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Belem, Brazil - Colonial Gateway To The Amazon Rainforest

Brazil travel blog by a backpacker - April 2015   » View Photoset (117 Photos)

Mark Berman, South America backpacker for nearly 10yrs!
At first glance Belem doesn't look so appealing but in reality it is a very interesting city with many sights and historical buildings to discover
Brazil Photo - Lots of green vegetables for sale from this mans table at Ver-o-Peso Market in Belem.
Lots of green vegetables for sale from this mans table at Ver-o-Peso Market in Belem.
around the center. I arrived in Belem at the port after a 43hr Amazon River journey by ferry from Santarem towards the west. Belem was founded in 1616 and is the gateway to the Amazon Rainforest in the Bay of Guajara near the eastern Brazilian coast. I stayed in a hotel in the heart of the historic area near the river and markets.

Plaza D. Pedro II

The first place I visited was plaza Praca D. Pedro II which has many colonial buildings around it and views of others in streets nearby. This plaza is across the road from the river and is very much in the center of everything you want to see in Belem. The monument in the middle features lions and statues with the statue at the very top being of Hilario Maximiano Antunes Gurjao (1820-1869), a military man. The plaza
Brazil Photo - Pink theatre Teatro Waldemar Henrique at plaza Praca da Republica in Belem.
Pink theatre Teatro Waldemar Henrique at plaza Praca da Republica in Belem.
has lots of trees and walkways. Better still are the interesting buildings all around the plaza. The palaces Palacio L. Sodre and Palacio A. Lemos, The Museum of Art and other smaller colonial buildings on another side. All facades are well-kept. Across the road is the iron-cast clock tower which came from England. From the clock tower you can see a street beside the river with a line of old colonial buildings along one side.

The Fortress

From around the iron clock tower you can see the fortress Forte do Presepio up a slight hill. I walked up a derelict cobblestone street with a train track down the middle to get there, 2 mins walk. The area around the fortress is very nice with green lawns, paths, artworks and views of the river. A stone archway, a
Brazil Photo - Colonial building facade in good condition at plaza Praca das Merces in Belem.
Colonial building facade in good condition at plaza Praca das Merces in Belem.
cobblestone path, then a bridge across a lower path brings you to the fort entrance. The top part of the fortress is in a circle shape with cannon pointing out towards the sea in all directions. From this vantage point you can see tiled roofs and the cathedral with historic buildings all around. Also the view of the port and city is fantastic from up here! The fortress is in great condition and also has a museum and archaeological
Brazil Photo - The top part of the facade of church Igreja da Se in Belem.
The top part of the facade of church Igreja da Se in Belem.
information to read.

City Guide

The Most Beautiful Plaza

From the fort I headed towards the huge white cathedral which has a plaza across the road called Praca Frei Caetano Brandao, this is the oldest area of Belem. This is a beautiful plaza and the thousands of red flowers give the white cathedral a nice contrast. You can buy fresh cold coconut juice straight from the coconut and sit to enjoy the surroundings of this most beautiful part of the inner city. The plaza has a central monument of the man it is named after. The interior of the cathedral has beautiful facades and fittings. On the other side of the plaza is another church called Igreja da Se which is also a standout historic building.

Waterfront and Markets

From Plaza Frei Caetano Brandao I walked a few minutes back to the waterfront around
Brazil Photo - Lemos Palace columns, a tree in the foreground, Belem.
Lemos Palace columns, a tree in the foreground, Belem.
the central market Mercado de Ferro do Ver-o-Peso which is marked by the huge blue building that has a tower on all 4 corners. It was built between 1899 and 1901. This is an area of the city you need to be careful in, there are people sleeping rough, drunks, drugs and thieves all about. But it is perfectly safe if you stay aware of what is around you. It is an interesting and lively place as you would expect from a large market area. There is also a huge food hall where you can sit and have a nice big meal for $10 Reals ($3-4USD). Beside the market is a derelict historic building called the Solar da Beira. I walked up the stairs and took a few photos out of the windows but I wouldn't recommend doing that particularly because there
Brazil Photo - Historic building with a clock face in Belem.
Historic building with a clock face in Belem.
were dodgy out-of-it people laying around the place.

Back 1 or 2 Blocks

Across the road is the historic facade of the Municipal Market. From here I walked a few minutes and came to plaza Praca das Merces which has an historic church that goes by 2 names - Igreja de Nossa Senhora das Merces and Covento dos Mercedarios, last restored in 1753. The plaza has a statue of politician Jose da Gama Malcher (1814-1882) as well as historic buildings all around it. On the upper side of the plaza are streets with shops, food, hotels and more interesting colonial facades. Other buildings I saw while walking to plaza Praca da Republica in a nearby part of the city included Palacio Cabanagem (the Legislative Palace), Baroque church Capela de Sao Joao
Brazil Photo - A beautiful old facade in great condition with a light pink color in Belem.
A beautiful old facade in great condition with a light pink color in Belem.
Batista, the pink facade of the O'Cosmorama building and statues opposite the yellow church Igreja de Sant' Ana (1782) at plaza Praca Maranhao and the colonial baroque church Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosario dos Homens Pretos. I arrived at Praca da Republica and saw a plaque that said that this is the site called Pioneer's Bench where 2 Swedish missionaries Daniel Berg and Gunnar Vingren prayed to God and ate mangoes in 1910 after landing ship Clement. In 1911 they founded the Apostolic Faith Mission (Assembly of God) in Belem.

