Recife, capital of Pernambuco, is the Northeast’s most exciting city after Salvador, with a vibrant cultural, entertainment and restaurant scene, an intriguing historic center, an impressive coastal setting, and a fabulous Carnival. It's a sprawling, urban place of glassy high-rises, crowded commercial areas, thundering traffic and extensive suburbs; if you like your cities gutsy, gritty and proud, Recife is for you. It takes its name from the offshore recifes (reefs) that calm the waters of its ports and shoreline.
The city center is a mix of office blocks, colonial churches and thronged market areas, is spread over several islands and peninsulas at the mouths of the Rio Capibaribe and other rivers, with a dozen bridges crisscrossing the waterways (which often don't smell too great). The main districts of interest here are the historic Recife Antigo on the ocean side, increasingly attractive to visit thanks to an ongoing revival program, and Santo Antônio to its west, with governmental and bustling commercial districts. The high-rise, middle-class, beach suburb Boa Viagem, with the best range of accommodations and restaurants, begins 3km south of the center and extends about 5km along the coast.