Overshadowed by the exuberant Bahia, further south, the small state of Alagoas has long been overlooked by travellers. But the last few years have seen the coastal town of Maceio emerge as an important Brazilian tourist resort. Progress and the multiplication of eco-friendly pousadas and elegant restaurants has not cleared the picturesque villages and the idyllic stretches of white sand lapped by emerald waters and fringed with palm trees from the shoreline of Alagoas. Nature yes, but also a proud past. History has it that the city of Maceio was born from an ancient village where sugarcane was produced.
Thanks to its very active port and the arrival of loads of timber by sea, the simple village over the decades was able to develop, also engaging in the cultivation of tobacco and coconut and the tanning of leather, becoming one of the most developed centres. Capital of the state of theAlagoas, Maceio is a metropolis overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in the north-eastern part of the country, 250 kilometres south of Recife: it has a decidedly modern appearance, but still has an interesting historical past, that can be appreciated and witnessed by visiting the centre. The small original settlement was founded in 1815; whereas in 1839 Maceio was appointed capital of the state of Alagoas and even today its port is amongst the most important in northeastern Brazil. The city has also developed a thriving local crafts industry.
Tourists and residents regularly visit the Mercado do Artesanato and allow themselves to be won over by the works of the skilled masters who specialise in the processing of leather, wood, ceramics and many other materials. Due to its geographical location and industry, Maceio is a prosperous, dynamic city, which deserves to be understood and appreciated. Find out with us about the 10 places that you must see:
- Pontal da Barra
- Igreja Bom Jesus dos Martirios
- Deodoro Theatre
- Pajucara Waterfront
- Lagoa do Mondau and Lagoa Manguaba
- Maceio Metropolitan Cathedral
- Museum of Images and Sounds
- Maceio Municipal Park
- The beaches: Praia Ponta de Mangue and Barra Grande Beach
One of the most important districts of Maceio, declared a historical heritage of the state of Alagoas, is Jaragu. Walking around it feels like you are entering anatmosphere of times gone by. Recently the ancient village has been made more modern and lively and travellers can find restaurants and bars where you can savour the many specialities of the place. The old warehouses and two-storey houses have acquired colour, becoming lively clubs. The Jaragu district is the history of Maceio itself.
That small stretch wedged between the sea and the city centre is where the development of the village began, thanks to its port. It all started with a mill owned by Colonel Apolinario Fernandes Padilha, in what is now the Dom Pedro II Square. Soon the fishing village caught the attention of those passing through, fishermen and foreigners. Jaragui gradually became an important centre of trade, occupied by beautiful terraced houses, starting from the second half of the last century. Among the works worth remembering is the church of Our Lady Mother of the People, built by Portuguese builder Antonio Martins. In the old district of Jaragua, an old bohemian area, there are 19th-century buildings, next to ancient palaces and warehouses. A winning contamination.
Pontal da Barra
Pontal da Barra, practically the far tip to the south of the city, is a hamlet of artisans and fishermen near the mouth of the Lagoa do Mondau. A special place especially for those who love crafts. Here lace, embroidery and a wide choice of handbags, accessories and handmade clothes are made. Pontal da Barra is one of the few barrios in the world that has an island (Carlito Island) with swimming pools, hammocks and restaurants in the middle of the lagoon to accommodate visitors from all over.
Igreja Bom Jesus dos Martirios
One of the city's attractions is definitely the Igreja Bom Jesus dos Martirios, opened in 1881 with its architectures that is at times reminiscent of oriental style. As for the architecture of the church, considered one of the most beautiful in Maceio, it has an eclectic facade, with neo-Gothic elements, in which you can see the pointed arches and various rococo-style decorations. The building is flanked by the government building, Maceio Town Hall and the tourism office. Other important churches to visit include the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Ros'rio dos Homens Pretos, constructed back in 1853: it represents an eclectic contamination between Baroque and neoclassical architecture.
It is one of Maceio's finest pieces of history. The Deodoro theatre was born to lend shape to the dream of artistic progress of the people and rulers of Alagoas at the beginning of the 20th century. The first stone was laid on June 11, 1905 at Largo da Contiguiba, also known as Largo das Princesas, in the centre of Maceio. The work, designed by architect Luigi Lucarini, was completed on 15 November 1910, on the 21st anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic.
