Olinda is one of Brazil's best-preserved colonial cities, founded by the Portuguese in 1535 and later occupied by the Dutch. Its grand churches, gardens and cobbled streets are easily explored on foot, and form a fine backdrop for Olinda's spectacular Carnival celebrations. Frevo dancers, costumed groups from local neighbourhoods - blocos - and large crowds gather in the narrow streets for one of Brazil's best parties, drinking and dancing all week long.
Brazil's first Franciscan convent, the Igreja e Convento Franciscano de Nossa Senhora das Neves is another Olinda travel highlight, full of intricate woodcarvings, religious paintings and impressive tilework telling the story of St Francis of Assisi. The Benedictines also made their mark on Olinda, most noticeably in the Basilica e Mosteiro de Sao Bento, whose equally impressive interior features a magnificent Baroque gold altar and other priceless works of art.