Porto Alegre: a small big town

When I decided to move back to Brazil, one of my desires was to escape from the chaos of the big city. Because of Univeristy, I had lived the last two years of my life in São Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Bogotá. Three big cities recognized for their busy lifestyle (crazy traffic, work that never ends, people in a hurry all the time, etc.). I needed to take a break and enjoy a slower pace.

It wasn’t an accident that I landed in Porto Alegre, the state capital of Rio Grande do Sul. When people ask how did I get here and why I chose this city, I like to joke: “I didn’t choose Porto Alegre, Porto Alegre chose me.” It’s how I like to think, because when I arrived I knew little about the city, the people who lived here and their lifestyle, actually I didn’t know anything at all, but I ended up facing a nice surprise.

People who live here often say that Porto Alegre is a city with a small town feeling. Nor too small, neither too large, has the basics that a big city can offer with the peace of a small town. Some people will say that Porto Alegre has seen better days and that over the time it is becoming a chaotic place. I can assure you that even with the negative things that can be listed, Porto Alegre is far from being so.

I’ve been living in Porto Alegre for more than a year and, as a tribute, I decided to make this post about the city and the people who welcomed me all this time. Here are some of my impressions and recommendations for your visit to Porto Alegre:

Arriving to Porto Alegre:

Leaving the Salgado Filho International Airport you have three options to get to Porto Alegre.

1) By bus: You can take the T5 line in front of the airport (BRL$ 3.75) passing through Parque da Redenção (Redemption park) and ends near the Shopping Praia de Belas. There are other bus lines that can help you, see itineraries here. You can also catch other bus lines at Trensurb Airport station.

2) By train: At the airport should take the Aeromóvel that connects the airport with the Trensurb Airport Station. Just take the train until the Market station in downtown (approx. 20 min.) The operation of Aeromóvel and the train is from 5 am to 23h20 every day.

3) By taxi: From the airport to the center of Porto Alegre takes around 15-20 minutes and the fare is around BRL$ 27 to R $ 30. Calculate the fare to your destination here.

The Gauchos

As soon as you arrive in the city you’ll understand why in Brazil people says that the Rio Grande Do Sul Brazil is another Brazil. The colonization of the south of the country was done by Italian and German colonies mainly. So you will notice that the entire state has a European air in all aspects. The food, the architecture, even the population is quite different from what you find in other States.

The Rio Grande do Sul also shares the culture and customs of their neighbors Uruguayans and Argentines such as the barbecue, the “Mate” and traditional practices generated around the fieldwork.

Perhaps, this mixture of roots gives to the Gaucho the reputation for being a rude, sexist and conservative people. But my experience is totally different. I was greeted by a warm, cozy, open, fighter, intelligent and, above all, very critical people. Clearly, I cannot lie and say there are not people who fit the stereotype of the gaucho, but I believe those characteristics are inherent to the human condition and you can find them in any other city in the world.

If you have the luck I had, you will be received by gauchos who will open the doors of their houses, their families, and their lives to make you feel at home

Meat, meat, meat

If you are a meat lover, here is your place because in the South, there is no party or reunion without meat, not because of nothing the barbecue is one of the typical dishes of the region. If you eat meat, you have to try it!

Oh, one other thing! It has fried chicken heart everywhere. You can find it from a “chicken heart sandwich” until a few tidbits of heart with a farofa. It is worth a try!

On the other side, and I believe in compensation, Porto Alegre has a large number of vegetarians, therefore you will also find vegetarian restaurants with very good food!

The Weather

In southern Brazil, the seasons take on a new meaning, because the extremes are part of everyday life of the population. Summer is way too hot, with an average temperature of 39 º C and a thermal sensation of 41 ° C to plus 100% humidity. Winter certainly is too cold. In some cities comes to snow during this time. In the timeout, are autumn and spring, characterized by a sequence of days of sun, rain, hot and cold days with no set pattern that may push the limits of anyone’s patience. For those who grew up in the tropic, like me, where there are no seasons but rainfall regime or drought, the weather of Porto Alegre can be somewhat challenging.

The Trees

When I arrived in Porto Alegre one of the first things that I fell in love with was the fact that the streets are full of tall twisted trees that intersect at the top. It is impossible not to walk the streets of Porto Alegre and not admire the picturesque environment that trees draw at each season. Not by chance, Porto Alegre has a street as “environmental heritage” by the City hall with the nicknamed as “the most beautiful street in the world“.

