Recife Antigo is the focus of a Walking Tour recommended by Recife Guide. The old port of Recife is a very important cultural and heritage center. Replaced by the larger deep sea port of Suape, it declined in importance and the area was a run down red light district for some time. An ongoing restoration program is bringing the area back to its former glory and has already made it a thriving business center, home to Porto Digital (one of the most important technology clusters in Latin America), and a lively buzz afterwork place to go, with several bars and cafes spilling out onto the pavement.
The place really comes alive on the weekend, especially Sunday afternoon and evening. Then it is throbbing with the sound of carnival bands practicing in the streets. The main street is Rua Bom Jesus, home to the oldest synagogue in Latin America. It is also the place you can find the Sunday street market (3-9pm) offering a range of jewelry, handcrafts, regional foods and gifts.
In the heart of Recife Antigo is Paço Alfândega, a shopping center housed in a renovated warehouse, now home to a variety of shops where visitors can find more interesting gifts or souvenirs of their visit. There are also a variety of restaurants and self-service outlets. A must for chocaholics is Chocolate Cafe on the 1st floor. Ask for a Hot Chocolate (Chocolate Quente – pronounced shockolate kente). You won´t be disappointed! Next to the shopping center is Livaria Cultura, a bookstore with a large selection of books and magazines in English, a great choice of music and a cafe. It is also a good place to also pick up a map.
Just outside the shopping center there are a few interesting galleries, restaurants and bars in Rua Moeda. Of these these, perhaps the most interesting is Casa do Moeda, a local artist-owned bar that regularly offers live music in a very bohemian setting. The bar has local and international food choices, but the prices are high for small portions and the service can be very slow. Despite these faults, we still recommend the place.
As Recife Antigo is an island, a nice way to see it is from the water. Catamaran Tours are available by day, but an afternoon tour is a way to see the city illuminated. Sun set in Recife is soon after 6pm most days of the year, so a boat trip could be followed by a dinner on the island.
A shorter boat trip from the quay side in Marco Zero takes you over to the sculpture part on the reef. It was established there as part of Recife´s Millennium celebrations in 2000. Ask a local to tell you the story about the controversy surrounding the main exhibit.
Throughout the year Recife Antigo is home to many events and festivals, usually hosted on temporary stages in Marco Zero and the surrounding streets. Most of these events are free.
The biggest event in the calendar is Carnival and Recife Antigo makes a good alternative to Olinda. Carnival here is well organised by comparison and is also a lot safer, especially after dark.