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Gareth Leonard

A Friday Evening in Recife

A street vendor scoops buttered popcorn into a small paper bag on a busy street in downtown Recife. I pay the old man and launch a handful of the salty goodness into my mouth before the crosswalk clears.

The historical city center of Recife is alive and buzzing on a Friday evening and I’m here to absorb it all.

The vibe is inevitably joyous as the transition from work to weekend unfolds.

Street stalls prepare for the pre-dinner rush as taxis double-park outside the tall office buildings.

I walk away from the crowded sidewalks and duck down a back street where a man carrying a giant head and torso immediately grabs my attention.


He leads me down the beautiful cobblestone streets lined with colorful colonial buildings until he reaches Casa dos Bonecos Gigantes or, the gigantic dollhouse. I followed him inside to learn more.

During the carnival parades each year in Recife and Olinda, locals carry these massive wood and paper mache caricatures like larger than life Halloween costumes.

Walking around the small room filled with these incredibly life-like bobble head dolls was equal parts funny and creepy. Everyone from Michael Jackson to the Pope was in attendance.


Leaving the house of heads, I noticed that the carnival-theme was present throughout the historical district.

Banners and streamers remained, souvenir shops sold carnival accessories, streets were painted and Frevo music was everywhere. It was very interesting to see their carnival customs and how they differ from Rio de Janeiro.


Back in the streets, I made my way down to the water, admiring the traditional architecture along the way. I heard that Recife is known as the Brazilian Venice because of all the small rivers and bridges within the city limits, so I went to see for myself.

Businessmen and students alike gathered at the cement wall along the water’s edge for after-work beers and chitchat.

As I was about to join them, I noticed a boat tour boarding for a sunset cruise through the canals so I jumped on to see Recife from another angle.


Local fisherman cast out nets in their two-man motorboats while herds of working class people bolted for their cars on the bridges above. Honking horns and city commotion faded with the calm and open waterways.

Our large pontoon boat cruised through the wide canals and rivers as I took in the sites and sounds of my surroundings.


We passed Navy ships, shipping yards and the postcard-worthy Aurora Street with all it’s colorful homes stacked next to one another.


While the waterways reminded me more of Chicago than Venice, it was great to see the city from a different perspective.

As the sun set we circled back around and docked at the Zero Mark plaza. I found a place on the wall for a few cold beers with some local friends and enjoyed my Friday evening in a new city.


Thank you for the Happy Hour welcome Recife.

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