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5 attractions of Belém do Pará

5 attractions of 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] when referring 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). Therefore, it is one of the landmarks of the foundation of the city.

After the fort gate, there is an inner courtyard housing the original cannons. The views from the top of the walls 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 has a permanent display 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 must be a priority. Talk to any local inhabitant about what to do in Belém and they will recommend a visit to the market. That suggestion is fully justified: the market is a place that encapsulates 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 – exotic açai juice, for example. But, the market is principally known for the area dedicated to natural remedies and "magic potions".

There is, at the Ver-o-Peso market, 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 an enhancer of sexual performance.

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

 
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Paz Theatre

Visits to the Paz Theatre 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 theatre’s official site.

Setting the ostentation aside, what is really impressive is the theatre 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 to have your visit coincide with an orchestra rehearsal, close your eyes, feel the music and imagine the glamour of former times in the theatre balconies. Then just pass through the main reception hall and say goodbye, ready to move on to 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 happened 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 parlour, especially the Amazonian flavours - 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 an essential experience to complement your stay in Belém. Marajó Island is a haven of peace and tranquillity, indispensable after a few days of hustle and bustle in 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 estates 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 simple things. The perfect ending for the trip.
 
By Filipe Morato Gomes / Alma de Viajante

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