 

The Bike rides

Although Porto Alegre is beginning gradually to create a culture of green transportation, it is possible to know the city by Bike. The tour I most recommend is the shoreline of the Guaiba Lake to Ipanema Beach, in the south (but remember, Porto Alegre has no beaches, it’s just the name). The tour is perfect for a sunny Sunday. You will have a privileged view of the Guaiba the whole ride and you can rest in the “beaches” of the South Zone. There are several restaurants and bar options, you can take a walk or play a set of beach volleyball.

You can use the Public System of City Bikes. Just need a cell phone and a credit card There is a monthly package (BRL$ 10) or 24 hours (BRL$ 5). Find all the information about this system here.

 

The Redemption Brique Fair

Certainly, better known as Redemption (Redenção), Farroupilha Park is an icon of the city. It is the meeting place for drinking Chimarrão, picnicking, sit on the grass and hang out with friends and family. During the weekends, you can find an organic products fair (Saturday morning) and on Sunday afternoon the Redemption Brique, where crafts and street performers grace the José Bonifacio avenue.

Downtown

At Downtown, focuses the city life. With few exceptions, shops, nightlife, leisure spaces, colleges, etc. are concentrated in this region and its surroundings. If you like walking, you can go to the most representative touristic point on foot. I highly recommend you to do this.

A walk of 15-20 minutes will take you from one neighborhood to another. But once in the city center, be sure to visit the Public Market, the Alfandega square,the Santander Cultural museum, the Rio Grande do Sul art museum (MARGS), the Casa de Cultura Mario Quintana, the Matrix Square, the Piratini Palace and Teatro São Pedro. You should also take a walk to the Usina do Gasómetro.

Usina do Gasómetro and shoreline of the Guaíba Lake

The best spot in town to see the Sunset is at the Usina do Gasómetro. A cultural center located on the edge of the Guaíba Lake. Eventually, there are art exhibitions, also has a cinema and a café. Already on the shoreline, you can practice different sports, drink coconut water and admire the magnificence of the Guaíba. You can also take a boat ride across the Lake, is very worthwhile.

 

Second-hand Bookstores and antique shops

Porto Alegre has a large number of second-hand bookstores and antiques, one more charming than the other one. If you like trinkets and antiques, you will find several places where you can spend hours and hours looking at everything. At Sundays, there is an antique fair besides to the Redemption Brique fair in Jose Bonifacio avenue. During the week my recommendation is to visit the street Floriano Peixoto, in the center, or the Teia de Aranha (Spider Web), that gather second-hand clothes, books, and antiques in one place.

Night at the Cidade Baixa (Lower City)

The bohemian district of the city is the Lower City (next to Downtown). Its cobbled streets receive tourists in bars and restaurants that light up the nights. During the day you can have a coffee in a bookstore or watch a movie at the Guion Cinemas. The neighborhood is safe and always has people on the streets until late at night. In the region are also plenty of hotels and hostels, which is great for your location, besides having the friendliest prices.

 

Outdoor events in the city

Porto Alegre is one of the cities that organize tons of outdoor events. Thanks to new independent and alternative generation, there´s always a picnic, a parade, a bike ride, or just people gathering in one place to share a beer with friends in the summer and a wine or a quentão in winter. The quentão is a blend of wine with herbs and spices (really freaking good!)

Stay tuned on these events as it is a great opportunity to meet this other side of town. Usually, they take place in parks or squares in the center. Some recommendations are the Serenta Iluminada (Enlightened Serenade) at Redemption park, presentation of the Bloco da Laje (a Street Carnaval group) night at Tutti Bar, Largo Vivo (Live Square), at Glênio Peres Square and Vaga Viva (Live Parking spot) a proposal to that seeks to occupy the street parking spots and transform it into a cultural spaces for the pedestrian.

Fruit Juice and Sandwich at the Lancheria do Parque

A required stop when visiting Porto Alegre is the Lancheria do Parque (which is in front of Redemption Park, hence the name). This traditional cafeteria made its fame from its uncomplicated way to serve customers, the fruit juices served in the blender jar and the best Sandwich of the city, at least in my opinion. I recommend the chicken Sandwich and a mixed passion fruit, banana and orange juice. Ah, here the prices are excellent for those who don´t want to spend much.

The diversity of Porto Alegre has a reserved place for every kind of person. You just need to get here, because in some corner of the city you will find your favorite place in the world and, if you are lucky, you´ll find a group of people who will make your pass through here an experience that will last a lifetime.

Cristian Figueroa

Versión en Español

Versão em Português

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