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Sandwiched between the Sanhauá River and the Atlantic Ocean, this site’s sunshine and reef-calmed seas are irresistible to visitors. A law prohibits the construction of water front buildings taller than four stories, enabling you to enjoy sunny beaches all day long.

Besides its natural attractions, João Pessoa has enchanting baroque buildings and several excellent stores with regional handcrafts.

Historically, the city has undergone several name changes. In 1585, it was founded as Nossa Senhora das Neves; in 1588, it was renamed Filipéia, to honor the reigning king of Portugal and Spain, Filipe I. With the Dutch invasion of 1634 came its new name, Frederica, an allusion to Prince Frederik of Orange.

After the Dutch were expelled in 1654, the name was changed yet again to Paraiba, which means „arm of the sea“ in Tupi-Guarani. In 1930 the assassination of the governor sparked such national fervor that the city was renamed for the final time in his name.

This city of many names is 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Recife and 180 kilometers (112 miles) south of Natal, along BR-101 highway.

Map of João Pessoa Paraíba

Map of João Pessoa Paraíba

Detailed Map of João Pessoa Paraíba


The calm waters of João Pessoa – due in part to the barrier reef – are the backdrop to an increasingly popular tourist destination.

Lively Tambáu, the city’s central beach, has hotels, bars, kiosks, and street vendors.

The wide strip of sand fills with walkers, joggers, and locals playing football and frescobol, a game for two played with wooden rackets and small rubber ball. In summer, the sea retreats to reveal the so- called „picãozinho“ (little peak) coral formation. To the north, Manaira and Bessa, two other city beaches, are not very different from Tambáu.

The southern beach next to Tambáu is Cabo Branco. Cabo Branco filIs with people walking, running and playing in the late afternoon. Between 5am and 8am the beach avenue closes to traffic; people walk, roller-skate, and work out along this pedestrian path.

The Farol do Cabo Branco lighthouse is at Ponta do Seixas, the easternmost tip of South America. Be sure to catch the magnificent view of the city from the top of the lighthouse, but avoid the area at night – it becomes rather unsafe.

Even further south is João Pessoa’s very popular beach, Penha. Here you will find the famous church where the faithful approach on their knees.


The original Capela de São Frei Pedro Gonҫalves was built in the 17th century and demolished in 1843 to make room for another church.

Modifications of the new church, in 1916, created the structure that we see today. In 2002, restoration work uncovered the original foundations, which are now open to the public (Largo São Frei Pedro Gonҫalves, Varadouro).

To the left of the church square is another João Pessoa landmark, the Hotel Globo, built in 1929. This building, which today houses the Spanish consulate, features a style influenced by neo-classical and art deco periods.

The best time to visit the square is in the late afternoon, as the sun spreads an orange glow over the buildings, painting everything in pastel shades. Try to visit here before 6pm, as the square becomes deserted and unsafe after that time.


The Franciscans originally constructed this building – one of the best examples of Brazilian baroque – in 1589 as a wattle-and-daub convent. In 1602 they began construction on a limestone church, the Igreja de São Francisco.

Construction on the frontispiece ended in 1779, with completion of the tower and the churchyard, in 1783 and 1788.

The dates of construction are quickly forgotten, but no one forgets the interior of this old church: the nave, surrounded by a tiled mural depicting the story of Saint Joseph in Egypt, holds a beautifully carved pulpit. The ceiling painting depicts Saint Elias. To the left of the church is the CapeIa Dourada, a chapel with a statue of Saint Anthony and other gilded figures.

The choir holds beautifully carved, jacaranda chairs and eight panels from the 18th century.

The convent has functioned as a cultural center since 1990 and houses three museums. One museum features sacred art, another is dedicated to folk art, and the Galeria de Pedra, exhibits fragments of rocks from different eras, discovered during the church’s restoration. Praҫa de São Francisco.


State government buildings line Praҫa João Pessoa on all sides. The most imposing of these buildings is the Palacio da Redenҫão, the seat of government.

