Recife is the capital of the state of Pernambuco, in the north-east of Brazil, and the centre of the country's fourth-largest metropolitan area - a conurbation of another 13 cities, including Olinda, with a population of 3.7m. Because of its economical importance for the region, the city is often called ‘the capital of the North-east'.
The histories of Recife and Olinda run parallel to each other. For several years, Recife (Portuguese for ‘reef') existed essentially as the port that connected the village of Olinda to the Atlantic. The build-up of Recife was profoundly boosted by the presence of the Dutch in the north-east of Brazil. As the Dutch West India Company dominated the region, Maurice of Nassau disembarked in Recife in 1637 and ordered the construction of the bridges, canals and levees of the then-called Mauritsstad (Maurice City), which was the capital of the Dutch colonies in the Americas. Maurice of Nassau's term only lasted until 1644, but Recife inherited its architectural legacy that eventually led to the nickname ‘the Brazilian Venice'.
Some of the most impressive beaches around the state's capital are Boa Viagem, one of the most famous urban beaches of the region, and Porto de Galinhas, which stands among the top tourist destinations in the country, located some 70km away from Recife.
However, because of the Dutch presence and the several twists of fate over its history, besides the tropical climate and the spectacular beaches that are common to the north-eastern coast of Brazil, the region of Recife is also prolific on historical attributes, such as the Orange Fort and the very city of Olinda, which was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1982.
There is no better time to check the traditions of Recife and Olinda closely than carnival, when the rhythms of frevo and maracatu completely take the cities over and rock street parades like the Galo da Madrugada (‘Dawn Rooster'), which brings two million people to the streets every year.
You will hardly find another city in Brazil as football-mad as Recife. It is a tough task to determine which of the three top clubs of the state of Pernambuco relies on a more passionate fan base; Sport Club do Recife, Santa Cruz Futebol Clube or Clube Nautico Capibaribe.
All three teams have had glorious moments in Brazilian football, although Sport stand slightly apart from their competitors thanks to two major titles: the Campeonato Brasileiro in 1987 and the Copa do Brasil in 2008.
Each Sport, Santa Cruz and Nautico have their own private stadium - Ilha do Retiro, Arrudao and Aflitos respectively - but the state government of Pernambuco has decided to put up a new, more modern one to be up to the standards of the FIFA World Cup: the Arena Capibaribe, which will be built at the metropolitan area surrounding Recife.