Recife (Brazilian Portuguese: [ʁeˈsifi] ) is the fourth-largest urban area in Brazil with 4,054,866 inhabitants, the largest urban area of the North/Northeast Regions, and the capital and largest city of the state of Pernambuco in the northeast corner of South America. The population of the city proper was 1,653,461 in 2020.[4][5][6] Recife was founded in 1537, during the early Portuguese colonization of Brazil, as the main harbor of the Captaincy of Pernambuco, known for its large scale production of sugar cane.[7] It was the former capital Mauritsstad of the 17th century colony of New Holland of Dutch Brazil, established by the Dutch West India Company. The city is located at the confluence of the Beberibe and Capibaribe rivers before they flow into the South Atlantic Ocean. It is a major port on the Atlantic. Its name is an allusion to the stone reefs that are present by the city's shores. The many rivers, small islands and over 50 bridges found in Recife city centre characterise its geography and led to the city being called the "Brazilian Venice". As of 2010, it is the capital city with the highest HDI in Northeast Brazil and second highest HDI in the entire North and Northeast Brazil (second only to Palmas).[8]

Municipality of Recife
Skyline of Recife with Antônio Vaz Island and the bridges of the Historic Center
Rio Branco Square
Aurora Street
Joaquim Nabuco Palace
Flag of Recife
Coat of arms of Recife
Veneza Brasileira (Brazilian Venice), Capital of the Northeast and Mauricéia/Mauritsstad (after the Dutch colonisation)
Latin: Ut Luceat Omnibus
That it may shine on all (Matthew 5:15)
Location in the state of Pernambuco
Location in the state of Pernambuco
Recife is located in Brazil
Recife is located in South America
Coordinates: 8°3′S 34°54′W / 8.050°S 34.900°W / -8.050; -34.900
Country Brazil
FoundedMarch 12, 1537
Incorporated (as village)1709
Incorporated (as city)1823
 • MayorJoão Henrique Campos (PSB)
 • Vice MayorIsabella de Roldão (PT)
 • Municipality218 km2 (84.17 sq mi)
 • Metro
2,768 km2 (1,068.7 sq mi)
10 m (33 ft)
 • Municipality1,653,461 (9th)
 • Density7,133.2/km2 (18,537.9/sq mi)
 • Metro
3,743,854 (6th)
 • Metro density1,352.5/km2 (3,527/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC-03:00 (BRT)
Postal code
50000-001 to 52999-999
Area code+55 81
HDI (2010)0.772 – high[2]
GDPBR$50.688 billion 2014[3]
GDP per capitaBR$31 513.07 (in Portuguese)

The Metropolitan Region of Recife is the main industrial zone of the State of Pernambuco, major products are those derived from cane (sugar and ethanol), motor vehicles, ships, oil platforms, electronics, software, and others. With fiscal incentives by the government, many industrial companies were started in the 1970s and 1980s. Recife has a tradition of being the most important commercial hub of the North/Northeastern region of Brazil, with more than 52,500 business enterprises in Recife plus 32,500 in the Metro Area, totaling more than 85,000.[9]

A combination of a large supply of labor and significant private investments turned Recife into Brazil's second largest medical hub (the first being São Paulo);[10] modern hospitals with state-of-the-art equipment receive patients from several neighbouring States.[11][12]

Recife stands out as a major tourist attraction of the Northeast, both for its beaches and for its historic sites, dating back to both the Portuguese and the Dutch colonization of the region. The beach of Porto de Galinhas, 60 kilometers (37 mi) south of the city, has been repeatedly awarded the title of best beach in Brazil and has drawn many tourists. The Historic Centre of Olinda, 7 kilometers (4.3 mi) north of the city, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, and both cities' Brazilian Carnival are among the world's most famous.

