Visiting the twin towns of Recife and Olinda is an opportunity to experience the rich culture of Pernambuco state. Elegant colonial architecture, vibrant music and an absorbing arts scene make this one of Brazil's most interesting and diverse regions.
Olinda is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a charming hub of cobbled streets and beautiful churches. It's only a few kilometres from Recife, the state capital, although the two cities have pretty much merged, so that Olinda is nowadays in effect a suburb of Recife. Most travellers prefer to base themselves in Olinda, however, which has a good choice of luxury pousada accommodation - a great way to soak up the city's colonial charm.
Recife is Brazil's music capital. Forró, ciranda, maracatú and other folk sounds are the bedrock of this musical heritage, often heard in and around the colonial centre, Recife Antigo. Since the mangue beat movement of the 1980s and 1990s pop, rock, electronica and rap have been added to the mix. The city's passion for music is especially evident during Carnaval - Recife's and Olinda's are among the best in Brazil, with spectacular street parades featuring frevo drummers, costumed dance troupes and colourful floats.