Amazing food, South American vibes, colourful streets and a ton of churches. These are just some of the many things you find in the colonial village Olinda, just North of Recife in region Pernambuco. Olinda is famous for its carnaval celebrations which already start taking off around september. And, in Brazil there is a golden rule covered in glitter: if there is music, people must dance!
PLAN YOUR VISIT
The best way to explore Olinda is by walking around, getting lost between the churches through the colourful cobble stoned streets. To learn about the history of Olinda, inform the guides wearing blue T-shirts that are offering tours for 30 Reais in English, Spanish and French in Praça do Carmo. Most of the highlights in Olinda are on top of hills. To avoid getting sunburned while hiking up the hills, hop on one of the colourful jeeps departing from Praça do Carmo. The best way to get from Recife to Olinda is by Uber or local public transport.
Tip: download the App CittaMobi to plan your trip with local public transport in Brazil.
A LOT OF CHURCHES
Around every corner there is a church when you are roaming around the colourful streets of Olinda. Just on the tourist map of the historical centre tour operators are handing out at Praça do Carmo there are already 16! Admittedly, I discovered I accidentally photographed and visited some of the churches twice.
My personal favourite was Igreja do Carmo because of its location. Sometimes the front doors of churches are closed, be aware that there might be an opened side entry. It is definitely worth it to enter all the churches you pass on your passage through Olinda because all the churches are unique.
ALTO DA SÉ
One of the highlights of Olinda is Alto da Sé. This historical area is stretched out on top of a hill covered in markets, and some more churches. Visit Casa dos Bonecos Gigantes de Olinda to learn about the puppets that are used in the tradition of carnaval in Olinda.
While you are souvenir shopping in Alto da Sé, don’t forget to pass by Convento de São Francisco and have a look inside. Finally, make sure you are on top of this hill to view the breathtaking sunset as you watch over the beach and the skyline of Recife.
To recover energy after climbing the hills in Olinda pass by the food stands on Praça do Carmo or on Avenida de Liberdade. In these areas there are Brazilian specialties at a fair price. There are plenty of vegetarian options at the food markets. Just ask the lovely people working at the food market for any dish without meat, fish or chicken and they will prepare something delicious for you.
Tip: in South America chicken is often not categorised as meat. If you eat vegetarian always specifically mention that you don’t eat chicken.
When you’re looking to grab a bite in a restaurant I know for a fact you can have a tasty crepe at Creperia. Creperia is located on the square of Igreja de Sao Pedro Martir de Verona. Don’t forget to have a look inside this restaurant to admire the cute setting of this place.
CELEBRATE CARNAVAL IN OLINDA
Carnaval is the most important tradition in Brazil that takes place around February. However, Brazilians love carnaval so much that they already start preparing in September for the festivities. Therefore, a band practicing surrounded by dancing and singing Brazilians on a weekend between September and February in Olinda is hard to miss. Follow the sound of the drums and celebrate carnaval in Olinda!
Visit Olinda and walk around the colourful streets, start a scavenger hunt to find all the churches, enjoy the delicious food and try to keep up with the Brazilians when dancing to the carnaval drums. Don’t forget to pack some glitter and put on heaps of sun cream.