The city is an education hub, and home to the Federal University of Pernambuco, the largest university in Pernambuco. Several Brazilian historical figures, such as the poet and abolitionist Castro Alves, moved to Recife for their studies. Recife and Natal are the only Brazilian cities with direct flights to the islands of Fernando de Noronha, a World Heritage Site.[13]

The city was one of the host cities of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Additionally, Recife hosted the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 1950 FIFA World Cup. The city, despite having a higher crime rate than the southern region of Brazil, is considered the safest state capital in northeastern region. It has a much lower crime rate than other regional capitals, such as Salvador or São Luís. Despite that, crime rose 440% in 2015.[14]

History Portuguese Empire 1537–1630
Dutch West India Company 1630–1654
Portuguese Empire 1654–1815
United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves 1815–1822
Empire of Brazil 1822–1889
Republic of Brazil 1889–present

Map of Recife and Mauritsstad, ca. 1682, Weduwe van Jacob van Meurs (publisher)

Recife began as a collection of fishing shacks, inns and warehouses on the delta between the Capibaribe and Beberibe Rivers in the captaincy of Pernambuco, sometime between 1535 and 1537 in the earliest days of Portuguese colonisation of Terra de Santa Cruz, later called Brazil, on the northeast coast of South America. It was a settlement of colonial fishermen and way station for Portuguese sailors and passing ships.

The first documented reference to the settlement with its "arrecife dos navios" (reef of the ships) was in the royal Charter Act of March 12, 1537, establishing Olinda, 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) to the north, as a village, with its port where the Beberibe River meets the sea. Olinda (and Igarassu before it) had been settled in 1536 by Captain General Duarte Coelho, a Portuguese nobleman, proprietor and administrator of the captaincy of Pernambuco.[15]

The city is named for the long reef recife running parallel to the shoreline which encloses its harbour. The reef is not as sometimes stated, a coral reef, but a consolidated ancient beach, now as firm and hard as stone.[16]

In 1541, Coelho returned from the Kingdom of Portugal with the machinery for an engenho (sugar mill), and with it, his brother-in-law established the first mill named Nossa Senhora da Ajuda (Our Lady of Help), in the floodplain of the Beberibe River at Recife. At that time the banks of the Capibaribe River were covered by sugar cane.

Recife was capital of the 17th century New Holland (Dutch Brazil) established by the Dutch West India Company and was called Mauritsstad, the city was eventually recaptured by the Portuguese in 1654, following their victories at the first and second Battle of Guararapes.

The Mascate War of 1710–1711 pitted merchants of Recife against those of nearby Olinda.

Panorama of Recife in 1855 by Friedrich Hagedorn.


In 2010, the center city of Recife was the 9th most populous city in Brazil.[27]

In 2010, the city had 268,160 opposite-sex couples and 1,004 same-sex couples. The gender proportion of the population of Recife was 53.8% female and 46.2% male.[26]

Atlântico Sul Shipyard
Jeep Assembly Plant (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles)

According to 2013 IBGE statistics, the GDP was at R$46,445,339,000. And the GDP per capita was at R$29,037.[30]

Recife is one of Brazil's prime business centers, largely because it has one international airport and two international seaports. One is located in the town itself, and the other, the port of Suape, is located about 40 kilometres (25 mi) away. Just south of Recife is the region's main industrial area, where the following industries can be found: shipbuilding, automotive, petroleum refining, petrochemical, electronics, tube manufacturing, brewing and canning, chocolate manufacturing, textiles, etc.[31]

Recife has shared in the prosperity of Northeastern Brazil that resulted from development promoted after 1960 by Sudene (Superintendência para o Desenvolvimento do Nordeste), a federal agency / organization. Although its retail and wholesale trade have grown in response to the region's increases in population and wealth, the market area and walkways of the city's bridges are crowded with informal traders selling small items.[32]

Information technology industry
Digital Port

Recife has an area dedicated to information technology called "Porto Digital" (Digital Port) with more than 90 companies and 3,000 high tech Jobs. It was founded in July 2000 and has since attracted major investments. Generating some R$10 billion (Brazilian Reais) a year,[33] it produces technology that is exported to the United States, India, Japan, and China, among other countries. Software manufacturing is the main activity in the Porto Digital.[34] The Porto Digital cluster comprises small and medium companies, but multinationals from across the world, like Accenture, Motorola, Samsung, Dell and Sun Microsystems also have operations there. IBM and Microsoft transferred their regional headquarters to Recife.[35]

