambuco. The place is surrounded by famous buildings in the historic center such as the Centro Cultural da Caixa and the Associação Comercial do Estado. 

The north of the square is bathed by the estuary of the port of Recife, and protected by a natural dike, where the Parque das Esculturas is located, with the famous work Coluna de Cristal, by artist Francisco Brennand, 32 meters high.

old reef

must-see attractions in Recife

photo: Shutterstock

The Recife Antigo neighborhood has an important architectural complex and some of the main tourist attractions in the capital of Pernambuco.

Rua do Bom Jesus is the best place to contemplate the architectural wealth of the city. Here, visitors can visit the Jewish Cultural Center, the Embassy of the Giant Puppets, the Malakoff Tower and the Paço do Frevo, in Praça do Arsenal da Marinha.

Boa Viagem beach

must-see attractions in Recife

Photo: Clauiorpmsousa / Wikimedia Commons

The main beach of Recife has a boardwalk with excellent structure for tourists. With a long strip of sand and protected by the reefs that follow part of the Pernambuco coast, the beach has warm and greenish waters. 

Despite being always crowded, the beach is not a good place for swimming, as there are several signs on the beach warning of the risk of shark attack.

Ricardo Brennand Institute 

must-see attractions in Recife

Photo: Ana Moura / Flickr

The Instituto Ricardo Brennand is a non-profit cultural space opened in 2002, which safeguards a valuable collection of the art collector from Pernambuco Ricardo Brennand.

Located on the lands of the former São João mill, in the Várzea district, it occupies an area of 77,603 m² surrounded by a preserved Atlantic forest reserve and is considered one of the best museums to visit in Brazil.

Francisco Brennand Ceramic Workshop

Recife tourist attractions

Recife Tourist Attractions. Photo: Valdiney Pimenta / Wikimedia Commons

With works spread all over Recife, Francisco Brennand, from Pernambuco, has a gigantic ceramic atelier, open for visitors. The space displays hundreds of sculptures and in an immense garden with alleys and lakes.

Embassy of the Giant Puppets

must-see attractions in Recife

Photo: Alberto.. / Flickr

If you couldn't catch a carnival in Recife and Olinda, but would love to meet the famous giant dolls, head immediately to the Puppet Embassy. The space exposes the characters created to liven up the streets during Carnival, allowing tourists to get an idea of the dimension and structure of these pieces.

airplane crown

must-see attractions in Recife

Photo: MTUR Publicity

The paradisiacal island is part of the must-see attractions to visit in Recife and is opposite Praia do Forte Orange, on the island of Itamaracá. Access to the island is done by speedboat in approximately 15 minutes and the place has some tents that help visitors relax and snack on typical dishes of the state.

Praia do Pina

Recife tourist attractions

Recife Tourist Attractions. Photo: Creative Commons / Wikimedia Commons

Neighboring Boa Viagem, Praia do Pina is one of the urban beaches of Recife and offers a complete structure with many tents, restaurants and snack bars. 

Like the other beaches on the coast of Pernambuco, Pina has a wide strip of sand, coconut trees on the shore and green sea.

Itamaraca Island

Photo: MTUR Publicity

The beauties of Itamaracá Island attract tourists all year round to discover the charms that the island is home to, including the Peixe Boi Ecoparque, Forte Orange and the beaches in the region. 

Itamaracá Island is located 40 kilometers from Recife and access is via the PE-015 following the entrance to the BR-101 to Igarassu.

Capibaribe River Boat Trip

Recife tourist attractions

Recife Tourist Attractions. photo: Shutterstock

The boat ride on the Capibaribe River is one of the most fun ways to discover the canals that cross the Historic Center of Recife. 

The water city tour lasts just over an hour, travels through the three islands in the center of Recife and allows passengers to see the main postcards of the city from different angles.

golden chapel

Main tourist attractions in Recife

Photo: Shuttestock

One of the most imposing and important churches in Recife, the Capela Dourada, was built between the 17th and 18th centuries, it is located inside the Convent and Church of Santo Antônio, which also houses a Museum of Sacred Art. Its interior has numerous gold details and sacred paintings on its walls.

Basilica and Convent of Nossa Senhora do Carmo

Recife tourist attractions

Recife Tourist Attractions. Photo: Rodrigojordy / Wikimedia Commons

The Basilica and Convent of Nossa Senhora do Carmo is a Catholic architectural complex belonging to the Carmelite Order and is considered a treasure of the baroque religious architecture of the city.

Located in the center of the city, the Basilica of Carmo was listed by the Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional (Iphan) since 1938, it brings together a collection of religious works dating from the 18th century.

