Recife © guilherme jofili
Recife boasts highlights associated with most Brazilian cities, all rolled into one dynamite tourist package. The coastal city offers a balance of culture and more hedonistic entertainment, with a well-preserved historic centre, a fabulous restaurant scene, lovely beaches, and its own exciting Carnival.

Recife is a port city and the capital of Pernambuco. Its location on a network of islands and estuaries, linked by numerous bridges, has earned it the moniker 'the Brazilian Venice'. The city is named for the offshore reefs (recifes) that keep the waters along its shoreline pleasantly calm and protected.

The cityscape is in many ways picturesque, but travellers should note that Recife is a heavyweight industrial city, dominated by lofty skyscrapers. Although the tourism sector is booming thanks to its beautiful beaches, Recife has always attracted many business travellers as well as those in search of fun and sun.

The beach of Porto de Galinhas, just south of the city, is often thought of as Brazil's best - which is no mean feat in a country celebrated for its coastlines. Those seeking a quainter, historical holiday should consider staying just beyond the urban sprawl in the UNESCO-listed town of Olinda. It provides laid-back colonial charm as well as easy access to energetic Recife.