Porto Digital's startups can count on a ready pool of talent, courtesy of the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE), which boasts one of the best computer-science departments in all of Latin America.[36] The university began teaching programmers to use Sun Microsystems Inc.'s (SUNW) Java language in 1996, the year it was introduced. Professors at the school also teamed up to launch the Centro de Estudos e Sistemas Avançados do Recife (C.E.S.A.R), a business incubator that has played a vital role in the birth of some 30 companies.[36]

Logistics hub
Typical white taxi of Recife.
Pedestrian separation structure in Recife.

Due to its ports, airport, and geographic location in the northeastern region of Brazil, Recife is considered one of the biggest logistics hubs in Brazil. The Logistics and Communications sector employs 4%[37] of the people in Recife, 12.3% in Jaboatão dos Guararapes and over 9% in the Metropolitan Area. These numbers were due to increase with the conclusion of the Transnordestina (the main NE Trainline) with a 1,800/1,118 km/mi extension, which will cross 3 and connect 7 States (34 municipalities in Pernambuco alone) products with Suape port (PE) and Pecem Port (CE)) with costs that are estimated to be around 4.5 R$.[38]

Recife has historically benefited from its central location in the Northeast region. In a 200-mile (320 km) radius from Recife are four state capitals, two international and three regional airports, five international ports, 12 million people, 51% of the research centers of the Northeast and 35% of the region's GDP. Similarly, in a 500-mile (800 km) radius there are seven state capitals, five international and five regional airports, nine international seaports and two fluvial ports.

Shopping centers
Plaza Shopping
RioMar Shopping

Shopping Center Recife was inaugurated in 1980 and it was subsequently surpassed by Riomar Mall, which gross leasable area is 101.000 m2, compared with 91.200m² of Shopping Recife. Other shopping centers include:

Medical facilities
Shopping Center Recife area in Boa Viagem neighborhood.
Corporate buildings in Agamenon Magalhães Avenue.

Many events taking place during the year include:

Because of its geographic location, tourism and city infrastructure, Recife's convention centers are of a high standard. The two centers are:

The third largest convention center in Brazil.[45]

A modern theatre with 1,931 seats and 2,071 square metres (22,290 square feet) of exposition area located on the university campus.

Government and politics
Carnival attracts a lot of tourists.
Resort in Muro Alto Beach, Porto de Galinhas.

Celebrations, holidays and other events are numerous throughout the year. The New Year begins at the beach, Praia de Boa Viagem and in Old Recife. The carnival of Recife and Olinda (which has its historic town centre considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982)[47] begins many weeks ahead in December with innumerable balls and parades.

In the city, the carnival festivities begin in January, as locals begin preparing for the official Carnival, which starts the week before Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday in the Christian liturgical calendar. The pre-Carnival parties usually consist of percussion groups practising in local clubs, city streets and squares, and even Carnival balls. There is a variety of rhythms from different cultures. Carnival officially starts with the Galo da Madrugada, a party in Downtown Recife where people call old Recife, that attracts many people from several states of Brazil, and other parts of the world.

Recife has many quality 3, 4 and 5-Star International Hotels as well as Pousadas (traditional Bed & breakfast) and Apart-Hotels, totalling more than 11,500 bedrooms and this number increases to over 30,000 when the metropolitan area is considered.[48]

The Mercado de São José (Market of Saint Joseph) is an old, iron construction with a popular market nearby. In the Fort Cinco Pontes (Fort of Five Points) is the state museum, Museu do Estado de Pernambuco. At the rectangular Pátio de São Pedro are the Cathedral São Pedro (Cathedral of Saint Peter) dating from the year 1782 and restored colonial houses, with numerous restaurants, bistros and bars. In the Bairro Santo Antônio (Saint Anthony neighborhood), at the meeting place of the rivers Capibaribe and Beberibe, is the Praça da República (Square of the Republic) with the Teatro Santa Isabel (Theatre of Saint Isabel), with its neoclassical front, the Law Courts, and the Palácio da Justiça (Palace of Justice). The Casa da Cultura (House of Culture) is an old prison that has been converted into a cultural space and shopping centre.

