Belém (Portuguese for Bethlehem) is Pará state capital city and one of the gateways to the Amazon. It sits on the shores of the Pará River, which is part of the greater Amazon River system, about 100 kms (62 miles) from the Atlantic Ocean. With a distinctive history and architecture, the city has an interesting mix of colonial heritage and tropical flair.

The Ver-o-Peso (See-the-Weight) market dates back to 1901 and is the city’s most iconic site. Exotic tropical fruits, fresh sea food and handcrafted items fill the aisles with colors and textures. The nearby Estação das Docas complex is, somehow, an extension to the Ver-o-Peso market and a great spot to see the sunset and try some local delicacies.

Day trips

On the second Sunday of October is celebrated one of the largest religious festivals in Brazil: the 5-hour procession of the Círio of Nazaré, in which thousands of people follow the statue of Our Lady of Nazaré through the streets of Belém, culminating in a fireworks display to honor the passage of the saint. The Círio lasts several weeks and is known as the “Christmas of the Amazon” due to the population involvement in the arrangements of the many related events that take place as a spiritual preparation for the main celebration. A traditional ship contest is held annually to award the most originally decorated boat. It’s a very special – although quite intense – time to visit Belém.

Remanso do Bosque was among Latin America’s 50 best restaurants and is where chef Thiago Castanho works his magic creating inventive dishes with local Amazonian ingredients in an elaborate setting.

Sign up and receive a free e-book: The Brazilian Amazon - How to Experience the Rainforest in Style