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5 attractions in Belém do Pará

5 attractions in Belém do Pará

Belém, the capital of Pará state in Brazil, is a city that surprises the visitor. From Ver-o-Peso market to the Nossa Senhora de Nazaré Basilica and the city’s proximity to the island of Marajó, there is no shortage of reasons to visit Belém. Here are 5 attractions that you really cannot miss.
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Presépio Fort

The Portuguese colonizers used the expression "Feliz Lusitânia" [Happy Portugal] to refer to the initial nucleus of the settlement of Belém do Pará - an area that houses the architectural complex around D. Frei Caetano Square, including the Presépio Fort (also known as Castelo Fort). It is, therefore, one of the landmarks of foundation of the city.

Once through the gate of the fort, there is an inner courtyard housing the original cannons. The views from the top of the wall go as far as the Guamá River, taking in the area where the Açaí Fair takes place at dawn and, of course, the ubiquitous Ver-o-Peso market.

The biggest surprise is, however, well guarded inside one of the fort’s rooms. It is the beautiful museum of Castelo de São Jorge Fort, which displays a permanent exhibition focused on the colonization of the Brazilian Amazon, with pieces of pottery from the Tapajós Indians and Marajó Island prior to the arrival of the Portuguese. Excellent!
 
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Ver-o-Peso market

Ver-o-Peso market is certainly one of the most iconic locations of the city of Belém. It is located close to the Presépio Fort and a visit should be a priority. Talk to any local inhabitant about what to do in Belém and they will recommend a visit to the market. And the suggestion is fully justified: the market is a place that concentrates the soul of the Amazon region. 

Notable areas of the market are those devoted to fruit and vegetables, the area of dried fish and shrimp, the area where the indigenous handicrafts are found, originating from the interior of the state or from Marajó Island, as well as the area of meals and juices - açaí juice, for example. But, it is principally known for the area dedicated to natural remedies and "magic potions".

At the Ver-o-Peso market there is an oil, herb or bark for everything - and the vendors don’t have to be persuaded to explain, with a playful air and mischievous smile, the advantages of each oil. Don’t be surprised, then, if they suggest you try an oil to ward off the evil eye or even “bota oil", which is much praised by the vendors as enhancing sexual performance.

As touristic as it may seem, the Ver-o-Peso market is really a must-visit.
 
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Paz Theater

Visits to the Paz Theater are guided and begin in the entrance hall, composed of decorative materials imported from Europe: "English cast iron in the door arches, Italian marble staircase; French chandelier, busts made of Carrara marble (...), statues in French bronze, floor with Portuguese paving stones forming a mosaic and bonded with a glue made from Gurijuba (fish found in the region), walls and ceiling painted to depict the Greek arts,” according to the official site of the theater.

Setting the ostentation aside, what is really impressive is the theater auditorium, currently with a capacity for 900 spectators, and its wonderful decorative details.

Sit down, enjoy the elements of Greek and Roman mythology portrayed on the central ceiling, photograph it and, if you are fortunate that your visit coincides with an orchestra rehearsal, close your eyes, feel the music and imagine the glamor of former times in the theater cabins and balconies. Then just pass through the main reception hall and say goodbye, ready to go to the Docas Station.
 
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Docas Station

Docas Station is a strange place. It was once the river port of Belém, perfectly suited for the booming rubber industry, but today it has been transformed into a leisure area, similar to what has occurred in European cities which have converted old port areas into the noblest downtown areas of the city.

Docas Station is located on the banks of Guajará Bay. It combines "three warehouses" in the same complex with distinct focuses: one with clothing and regional handicrafts stores; another dedicated to gastronomy (certainly the most popular, especially on weekends); and a third one for fairs and exhibitions.

At the end of the afternoon, after a full day visiting the attractions of Belém, there’s nothing better than to stop, sit down and drink a cold beer with the river as a backdrop and the sun on the horizon. Or eat an ice cream at the Cairu ice cream parlor, especially the Amazonian flavors - how about Brazil nuts with cupuaçu? It's worth a try!
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Marajó Island

Though it is not in the city of Belém, a visit to Marajó Island is a fundamental experience to complement your stay in Belém. Marajó Island is a haven of peace and tranquility, indispensable after a few days in the rush of the capital of the Brazilian state of Pará.

There, you will be able to find out more about the beautiful Marajoara pottery, take a stroll on ranches like São Jerónimo, enjoy some magnificent beaches and, of course, taste the famous Marajoara fillet (Buffalo meat with a slice of buffalo milk cheese). It is an island without great luxuries, more for those who appreciate the pleasure of simple things. The perfect ending for the trip.
 
By Filipe Morato Gomes / Alma de Viajante

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