Fortaleza isn't exactly the best place to visit if you're searching for a culture-filled trip. Nevertheless, if you find yourself bored of the beach and the nighttime entertainment options, know that there are plenty of opportunities to visit historical or artistic destinations. Leave the districts of the movida behind and head for the centre. Here you'll find the main attractions, each one not far from the next and easily accessible on foot. Among the most significant are José de Alencar Theatre. The oldest building in Ceará, built in 1920, it was extended in 1975 with an exterior garden and finally renovated in 1991. Every week, from Tuesday to Sunday, it plays host to music, theatre and dance shows. To find out more about the history and the architecture of this beautiful building, you can go on a guided tour (beginning on the hour, every hour between 8am and 4pm on weekdays, apart from Mondays and at midday, and from 1pm to 4pm on the weekend). It is located at 525 Rua Barroso.
Past Praça do Ferreira and Praça Clóvis Beviláqua is Igreja da Sé, the city's Gothic cathedral.
After having admired the biggest historical monuments in Fortaleza, and getting lost in the narrow streets lined with the typical, colourful little houses like those in Fortaleza's old town, you'll arrive at the modern building of Dragão do Mar, the city's government funded main artistic and cultural centre. It holds two cinemas, a theatre, a planetarium, and several temporary exhibitions. The construction of a spectacular aquarium is set to begin in the near future.
Closer to the sea, you can enjoy a romantic walk to Ponte dos Ingleses, a very long landing stage that stretches out into the sea. Construction on this landing stage began in 1902 on the orders of the English (thus explaining its name), under the administration of Campos Sales. The bridge was built with metal and wood imported directly from London and it served as a port for twenty years. Today it represents one of the city's main attractions and welcomes around a hundred visiting families every day.
According to tradition, nights out in Fortaleza abide to a very strict calendar which remains exactly the same every week. That not only means that the city's youth go to nightclubs on Saturday evenings and for drinks on the beach on Wednesdays, but also that pretty much all of the population here gathers in the same place at the same time, either in the same establishment or on the same beach. These unusual habits continue to rule nights out in the city and so it might be interesting for tourists to take note of these permanent events.
In Fortaleza for example, a normal Monday entails a night out in Pirata Bar, the most famous and popular nightclub among locals, but also visitors to the city. Its motto: "A segunda-feira mais louca do mundo!!" (The craziest Monday in the world!). One incredible fact is that this bar, almost fully outdoors and dominated by a pirate boat with a sail decorated with a pirate symbol, has only opened on Mondays since 1986, for an evening which starts at 8 pm and can carry on right throughout the night. The Pirata Bar is an authentic address offering music (mostly Forro) and dance, all accompanied by a cerveja or a good caïpirinha (in moderation, however, since the establishment is open to the whole family). If you arrive early, you can enjoy the calm at the beginning of the evening and have a bite to eat before the dancing begins, with live music in the background, or even dancers who appear around 10 pm.
Alternatively, on Thursdays, head for Praia do Futuro so you don't miss the "noite dos caranguejos" (the sea crab night), cooked as part of a feast for the customers in baracas on the beach.
In the daytime, what could be a better activity in Fortaleza than making the most of the sun? Not many people go to the coast that runs alongside Avenida Beira Mar. It's better to venture to Praia do Futuro, located a couple of miles from the centre but easily accessible by bus: take the bus heading in the direction of 'Caça e pesca'.
If not, you could always take a trip to one of the beaches outside of the city, or even to one of the towns or villages on the Ceará coast. There are plenty of bus routes that will take you to the surrounding villages of Cumbuco, Jericocoara, Morro Branco and Canoa Quebrada, where you can practice water sports, including windsurfing and kite-surfing. Sport enthusiasts from around the world come to this region because the wind is constant, making this spot for these kinds of activities. Cumbuco, 30 minutes from Fortaleza, is world-renowned for its kite-surfing. But that's not all: in this little village, you can reserve a paseo (ride) in a boogie, a type of small jeep used to drive in the sand: accompanied by a professional guide, you can take a trip lasting between several hours up to several days, and even travel all the way to Jericocoara (a three days' drive away) for an unforgettable experience.
One tip: don't miss out on the biggest water park in Latin America (or that's what they claim in the region, at least), especially if you're travelling with children. Called Beach Park, this water park is located around twenty minutes from Fortaleza in the city of Aquiraz, on Porto das Dunas beach.
To think about
The state of Ceará has chosen not to adopt the legal time, meaning the sun sets very early in summer and it starts to get dark around 5pm. Consequently, if you plan on spending your days catching some rays, we advise you to get up very early in the morning in order to make the most of the beach for as long as possible.
The sun is damaging no matter the season, so don't forget to wear a suntan lotion with a high protection factor!