Good Trip Fair

Main tourist attractions in Recife

Recife's must-see attractions. Photo: Disclosure

The fair space, located at Praça de Boa Viagem, features craft stalls, gastronomy, souvenirs and typical products from the state. 

The market in Boa Viagem is open from Monday to Friday, from 2 pm to 10 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays, from 10 am to 10 pm.

Paço do Frevo

Main tourist attractions in Recife

Photo: Walber Moura / MTUR

A reference and dissemination center for frevo, Paço do Frevo protects and displays the richness of this cultural manifestation, declared an Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Culture house

Recife tourist attractions

Recife's must-see attractions. Photo: Bruno Lima / MTUR

The Casa da Cultura is an old prison in Recife, deactivated about 40 years ago, which today functions as a huge market for souvenirs and typical products of the state.

Patio de San Pedro 

Main tourist attractions in Recife. Photo: André Luiz de Azevedo Martins / Wikimedia Commons

Surrounded by colonial mansions and the imposing facade of the Cathedral of São Pedro dos Clérigos, the Pátio de São Pedro is listed as a National Historic Landmark and forms one of the most exciting scenarios in Recife Antigo.

Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue

Main tourist attractions in Recife. Photo: Pedro P. Palazzo / Wikimedia Commons

Located in the Old City Center, the synagogue was built in 1637 by Dutch Jews who occupied part of the Northeast and is considered the first synagogue in the Americas.

Cais do Sertão Cultural Center 

Main tourist attractions in Recife

Recife's must-see attractions. Photo: Luci Correia / Wikimedia Commons

The Cais do Sertão cultural space is another unmissable attraction in Recife Antigo. The interactive museum honors the life and works of singer-songwriter Luiz Gonzaga, and is housed in an old Armazém do Porto do Recife.

Five Points Fort

Main tourist attractions in Recife

Main tourist attractions in Recife. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Forte de São Tiago das Cinco Pontas was the last Dutch construction in Recife and its objective was to protect the capital of Pernambuco from foreign attacks. 

Currently, the place houses the City Museum, with temporary exhibitions that tell a little about the history of Recife, and admission is free.

Malakoff Tower

Main tourist attractions in Recife

Photo: Paulo Camelo / Wikimedia Commons

Built between 1853 and 1855, the Malakoff Tower served as the entrance to the Navy Arsenal and today houses a cultural and scientific space with exhibitions open to the public.


Main tourist attractions in Recife

Recife's must-see attractions. Photo: Bruno Lima / MTUR

Less than 15 km separate Praia de Boa Viagem from the Historic Center of Olinda. The city has one of the most impressive architectural complexes in the country and should certainly be on your itinerary.

Paiva Reserve

Main tourist attractions in Recife

Main tourist attractions in Recife. Photo: Jjreservadopaiva / Wikimedia Commons

Despite being a habitat for sharks and not recommended for swimming, Reserva do Paiva has one of the most beautiful beaches on the urban coast. With green areas covered by coconut trees, the neighborhood is home to numerous luxury hotels and is located in the quietest and safest region of the city next door, Cabo de Santo Agostinho.

Return trip in Porto de Galinhas

Main tourist attractions in Recife

Photo: Gustavocrocha / Wikimedia Commons

The small and charming village of Port of Chickens it is only 70 km from Recife, and can be a great option for a quick day trip. Porto de Galinhas is located in the municipality of Ipojuca and has more than 10 beaches, but the main attraction are the famous natural pools formed by corals that protect the southern coast of the state.

Return to Tamandaré

Recife tourist attractions

Recife's must-see attractions. Photo: DlauriniJr / Wikimedia Commons

Another unmissable day trip option is the paradisiacal Praia dos Carneiros, in the city of Tamandaré. It is worth waking up early and traveling the 100 km that separate Recife from the beach and enjoying this paradise for a day.

Numerous agencies offer the complete tour that includes a fun boat ride that passes through beautiful scenery, contoured by the transparent and calm sea of the south coast of Pernambuco.

Return to Caruaru

Recife tourist attractions

Main tourist attractions in Recife. Photo: Edudgarcia / Wikimedia Commons

Known for the São João festivities, Caruaru is just a few hours from Recife, in the wild region of the state. Visitors to the city will be able to visit one of the largest street markets in Latin America and Alto do Moura, a neighborhood represented by the artisans of Caruaru, with several workshops, museums, bars and restaurants with regional cuisine.

Read too:

» Itinerary: 3, 5 and 7 days in Recife and Olinda
» Recife tourism tips
» Cais do Sertão Museum in Recife
» Paço do Frevo Museum in Recife

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