Frevo was included on the UNESCO's list of intangible heritage.[49]

Built between 1835 and 1855, the Malakoff Tower, a monument constructed in Tunisian / Arabic style, used to be an observatory and now is a cultural centre and a place for popular gatherings. It is located at Arsenal da Marinha Square. It has been registered as an Historical Patrimony and was named after a similar monument on the Crimean peninsula, off the Black Sea, used as a defence centre for Sebastopol.[50]

Recife has a zoo known as the Dois Irmãos Park, consisting of 387 hectares of Atlantic Forest reserve and 14 hectares of botanical gardens. It contains 800 animals, the Natural Science Museum and various ecological trails.[51] The metropolitan area has also a giant water park 20 km (12 mi) North of Recife, called Veneza water park which has nearly one million square feet of area, ten million litres of water and many water slides for the youngsters.

Among Recife's main tourist attractions are:

Architectural Digest featured Rua do Bom Jesus as of the 31 most beautiful streets in the world in 2019, noting its history and the Kahal Zur Israel synagogue.[52]

Boa Viagem Beach
Pina Beach

Recife beaches

Jaboatão beaches

Olinda beaches

North beaches

Galo da Madrugada, Recife Carnival.
Olinda Carnival, in the historic city of Olinda, near Recife.

The four-day period before the Christian liturgical preparatory season Lent leading up to Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday is carnival time in Brazil. Rich and poor alike forget their cares as they gaily party in the streets. Pernambuco has large Carnival celebrations with more than 3000 shows in the streets of the historic centre performed by over 430 local groups, including the Frevo, typical Pernambuco music. Another famous carnival music style from Pernambuco is Maracatu. The cities of Recife and Olinda hold the most authentic and democratic Brazilian Carnival celebrations. The largest carnival in Brazil is Galo da Madrugada, which takes place in Downtown Recife on Carnival Saturday. Another famous event is the "Noite dos Tambores Silenciosos." (literally, Night of the Silent Drums) Carnival. Recife's Carnival is nationally known, attracting thousands of visitors every year.

The party starts a week before the official date, with electric trios "shaking" the Boa Viagem neighborhood. On Friday, people take to the streets to dance to the sound of frevo and to dance with maracatu, ciranda, caboclinhos, afoxé, reggae and manguebeat groups. There are still many other entertainment centers spread out around the city, featuring local and national artists. One of the highlights is Saturday when more than one and a half million people follow the Galo da Madrugada group.[54] Every day, there is the Night of the Silent Drums, on the Pátio do Terço, where Maracatus honor slaves that died in prisons.[55]

"Frevo" was born from the confluence of European and Afro-Brazilian cultures,[56] as probably did all the other musical genres consolidated in Brazil. Historians from Pernambuco say that, before the term appeared in Recife's 'Jornal Pequeno', it was already heard and danced in a symbiosis of polkas, 'modinhas', 'dobrados' e 'maxixes' e 'jogos pastoris' (stick and rope formations) along the streets of Pernambuco's capital.[57] The early music bands (civilian or military) helped to give the sound the defining character that has come to be known as Frevo, a musical mass defined by the brasses. Frevo conductor Guerra Peixe said once that "it is the only popular genre that does not admit the 'play-by-ear composer'. He was referring to the technical hardship of this kind of music, and stressing the role of conductors who led the 'frevistical' troupes.[58]

Pernambuco State Museum.

