8 facts about Recife (the Jewish-Caribbean-Venetian-Silicon-Valley of Brazil)!

Here’s some facts about this enchanting city in Brazil that I’ve absolutely fallen in love with since starting my research project here:

1) Recife is the capital of Pernambuco state. With a population of 1,6 million it’s the 9th largest city in Brazil and the second largest city in the northeast region.

However, if you include the surrounding smaller cities in Recife’s ‘metropolitan area’ it’s actually the fourth largest city in Brazil, after São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte.

I’ve already written about the history of Prenambuco state and a brief introduction to Brazil’s geographic regions, in case you’re interested in more of an insight into the part of Brazil that I’m staying in.

2) Recife is known as the ‘Venice of Brazil’ due to its many rivers, bridges and gondolas.

venice brazil
Most locals think Venice should actually be called ‘the Recife of Italy’

3) Recife also gets called the ‘Silicon Valley of Brazil’. No, not because of the popularity of plastic surgery (!) but because it’s become a hub for creative and technology start-ups.

porto digital
‘Porto Digital’ – the technology startup hotspot within Recife

4) Its nearby beaches are just stunning and the region often gets called the ‘Caribbean of Brazil’

Porto de Galinhas, just down the road, is famous for its rock pools which become teaming with fish at low tide.

5) Recife was originally colonised by the Dutch and one of first areas of Brazil to receive European settlers

dutch in recife
The Dutch were some of the first to settle in Brazil, around the same time as the Portuguese, and their capital was in Recife.

6) Recife is widely regarded by the rest of Brazil as having the best Carnival in the country. I recently wrote about how they seem to bring this Carnival vibe to almost everything they do, even when you’d least expect it!


7) Recife is the birth place of several genres of music. Frevo is the music of Carnival and has a very characteristic dance which goes with it, which requires lots of jumping up in the air while waving a multi-coloured umbrella.

Maracatú is a style of traditional local music with Afro-Brazilian roots, an intense, fratic rhythm and lots of percussion. The ‘Mangue Beats’ movement, which kicked off in the 1990s, took Maracatú, mixed it with rock and punk and a conscious revival of state pride and really put Recife on the map in terms of Brazil’s music scene.

8) Recife was once the main Jewish settlement in Brazil. At one point, in around 1640, there were even twice as many Jews in Recife as Christians! They initially settled here while Recife was under Dutch rule.

The Dutch were keen to attract colonialists to Recife to strengthen their influence here (because of the war with the Portuguese) and they gave financial incentives for Europeans to relocate to this part of Brazil.

Jews were particularly attracted because they received more freedom to practice their faith in Recife than they would have had in Europe at the time.

When the Portuguese defeated the Dutch and took over Recife, the Jews fled and a group of Jews from Recife became the original Jewish settlers in New York!

jewish recife

Related blog posts:

An introduction to Pernambuco state: the part of Brazil that I’m visiting

Brazil’s five regions: an introduction for ‘gringos’


One thought on “8 facts about Recife (the Jewish-Caribbean-Venetian-Silicon-Valley of Brazil)!

  1. Nice round up! We managed a few carnival missions in 2016 although most of the week was spent in Olina which was incredible! The frevo drove us a little crazy but the Maracatu was hypnotic! A


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