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Fortaleza is a major city on Brazil's northeast coast, and the capital of Ceará state.
The modern terminal building of the international airport Pinto Martins was opened in 1998. Services here include federal police, post office, health authorities, internet cafe, tourist information and travel agencies. Airlines fly to almost every major city in Brazil and also other capitals of South America, mostly via São Paulo. Today's flights can be checked online.
The main bus station has buses to most all of the country, often via connections. Expresso Guanabara has the most extensive network from here, and also sells tickets near Beira Mar.
Most tourists will not go more than 5 blocks from the sea, except for the airport and bus station, and perhaps a shopping mall. The following main streets will take you from the city centre to the fish market, by way of Dragão do Mar and the beaches Iracema and Meireles.
Walking here at daytime can be risky, -at night it's asking for trouble.
Many years in the planning, and quite some time under construction, always halted by budget quarrels, Metrofor promises to take you there and back in no time. Whenever it will be operational.
By moto taxi
Depending on the traffic flow, this can be a rather scary experience. In general about half the price of a cab, starting at R$ 4 for runs up to ten blocks or so.
Brazilian city traffic makes this option a bit frustrating for anyone who honks less than once a minute while driving back home. The city is best covered by bus and cab, but a car can make many daytrips to outlying beaches. Rental shops are virtually everywhere. Despite huge signs claiming low prices, you will hardly end up paying less than R$ 60 for the most basic car, -plus fuel. Beach buggies start at R$ 100.
What to see
Quite an effort has been put into restoring colonial architecture over the last years. Still there is no area that is completely "clean", but the stretch from the beachfront of Praia de Iracema, via Dragão do Mar and to Praça do Ferreira is steadily improving and worth a walk.
History Train and Step-by-Step History are two free tours offered on alternating Saturdays in the city centre. Basic portuges is a must.
Praça do Ferreira is the main city square, with stores, restaurants, a movie theater and plenty of benches.
Praça José de Alencar has plenty of greenery and is the place to catch the city's best street performers.
Theatro José de Alencar on the south side of the above square. The architectural landmark of the city has performances almost every evening.
The Dragão do Mar culture center, opened in 1999, has an art museum, a library, a cinema and surrounding nightlife.
Museu de Arte e Cultura Popular, Rua Senador Pompeu 350, centre. Located in an old prison, now the Centro de Turismo, along with a handicraft market and a tourist information. Displays many fine examples of folk art as well as boats and other cultural relics.
The sunset, either from Ponte Metalica, Praia Iracema, or the beach by the fish market, Mucuripe.
Parque Ecologico do Cocó, the city's largest green area, near the Iguatemi-mall. No lawns, but a nice walk in the woods.
Cathedral, city centre. The closer you get, the worse it looks, with a parking lot and all. But it still has nice mosaics. French architect George Mounier allegedly was inspired by the Cologne cathedral. Note the 40 year span between the initial works and the inaugural mass, above the main entrance.
Museu do Ceará, Rua Sao Paulo 51, one block north of Pr. do Ferreira, centre. In a late 19th-century seat of state government. Explains the history of the state of Ceará and its capital.
Estoril, Rua dos Tabajaras 397, Praia de Iracema. This mansion, built in 1925 as Vila Morena, and later used as a casino, a restaurant and a rather political bar, is of peculiar architecture. It was virtually rebuilt in the 90's, and is undergoing another refurbishment to be used for public cultural arrangements.
Mercado dos Pinhões, Praça Visconde de Pelotas, Praia de Iracema. This former meat market was imported piece by piece from Europe and set up in 1897. Refurbished and now used as a handicrafts fair.
What to do
Babagula, more sandwiches, playground for children. Subway is cohabiting.
Satéhut, Dutch run with some Indonesian on the menu. Clean toilet!
Veraneio, the hedges protect you!
Beira Mar Grill, decent food.
Volta da Jurema, near Othon Palace. Nice sunset.
G2, a notch cheaper than the rest.
The most attractive urban beach is Praia do Futuro, about 5 km (unsafe to walk) from Meireles. Windy, with rather strong currents and undertows, swimming can be a challenge, but for a dip it's fine.
There is good surfing on the beaches, and frequent competitions at Praia do Futuro.
Chandler Surf, 411 Rua 24 de Maio. is a surf school working at Meireles.
Aldeia Surf School. Offers surf lessons and surf trips every day of the week. Based at Hotel Vila Galé.
Kite and Wind Surfing.
Good conditions most of the year, with winds up to 40 knots.
Windzen, Praia do Futuro (Next to Vira Verao). Equipment (Naish dealer) and classes. Helpful with info about out-of-town spots.
A couple of motorized schooners and a catamaran do similar 2 hour cruises along the city beaches. The latter time is better, as you get the sunset. Bring swim-gear. Minimum of ten people required- often cancelled in the low season.
The nearest golf club is in neighbouring Iguape, some 30 minutes by car from Beira Mar.
Ceará Music, Brazilian rock, pop and techno during three days in October by the hotel Marina Park.
Fortal Fortaleza´s Salvador-style out-of-season carnival (allegedly the largest in Brazil) kicks off in a purpose-built area near Praia do Futuro. Direct buses from the Papicu terminal.
Vida e Arte, A range of Brazilian music and other performances. January.
Although carnival here is rather dull, the city's pré-carnaval is a major happening, all the way from New Year until the real thing starts in February or March. Several venues, the most accessible at Dragão do mar Saturdays from 3 PM.
The local Gay Parade, officially named Parada pela Diversidade Sexual de Fortaleza, happens along Beira Mar on the last Sunday of June.