In 1914 there was the first moment of crisis: the Deodoro Theatre suffered the arrival of the cinema and was leased to a commercial company and turned into a projection room. Faced with the outraged reaction of the inhabitants, it did not take long for the theatre to return to its main purpose. Its first renovation took place in 1933 and was reclassified into state heritage in 1940. The Deodoro Theatre has 650 seats and is made up of a neoclassical concert hall. Its grand hall has already hosted the public library, The Maceio City Council, federal justice and even state government receptions, as well as being available for the various artistic events in the region.
Maceio's waterfront is concentrated in three areas: Jatiuca in the north, Ponta Verde in the middle and Pajucara in the south. The first has a beautiful, wide beach with a deeper seabed and joins with Ponta Verde to the south. This is the most sophisticated neighbourhood in the city, with beautiful condos and water that is shallower. At the end of Ponta Verde there is the beach and the district of Pajucara. The latter is known for its characteristic craft market, where you will find all kinds of quaint souvenirs. There are many hotels and shops that you can find while walking around in peace. The traditional jangadas, typical boats that will take you to the natural pools, leave from this location. Another way to get to know the city, in addition to taking advantage of the waterfront, is to follow the long cycling and pedestrian path that runs along the shore.
Lagoa do Mondau and Lagoa Manguaba
Impressive landscapes, rich in nuances and testimonies of history. These are the two main lagoons of the region: Lagoa do Mondau and Lagoa Manguaba which, together, form one of the largest lagoon complexes in the world. Considered one of the largest ecosystems in Alagoas, Lagoa do Mundau has a huge mangrove swamp in its 600 square km of area.
It also hosts a wide variety of marine species, including shellfish, fish and crustaceans. In the lagoon there are about nine islands where fishermen and lace producers live. The vegetation of restinga and mangrove makes the place even more beautiful. Not to mention the fact that there are many fish and beautiful secluded beaches. The region represents an important part of the state historically, socially, culturally and economically. It is also one of the main postcards of the capital Maceio.
Between Santa Luzia do Norte, Maceio and Coqueiro Seco, there are, in fact, 23 kilometres of lagoon connecting with the ocean through a network of channels in which several small islands are formed. Lake Manguaba stretches for 42 square kilometres of infinite beauty and is formed by the waters of the estuary of Paraba do Meio and the Sumama River. Its history is very rich and varied. This lagoon saw the birth of the first capital of the state of Alagoas near its shores, at the time named Vila Madalena, which today is the municipality of Marechal Deodoro.
In addition to the traditional tours of the Nine Islands, involving the lagoon and other regions, you can also witness the meeting of water between the lagoon and the sea in the village of Massagueira.
Maceio Metropolitan Cathedral
The Cathedral of Maceio, designed by French architect Auguste Montigny (the same one who worked on the Candelaria church in Rio de Janeiro), was inaugurated in 1859 and has a neoclassical style which is clearly visible already from the towering stairs. Inside the main altar stands out admirably made from cedar wood. In addition to the main altar, the temple has two smaller altars dedicated to St. Sebastian and St. Michael, and the chapel of the Very Holy Sacrament, with Renaissance details. The charm of the cathedral's architecture and its taste are highlighted in simplicity and detail: wooden doors, silver candles and pulpits decorated with gold trims. It is the most important Catholic church in the capital of Alagoas.
Museum of Images and Sounds
A special place where contamination is exalted: this is how you can define the Museum of Images and Sounds, located in Dois Leoes Square, in the heart of the historic Jaragu district and in the port area of Maceio. Here you can find temporary exhibitions by artists who combine the visual arts with sound arts. A historical and cultural heritage, the old building saves the past and preserves the future of Alagoas' experiences and traditions.
Its story begins in 1981, when the museum was conceived by the director and actor Brulio Leite Junior, but the venue had existed for over 100 years. Built in 1869, the palace, designed by architect Carlos Mornay, was created to house the provincial consulate during the Imperial Brazil era. It was also the headquarters of the Inland Revenue and Tax Inspectorate, until it became a museum, undergoing various transformations as the city grew. Spaces include: an exhibition hall, sections dedicated to audio, images and search services. A part of the building deals with production and cataloguing of documents and there is also an auditorium where meetings or events take place. The museum houses an extensive collection consisting of documents and old photographs of Alagoas, audiovisual equipment, audio and video recordertapes, vinyl records, negatives, old slides, 16mm and Super 8 films.