The Museum of Pernambuco State is housed in a 19th-century mansion in Recife. Known locally as the "Museu do Estado de Pernambuco (MEPE)", it dates back to 1929. The museum comprises over 12 thousand pieces from Masters who portrayed the Colonial period and the Dutch invasion (1630), to 20th and 21st century pieces.

Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue: Sinagoga Kahal Zur Israel, the historic Recife synagogue in Recife Antigo, is the oldest in the Americas, dating to 1646. The original synagogue was destroyed, but a new one was built on site. In the early 21st century, it was restored for use as a museum. It is an important part of Pernambuco's historic patrimony. It was founded by Jews who settled in the Netherlands after expulsion from Spain and Portugal. They emigrated with the Dutch to "New Holland" when the Dutch invaded the northeastern portion of Brazilian lands occupied by the Portuguese. When the Portuguese reconquered the land, these Sephardic Jews moved further north with the Dutch, and helped found "New Amsterdam" (now New York City) on Manhattan island in the United States.[59] The first New York City synagogue was created in Lower Manhattan by the founders of the first synagogue in the New World in Recife. It later moved to the Upper West Side, where it is still called "the Portuguese and Spanish Synagogue".

Gilberto Freyre Foundation: This farmhouse from the 18th century was Gilberto Freyre's old residence. Artworks, arts and crafts, book collections and objects that belonged to the Pernambucan writer and sociologist are displayed here.

Ricardo Brennand Institute: Set up in a reproduction of a medieval-style castle, there is a collection of pieces from the period of Dutch rule in Recife, as well as daggers and armor from medieval Europe.

Recife City Museum: Located in a room in Cinco Pontas Fort (the five-pointed Fort), this museum houses pictures, reproductions of old paintings, and objects that encapsulate Recife since the period of Dutch rule.

Ricardo Brennand Institute. The "best museum in South America".[60]

The Brazilian feijoada, considered the Brazil's national dish, was registered for the first time in Recife.[64][65]
The bolo de rolo, one of the symbols of Pernambuco.

Recife cuisine is the cuisine of its region, Pernambuco and the Northeast, and the culinary influences of the area can be traced to a dynamic assortment of cultures: the Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish, Moors, Africans and Indigenous.[66] Many dishes come with a delicious coconut sauce, palm oil (dendê) and feature corn, manioc roots, yam, fresh seafood (shrimp, crab, lobster cooked with exotic sauces) and native fruits. Grilled meats are also widely served, especially goat and beef dishes.[67]

The typical regional main dishes include caldeirada (seafood stew with octopus cooked with various spices and coconut milk, which may be served with white beans or toasted cassava flour), feijoada Pernambucana (made with brown beans instead of black), sarapatel, buchada (goat stew), dobradinha (bean stew), roast goat, mão de vaca (cow's foot stew), Rabada (ox tail stew with manioc flour), cozido Pernambucano (beef stew), chambaril, galinha de cabidela (chicken in blood sauce), peixada Pernambucana (fish stew), macaxeira com charque (cassava with beef jerky), quiabada (okra with beef), feijão com arroz (rice and beans), and guaiamuns (giant crabs). One of the most traditional dishes, is Carne-de-sol (Sun-dried beef), which consists of beef dried in the sun and usually served with green beans.[68]

For dessert, Recife offers bolo de rolo (cake roll), cake Souza Leão, and cartola (top hat cake) which consists of fried long bananas with cheese topped with cinnamon and sugar. The diversity continues for the breakfast as one can find cuscuz of sweet corn or manioc, yams and cassava with charque (corned beef or beef jerky), sweet potato, goiabada, fried long banana, mugunzá, regional fruits, bread, tapioca, rice pudding, porridge, yogurt, queijo coalho, corn bread, hominy and pamonha. Breakfast is often accompanied by coffee and/or milk and juices from regional fruits such as cashew, pineapple, mangoes, acerola, guava, passion fruit, umbu, hog plum, pitanga, jackfruit, orange, avocado and the regionally most famous caldo-de-cana and água-de-coco juices.[69]

According to Abrasel (Brazilian Association of Bars & Restaurants), Recife has more than 1,700 bars and restaurants which serve regional (partially listed above), Brazilian (such as moqueca, bobó de camarão, açaí) and International dishes from all over the world, which has made it the first gastronomic centre of the Northeast[70] and the third one in the whole country after São Paulo and Rio.