Plaza Republica

Plaza Republica is a very large park and has some fantastic buildings to see including the pink theatre Teatro Waldemar Henrique and the prestigious theatre Teatro da Paz. Across the road
Brazil Photo - People paint pictures of archaeological relics inside Forte do Presepio in Belem.
People paint pictures of archaeological relics inside Forte do Presepio in Belem.
from here is the antique fountain in plaza Praca da Sereia. I then walked past the red flowery plaza Praca Barao do Rio Branco which has a bust of Dr. Ruy Barbosa (1849-1923), a politician and diplomat. Across the road is church Igreja da Santissima Trindade, built in 1802, rebuilt in 1941 and a bust of Jose Maria da Silva Paranhos (1819-1880), a politician and journalist. I found quite a bit of street art around the city on my travels, much of it was on shabby side-streets.

Near the River

Back down near the river and markets is a statue of Pedro Teixeira (died 1641), he was a Portuguese explorer and the first European to travel up the entire length of the Amazon River, he has a plaza named after him of course! Between
Brazil Photo - Clown with an alligator hat, wall art in Belem.
Clown with an alligator hat, wall art in Belem.
this plaza and the Ver-o-Peso markets is a very flash section of the waterfront area in Belem. This area has a cobblestone pathway beside the water underneath an archway of yellow wharf cranes. Also there is an old train engine monument plus restaurants and bars. On another day I was in the area around plaza Praca da Bandeira where there are many flags flying, some cannon, a Simon Bolivar bust and a big red fire station. Also there is the green historic building of the military Quartel General.

Ferry Ticket at the Port

I walked to the port to get information about a ferry north to Macapa passing a few sights along the way - plaza Praca General Magalhaes Barata and some graffiti art and historic buildings. You are never far away from things historic in Belem it seems. I enjoyed this city a lot, it is actually one of the more dangerous cities in Brazil but as long as you stay inside at night and keep your wits about you, you should be fine. From Belem I took a ferry north 26hrs to Macapa.

     

View all photos in the Belem Photoset


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Distances & times (if available) from Belem (Brazil) to:


Map location: Belem, Brazil. A colonial Amazon city with many sights and a fortress. I came here on a 2 day ferry from Santarem!
 A : Belem to Macapa (Amazon River) - Brazil 227 kms 227 kms straight distance
 B : Macapa - Brazil 370 kms 370 kms straight distance
 C : Santarem to Belem (Amazon River) - Brazil 415 kms 415 kms straight distance
 D : Macapa to Oiapoque - Brazil 424 kms 424 kms straight distance
 E : Sao Luis - Brazil 476 kms 476 kms straight distance
 F : Oiapoque - Brazil 695 kms 695 kms straight distance
 G : St Georges / Oiapoque Border - French Guiana / Brazil 698 kms 698 kms straight distance
 H : Santarem - Brazil 710 kms 710 kms straight distance
 I : Cayenne, French Guiana 824 kms 824 kms straight distance
 J : Cayenne to Kourou to Saint Laurent - French Guiana 868 kms 868 kms straight distance
 K : Saint Laurent du Maroni, French Guiana 984 kms 984 kms straight distance
 L : Saint Laurent / Albina Border - French Guiana/Suriname 991 kms 991 kms straight distance
 M : Paramaribo, Suriname 1104 kms 1104 kms straight distance
 N : Nickerie & the Journey from Paramaribo - Suriname 1252 kms 1252 kms straight distance
 O : South Drain / Moleson Creek Border - Suriname / Guyana 1266 kms 1266 kms straight distance
Driving times are accurate but approximate and are listed in the order of driving distance! Drive times are always affected by weather conditions, the terrain, time of day, altitude, dinner and bathroom stops, animals on the road, protests, a fast or slow bus driver, police checkpoints, border and river crossings, dropping off and picking up passengers etc. These drive times are obtained from Google Maps and are meant as a guide. Note however, times quoted in the main text of this page are exactly as the author experienced it.


My Hostel & Hotel Reviews for Belem, Brazil:

V5 Hotel, Belem, Brazil - Large Photo
V5 Hotel, Belem, Brazil (April 2015 - 1 night) - Before I left the other hotel I was staying at in Belem where the internet had been down for 2 days, I found the V5 Hotel nearby. My first question was if the internet was working and I was told yes! So I came here and payed good money for a nice room (around $30USD). The V5 Hotel is very nice indeed. It's located very close to the yellow cathedral in the old city. My room was very comfortable with air-con, fridge, tv, balcony and private bathroom with hot water and the staff were very helpful and friendly. This is the best hotel to stay at in the old city area for the price. I wish I had moved to the V5 earlier. Recommended. (www.v5hotel.com.br)
Hotel Vitoria Regia, Belem, Brazil - Large Photo
Hotel Vitoria Regia, Belem, Brazil (April 2015 - 3 nights) - Located in the center of the old city in Belem. Seemed like a nice place. The woman owner is very unfriendly, she didn't like me from the start and I felt the same about her. I had a room with air-con, bathroom, a fridge and a tv with nothing worth watching for just over $22USD per night. The wifi worked for the first 24hrs but never did again after that, even then I had to sit right beside my door to get a connection. Breakfast was included each morning which was good. At night I ordered food from delivery people who brought it to my room. But the most disgusting thing were the pillows on the bed, old pillows with the foam falling out wrapped in new pillow cases. In the middle of the night after waking up, I found myself laying in a pool of foam pieces, it was everywhere and it was absolutely disgusting. I scrapped it all up with my feet and kicked it out the door. The hotel is probably better than the other 2 places nearby in the same street but take it or leave it. It's a dive in disguise. I'm sure there are better places to stay than this and there is! I moved to a new hotel nearby the next day.

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Belem, Brazil - Colonial Gateway To The Amazon Rainforest. A colonial Amazon city with many sights and a fortress. I came here on a 2 day ferry from Santarem!

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