The culture of the city of Maceio is also preserved in the Estadual Library and in theHistoric and Geographic Institute of Alagoas, opened in 1840 and 1869 respectively. Maceio is also a well-known university centre as it is home to the Federal University of Alagoas. Other interesting museums include the Palacio Marechal Floriano Peixoto Historical Museum, which was the seat of government until 2005. The Theo Brandao Museum, on the other hand, holds the history, traditions, artistic expressions and culture of the city. To finish, the Pierre Chalita Museum of Sacred Art houses one of the most beautiful and ancient collections of images and icons of sacred art in Brazil, some even dating back to the 17th century.
Maceio Municipal Park
There are not only beaches, but also greenery and nature to savour in Maceio. Its Municipal Park, opened in 1978, is located between the Bebedouro and Tabuleiro dos Martin districts. Located within a reserve of the Atlantic Forest, it stretches for 82 hectares. In all, there are about 253 plant species of 177 genres and 79 botanical families. Visitors can see, amongst others, alligators, waterfowl, armadillos, turtles, sloths, falcons, owls, foxes, anteaters and snakes. In all there are five routes accessible to the public. Inside the property there is no lack of activities even for the little ones. Visitors can participate in the distribution of seedlings from theAtlantic Forest, take environmental education lessons and learn nature trails. In some sections, it is possible to observe and drink the water that flows from the ground.
The beaches: Praia Ponta de Mangue and Barra Grande Beach
The Maceio coastline with its more than 40 kilometres of beaches does not disappoint expectations with the undisputed charm of its landscape; The waters are transparent, with shades ranging from pale green to turquoise, while sometimes natural pools are formed. The sand is golden in colour and the beaches are surrounded by immense green spots, formed by both the coconut palm trees and the farms that grow sugarcane. To the south and north of the capital of Alagoas you will find real natural havens such as Gunga and Tabuba beach. There is no shortage of treasures in the region either. An example? Praia Ponta de Mangue, one of Maragogi's most famous beaches. It is located on the north coast, between Maceio and Recife. Small, calm and with blue waters. Cliffs form natural pools full of fish. The city is famous for its lively festivities and colourful Carnival.
Maragogi is also an authentic paradise for lovers of diving, as they can count on unique colours and the fascinating creatures that inhabit the coral reef. The calm and clear waters make it a perfect destination for those who want a stay in peace and relaxation by the sea. Among the other beaches to discover there is definitely Barra Grande, a beach with a colourful water full of coral. Small boats and catamarans depart every day to admire the endless beauty of the pools, which form about 6 kilometres from the coast, with clear and calm water, perfect here for relaxation and for diving enthusiasts. In the surrounding area, visitors can discover the landscape and local nature by riding a horse.
Visit Maceio with Costa Cruises
Maceio offers a bit of everything. History and culture in the centre, architecture ranging from the modern to neoclassical style, along with the beauty timeless beaches and an unparalleled coastline. The food is also an important element. Maceio's gastronomic hub is located in Jatiuca, the city's most famous beach. In fact, the entire coast offers a wide variety of restaurants and kiosks with varied eating options. From the typical flavours of the region with sea, lake and river food, to French, Bahian, Japanese and Peruvian cuisine.
A traditional dish based on siriri, a tasty mollusc is something to try. At least once you have to experience Tapioca, a traditional tuber, to be garnished, choosing from over 30 types of seasoning. In line with other coastal resorts in Brazil, Maceio is a lively city that boasts a calendar full of events in all seasons.
Among the most heartfelt celebrations is the Junina FestivalOr Festa de Sao Joao, whose celebrations colour the city in June and July, with dances and fireworks. Locals and tourists also go to the Bom Jesus dos Navegantes (January) festival and the anniversary of the founding of the city (April). A colourful city with character, in short, that is worth discovering, beyond its beaches. And to taste in all its exuberance.