Recife Airport

International airport
Bus lane in Recife.
Recife Metro, the third largest in Brazil.

Recife Metro is one of the largest metro systems in Brazil. It reaches from Recife central station to Jaboatão, Timbi (Camaragibe) and Cajueiro Seco (Jaboatão dos Guararapes), being complemented by a light rail, with connections at Curado and Cajueiro Seco stations, which links Recife and Jaboatão to Cabo de Santo Agostinho.

This system is also integrated with bus terminals[72] such as at Barro, Joana Bezerra and Tancredo Neves stations. It is possible to ride the metro and the connected bus line by purchasing one ticket only. In March 2009, Recife Metro completed an additional phase of expansion. The system now has 29 stations (18 integrated with buses), plus 9 light rail stations, and is 39.5 km (24.5 mi) long.

Fleet1.2Boa Vista, Cabanga, Ilha do Leite, Paissandu, Santo Antônio, São José e Soledade1.3Coelhos e Ilha Joana Bezerra
North2.1Arruda, Campina do Barreto, Campo Grande, Encruzilhada, Hipódromo, Peixinhos, Ponto de Parada, Rosarinho e Torreão2.2Água Fria, Alto Santa Terezinha, Bomba do Hemetério, Cajueiro, Fundão e Porto da Madeira2.3Beberibe, Dois Unidos e Linha do Tiro
Northwest3.1Aflitos, Alto do Mandu, Apipucos, Casa Amarela, Casa Forte, Derby, Dois Irmãos, Espinheiro, Graças, Jaqueira, Monteiro, Parnamirim, Poço da Panela, Santana, Tamarineira e Sítio dos Pintos3.2Alto José Bonifácio, Alto José do Pinho, Mangabeira, Morro da Conceição e Vasco da Gama3.3Brejo da Guabiraba, Brejo do Beberibe, Córrego do Jenipapo, Guabiraba, Macaxeira, Nova Descoberta, Passarinho e Pau Ferro
West4.1Cordeiro, Ilha do Retiro, Iputinga, Madalena, Prado, Torre e Zumbi4.2Engenho do Meio e Torrões4.3Caxangá, Cidade Universitária e Várzea
Southwest5.1Afogados, Bongi, Mangueira, Mustardinha e San Martin5.2Areias, Caçote, Estância e Jiquiá5.3Barro, Coqueiral, Curado, Jardim São Paulo, Sancho, Tejipió e Totó
South6.1Boa Viagem, Brasília Teimosa, Imbiribeira, Ipsep e Pina6.2Ibura e Jordão6.3Cohab

Arena Pernambuco, the stadium of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Access to the stadium.

Recife was one of the 12 cities chosen to host games for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, for which Brazil was the host nation. The Metropolitan Recife project consisted of a new Sports City constructed in São Lourenço da Mata in an intersection area near to Recife, Jaboatão dos Guararapes and Camaragibe. The new Sports complex is 19 km (12 mi) west of Recife city centre and 19 km (12 mi) from the Airport.

The sports complex 'City'[79] was constructed with a new stadium with 45,000 seats, 9,000 flats, 6,000 car parking spaces, 1 hospital, 1 technical school, 1 shopping centre, 1 integrated metro/bus station and improvement of federal roads, all with an estimated cost of R$1.6 billion.

This was the second time Recife has been chosen to be one of the host cities of the FIFA World Cup. In 1950, Recife hosted just one game, between Chile and the United States, at Ilha do Retiro Stadium. At this time, it was the only city to represent the Northeast of Brazil.

Social and environmental issues Guangzhou, Guangdong, China
  • Porto, North Region, Portugal
  • Partner cities Nantes, Pays de la Loire, France

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