Fortaleza City Guide

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Vital statistics

As the north-eastern city of Fortaleza prepares to host 2013 Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, MSN takes a closer look into the location itself See Gallery

Vital statistics: Fortaleza

Founded: 1726
State: Ceará
Region: Northeast
Population: 2,515,116
Size: 313.8 km2

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Resting on the north-eastern coast of Brazil, Fortaleza came into official existence as a village in 1726 when Dutch invaders were expelled from the area known as 'Fort Schoonenborch' by Portuguese colonisers.

Renamed Fortaleza de Nossa Senhora da Assunção – Fortaleza meaning fortress, in Portuguese – the settlement grew to become the capital of the Ceará region of Brazil in 1799. Its expansion didn’t cease there either, as the burgeoning cotton industry enabled the city to become the urban heartbeat of the land. With the creation of specific industrial neighbourhoods, city boundaries have grown incrementally since the 19th century, while the local population of Fortaleza has jumped to nearly 3.3 million people across the metropolitan area.  

The image above shows the city's metropolitan cathedral, constructed between 1939 and 1978.

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Fortaleza’s beaches

One of Brazil’s most popular destinations, Fortaleza is a well-known haven for beach dwellers and fans of water sports alike, with 34km of golden sand stretching out between the city and the Atlantic Ocean.

In particular, many visitors head north to the lively Praia de Iracema (pictured) and its nightclub-filled promenade, or to the 5km-long Praia do Futuro, where they can sample fresh seafood and beer from its barracas – small, traditional huts built on the beach. 

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Dragão do Mar Centre of Art and Culture

If you’re looking to hang out with locals, or to relax away from the beaches, the Centro Dragão do Mar de Arte e Cultura (Sea Dragon Art and Culture Centre) is a good place to start. The cultural and social core of Fortaleza, the centre offers visitors the large Menezes Pimentel Public Library, as well as a planetarium and a museum, along with cinemas, theatres, galleries and cafes, all of which are built into a 30,000 square metre complex overlooking the sea.

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Parque Ecológico do Côco

Fortaleza’s most popular park is undoubtedly Parque Ecológico do Côco, located to the north-east of the city. Built to protect local mangrove swamps, it’s the best place to take in the Fortaleza’s green side and local wildlife, while a boat trip down the Río Côco is a must.

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Fortaleza today

With several popular beaches and a growing cultural centre, Fortaleza has become an attractive proposition for tourists from all over the globe. As a result, tourism is now one of the cornerstones of the local economy, along with the food and textile industries. The image above shows Fortaleza's busy central market.

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Fortaleza’s climate is characterised by heat and humidity, all year round, and the average annual temperature is 27 °C (81 °F). Perfect for those beach visits, then. 

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Geography and surrounding area

Beyond the city limits and the surrounding municipalities - such as Eusébio, Aquiraz and Caucaia - visitors and Fortalezenses alike can access more beautiful beaches and picturesque fishing villages that roll along the Ceará coast. The image above shows Brazilian artisan fishermen, known as Jangadeiros, pushing a traditional wooden boat out to sea at dawn.

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Football in Fortaleza

Fortaleza is home to two club sides - Ceara Sporting Club and Fortaleza Esporte Clube - both of which have dominated the state championships for some time, winning the competition an astonishing 80 times between them.

However, unfortunately for fans in the city, neither side are currently in Brazil’s top league – Ceara are in the second division, Fortaleza the third – though both have some fond memories of the domestic game; Fortaleza were runners-up in Brazil’s top division twice in the 1960s, while Ceara were losing finalists the Copa do Brazil in 1994.

Both teams host some fixtures at the impressive Estádio Plácido Aderaldo Castelo (pictured), which has been revamped to a 64,000 capacity and will host games at the Confederations Cup in 2013, and the World Cup a year later.

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Did you know?

Along with football, water sports are also incredibly popular in Fortaleza; surfing and windsurfing activities benefit from thousands of metres of beach and the coast’s traditionally strong winds, enough so that the city regularly hosts competitions in both. Similarly, 25km northwest of Fortaleza, the small fishing village of Cumbuco makes use of the local strong winds to host its own kitesurfing centre (pictured).