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Brazil’s Concrete Jungles

Sao Paulo
Rio de Janeiro
Belo Horizonte
Porto Alegre
Salvador 2

Brazil’s Concrete Jungles

story by: Tom Ricketts

Brazil is known the world over for Rio de Janeiro, soccer, volleyball and perhaps most famously, the Amazon. The country has a booming economy and is home to a whopping 200 million people! But with over half the country being covered in jungle, where do all the people live? Welcome to Brazil's concrete jungles...

1. Sao Paulo
Sampa, as it is known, is Brazil’s massive manmade jungle. Easily the most populous city in Brazil, and one of the top ten in the world, the inland metropolis is home to a staggering 20 million people! It’s the chief financial and economic centre of Brazil. The city is incredibly diverse and is home to the largest population of Italians, Portuguese, Japanese, Spanish, Lebanese and Arab peoples outside of their respective home countries! The city boasts over 15,000 bars, so you can be assured the nightlife is insane; and Sampa hosts top events like the Sao Paulo Fashion Week and the world’s largest gay pride parade.

2. Rio De Janeiro
Most people would have guessed Rio as the biggest city in Brazil, but it’s actually a clear second with 15 million residents. However it does claim Brazil’s tourism capital with people flying from across the world to visit her beautiful beaches (Fanilows will know ‘at the Copa, Copacabana’), tropical rainforests, and of course, to party at the world famous Carnival. The city’s most famous resident towers over 700 metres above the city, Christ the Redeemer statue. While he may be motionless, the city’s other residents certainly aren’t, and you’re gonna want to practice your samba if you don’t want to be the only one in the bar not dancing. Sports events are also a big draw card for the city which has one of the world’s largest soccer stadiums, and is hosting the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics.

3. Belo Horizonte
Brazil’s third largest city is Belo Horizonte, which translates to Beautiful Horizon. First laid out in 1890, Belo is a planned city and drew inspiration from other planned cities such as Washington DC. Luckily they planned wide avenues and plenty of urban parkland as 5.4 million people now live here. Belo is the main gateway for tourists visiting the many beautiful colonial towns in the region, some of which are UNESCO World Heritage listed.

4. Porto Alegre
One of the oldest European settlements in the country, Porto Alegre is another city with masses of expats making up its population of 4.1 million. Porto is an industrial city, thanks in no small part to its natural deep water harbour which dominates the city economy. While much of the historic central city has managed to be retained, little of it has been restored. Of note is the city’s nightlife, regarded as one of the liveliest in the country.

​5. Brasilia
It’s hard to believe this city is only 55 years old! It was another planned cityand is now the nations capital and home to four million people. The city is noticeably designed to be similar to Washington DC with the aptly named Monumental Axis (a series of parks and roads) dissecting the city. The architecture however, couldn’t be more different! The city is famed for its modernist buildings such as the National Congress Building, Palacio de Alvorada and perhaps most famously, the Cathedral of Brasilia. Alone in any other city on the planet, they would be eyesores; but Brasilia sure makes them look good. After seeing the city buildings, tourists head for the jawdropping national parks which are packed full of waterfalls, unique flora and fauna; as well as the cute colonial villages of Pirenopolis and Cidade de Goias.

​6. Recife
Recife is a city blessed. She has beautiful long beaches, tropical weather, a gorgeous historic city centre, and festivals that rival the great Carnival in Rio! Recife is a magnet for beach goers from Brazil, and around the world. In fact if you put it next to a picture of Goldie, you probably couldn’t tell the difference. But inland from the beach, where the city was born, lies her real charm. Grand buildings you would expect to find in Europe instead have a backdrop of azure blue water and green swaying palm trees. Canals and bridges break up the cobblestone streets and separate white-whashed cathedrals from magnificent halls, all complete with a UNESCO World Heritage status. And everywhere, the sound of fast paced samba echoes on the wind. With all that, and one of the highest human development indicators in South America, it’s easy to see why 3.9 million people call the ‘Venice of Brazil’ home.

​7. Fortaleza
Located on the northern coast of Brazil, Fortaleza is another beach resort city home to 3.9 million people. Surprisingly considering its distance from the rest of Brazil, it’s actually a major domestic tourism player. This is undoubtedly thanks to the beach which sprawls twenty kilometres along the coast. Popular stretches of the beach include Praia do Futuro, Iracema, Mucuripe and Meireles. The historic centre of the city, built by the Portuguese in the 1600’s has been beautifully restored and home to a number of charming buildings.

​8. Salvador
Brazilians refer to Salvador as their ‘capital of happiness’ and it’s certainly not hard to see why. There’s the UNESCO World Heritage listed historic city centre, vibrant nightlife including one of the world’s biggest Carnival parties, one of the world’s best beaches, and a real mashup of cultures. Of the 3.8 million citizens, half trace their roots to Africa, 30% to Europe and a mere 15% South Americans! That makes for some wildly varied festivals and food offerings, matched only in a few places on Earth. The old city is based around the port and has wonderfully restored customs centres, warehouses and almost as many churches as there are palm trees! However it’s the parties and beaches that the locals and international tourists alike come for. And there’s plenty of beach for everyone, it stretches uninterrupted down the coast for 80 kilometres, and is affectionately known as the ‘Line of Coconut’ thanks to the many small beachside resort towns with perfect (you know what’s coming next), beaches!

9. Curitiba
Back in the south of Brazil now, in the city of Curitiba, home to 3.4 million people. The city is famed in Brazil for its exceptional city planning which has allowed them to avoid the plague of traffic jams even though they have the highest rate of car ownership in the country. Part of its city planning is its parks and gardens of which they claim to have 50 square metres per inhabitant! Many of the gardens are themed on different countries such as Portugal, Japan and Italy; reflecting the many different cultures of the city. Curitiba’s best spot is XV de Novembro Street which has been pedestrianised and is lined with brightly painted colonial buildings with plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars.

​10. Campinas
Campinas is Brazil’s quiet achiever. It has one of the highest quality of life scores of the entire country which attracts many international businesses to base their Brazilian operations here, particularly the oil, automotive and IT industries. The city is home to 3.2 million people.

​11. Manaus
The ninth concrete jungle on the list, just so happens to smack bang right in the middle of the Amazon, the city of Manaus. Chances are that if you’re travelling to the Amazon, you’ll be travelling through Manaus to get there. The city sits on the confluence of the Amazon and Solimoes Rivers where the two distinctly different coloured rivers meet. If for some strange reason you find yourself in Manaus for just a couple of days, you can get day tours into the rainforest or cruises on the Amazon River. Otherwise the city’s many parks and gardens attract some varied birdlife, and the open range zoo is excellent. The city also has some well preserved historic buildings including the beautiful Teatro Amazonas, a theatre decorated with thousands of colourful tiles. The city is home to two million people.

​12. Belem
Also located on the Amazon River is the city of Belem, another city of two million. It’s built on the rich delta where the Amazon River meets the Atlantic Ocean, so has a thriving agricultural and fishing industry. It’s also where you’ll finish or start your cruise on the Amazon (with the other point be Manaus). Recently the city has undergone a building boom and highrises now dominate the skyline. However there is a well preserved historic district, with a particularly good market full of weird and wonderful creatures pulled from the river and rainforest, a must see!

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