The Jesuits built this palace in 1586, and today it houses the ashes of João Pessoa. It has undergone a series of alterations over time with the last in 1995 to remove a mosaic floor that contains displayed swastikas.

Next to the palace is the Faculdade de Direito da Paraíba, a law school. The school operates out of the old Liceu Parahybano school building, which opened in 1745.

On the opposite side of the square stands a state-protected building which was built in 1919 and houses the Tribunal da Justiҫa, the Justice Council.

The crypt of former president Epitácio Pessoa can be found in the basement of this building. It is open in the morning for guided visits.


Sitting strategically on a rise, the small stone Casa da Polvora fort built in 1710, used to be an arms store. Today it houses the Museu Fotográfico Walfredo Rodrigues, which has a small collection of photographs of the city. The biggest attraction, however, is the museum’s view of the Sanhauá River. Ladeira São Francisco, Varadouro.


In the 36 years between the beginning of construction (1853) and opening day, this building was used as a military hospital. The neo-classical Teatro Santa Rosa finally opened its doors in 1889 to reveal its fine, imposing, German pine interior. After undergoing renovations 18 years ago, the theater now seats up to 418 people. Praҫa Pedro Américo, Centro.


Inspired by French visitors to Paraíba, entrepreneur Tito Henrique da Silva established a winery in 1892. His wine, made from cashew fruit, won international acclaim at the beginning of the 20th century.

Heavily in debt, the Fabrica de Vinhos Tito Silva & Cia closed down in the 1980s; however, the government’s heritage institute declared the building, machinery, and equipment a National Heritage Site.

Today, the three buildings house presses, casks, and other items. This is also the location of the Oficina Escola de Revitalizaҫão do Patrimonio Cultural de João Pessoa, a civic society dedicated to the revitalization of local culture. Rua da Areia, 33, Varadouro.


Two of the greatest craftsmen of regional Brazilian literature, José Américo de Almeida (1887 – 1980) and José Lins do Rego (1901- 1957), had their beginnings in Paraíba. The former was born in Areia and the latter in Pilar, and two cultural centers in the state capital bear their names.

The Fundaҫão José Americo de Almeida (Avenida Cabo Branco, 3336) functions out of the house where the writer and politician (who governed Paraíba in 1950) lived from 1953 until his death.

In addition to his personal affects, you can also see his small library – an extensive collection of books about the Northeast. The house, in the Cabo Branco neighborhood, stands right on the waterfront. It was the first building built when developers tackled that part of the shoreline.

In addition to its responsibilities for the writer’s collection, the foundation is also in charge of the heritage preservation projects occurring throughout the state.

The Fundaҫão Espaҫo Cultural José Lins do Rego (Rua Abdias Gomes de Almeida, 800, Tambauzinho) is a cultural center housing a museum dedicated to the writer of Menino do Engenho (1932; published in English as Plantation Boy).

José Lins do Rego spent part of his life in Pernambuco, although he died far away in Rio de Janeiro. Glass cases in the museum display manuscripts, books, and the author’s old typewriter.


Aside from the São Francisco Church and Convent and São Frei Pedro Gonҫalves Church, notable religious buildings include the Igreja de São Bento and Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo.

Both are distinguished by their ornate stone faҫades and rich interior carving. Built in the early 18th century, the government protected Igreja de São Bento still retains its baroque faҫade, although the interior has lost many of its original features (Rua General Osório, 60).

Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo is the other baroque church, annexed to the Capela de Santa Teresa d’Avila (Praҫa Dom Adauto).

The modest and largely unadorned Igreja da Misericórdia has stood since the 16th century. You can still see the emblem of the Portuguese Crown on the arch above the high altar (Rua Duque de Caxias, Centro).

Where the city’s first chapel went up in 1585, the 19th century Matriz de Nossa Senhora das Neves now stands. Its eclectic faҫade is a product of extensive renovations that occurred between 1881 and 1884 (Praҫa Dom Ulrico, Centro).

João Pessoa in Paraíba travel guide and tourism information such as accommodation, festivals, transport, maps, activities and attractions in Paraíba, Brazil – Brazil Travel Guide

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