Porto Alegre: History and things to do

Skyline of Porto Alegre

Hello everyone! Welcome to another A Dica do Dia! 

Do you know what day it is today? It is the anniversary of the city of Porto Alegre! It is officially 252 years old today. The perfect occasion to learn a little about this beautiful city.

Today we’re heading to the heart of southern Brazil to explore Porto Alegre, the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Situated at the southern tip of Brazil, Porto Alegre is one of the country’s richest cities, yet it remains a hidden gem compared to popular destinations like Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo.

Did you know that Porto Alegre is the largest city in the state of Rio Grande do Sul? It is expected to have a population of 1,488,252 by 2020, making it the 12th most populous city in Brazil. This bustling metropolis serves as a major hub for commerce and industry in southern Brazil, second only to São Paulo.

Want to know more about Porto Alegre? Find out more about its history and what you can do there!

History of Porto Alegre

Let us learn a little about the history of Porto Alegre. The city was founded on March 26, 1772, when Manuel Sepúlveda established the Freguesia de São Francisco do Porto dos Casais. The name was later changed to Nossa Senhora da Madre de Deus de Porto Alegre. The city’s roots can be traced back to 1752, when 60 Azorean couples settled in the region to establish Missions in the Northeast of Rio Grande do Sul following the Treaty of Madrid. Originally named Porto de Viamão, this area marked the beginning of what would later become Porto Alegre.

On July 24, 1773, Porto Alegre was declared the capital city of the province under the administration of Sepúlveda, who used the pseudonym José Marcelino de Figueiredo to conceal his identity. In 1824, the city became a melting pot of cultures, welcoming immigrants from Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, Jewish communities, and Lebanon.

Porto Alegre is not only culturally diverse but also the capital of the Pampas region, famous for its unique fauna and flora across the vast plains of southern Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. This region is the homeland of the gaúcho, the legendary figure celebrated in songs and annual pageants.

The city’s history is marked by numerous conflicts, notably the Farrapos War, which began near Porto Alegre in 1835. The war not only influenced the city’s identity but also celebrated the myth of the gaúcho, a symbol of bravery and independence.

After the Farrapos War, Porto Alegre underwent significant urban restructuring, driven by the growth of port-related activities and shipyards. The city continued to evolve, keeping pace with the cultural, political, and social developments within Brazil.

In 1963, Porto Alegre gained international recognition by hosting the World University Games. In 1985, it played a pivotal role in Brazil’s movement for free elections, hosting one of the largest demonstrations in the country.

What is a gaucho?

You may have already heard the term ‘gaucho‘ a few times by now. But what does it actually mean? A gaucho is more than just a term; it represents cultural identity, particularly in the southern regions of Brazil, as well as parts of Argentina and Uruguay. Gauchos are traditionally skilled horsemen and cattle herders of the Pampas, the vast, fertile lowlands that span these countries. The lifestyle and culture of the gauchos have played a crucial role in the region’s development, influencing local cuisine, folk music, and dance.

Historically, gauchos led nomadic lives, excelling in the open plains and mastering the art of livestock farming. They are often compared to the cowboys of North America, sharing a similar reputation for their rugged independence and deep connection to the land. The traditional attire of the gaucho, which includes wide-brimmed hats, boots, and bombachas (baggy trousers), is not merely ornamental but also practical for life on the plains.

In the present day, the spirit of the gaucho remains a proud symbol of regional pride in Porto Alegre and beyond. The gaucho’s legacy is celebrated in festivals and reflected in the hearty churrasco cuisine. 

What to do in Porto Alegre: The main tourist attractions

Wondering what to do when you visit Porto Alegre? Don’t worry, there’s plenty to do! Whether you’re looking to explore magnificent cathedrals, immerse yourself in the art scene or simply enjoy the vibrant life of its markets and parks, Porto Alegre has something for everyone. Let’s take a closer look at what you can do in this beautiful city to make the most of your visit.

Metropolitan Cathedral of Porto Alegre

This grand cathedral stands as a testament to architectural brilliance, featuring exquisite stained glass windows and intricate mosaics. It’s a pivotal landmark for those interested in religious architecture.

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Porto Alegre
(Source: By Eurico Zimbres, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1981905)

Rio Grande do Sul Museum of Art

Showcasing an extensive collection of local art, this museum is a cultural cornerstone of Porto Alegre. The eclectic architecture of the building adds to its allure, making it a must-visit for art enthusiasts.

Casa de Cultura Mario Quintana

Once a hotel, this cultural center now hosts a variety of artistic endeavors, from galleries and cinemas to cozy cafés. It offers a diverse cultural experience in the heart of the city.

Piratini Palace in Porto Alegre

As the seat of the state government, this palace is not only significant for its political importance but also houses an impressive collection of artworks. Guided tours provide insight into its historical and artistic value.

Visit the church “Igreja São José” in Porto Alegre

Reflecting Porto Alegre’s multicultural heritage, this church is notable for its historical services in German, showcasing the city’s European influences.

Porto Alegre Public Market

The heart of the city’s commerce, this market is a bustling hub where one can find an array of local produce, crafts, and culinary delights.

Parque da Redençã

Known officially as Farroupilha Park, this is the largest green space in Porto Alegre, serving as a communal hub for relaxation and social gatherings, emblematic of the city’s vibrant community life.

Guaíba River Boat Tour

These tours offer a unique perspective of Porto Alegre from its waterways, providing stunning views of the cityscape, especially during sunset.

Party in the Cidade Baixa District

The epicenter of Porto Alegre’s nightlife, this district boasts a diverse array of bars and clubs, catering to all tastes.

Watch a Internacional football match at the Estádio Beira-Rio

Attending a match at the Estádio Beira-Rio is a must for anyone visiting Porto Alegre. Football has a special place in Brazilian culture. Attending a match allows you to experience the passion at first hand and is sure to be an experience you will never forget.

Try the traditional churrasco in Porto Alegre

It is simply impossible to visit Porto Alegre and not try its traditional barbecue, known as churrasco. While this dish is popular throughout Brazil, the local churrasco in Porto Alegre is unique.

What is the best time to visit Porto Alegre?

Wondering what is the best time to visit Porto Alegre? The city offers a cooler break from the usual Brazilian heat, making it a comfortable spot for anyone looking to explore. Let’s take a look at the best times to visit, based on the city’s weather.

What’s the weather like in Porto Alegre?

In Porto Alegre, temperatures stay between a cool 10°C (50°F) and a warm 30°C (86°F) throughout the year. It’s quite rare to get colder than 4°C (40°F) or hotter than 35°C (95°F). So it is safe to say that there is never a bad time to visit.

Best time to visit Porto Alegre

But if you had to pick the best time to visit Porto Alegre, the most pleasant weather would be in April-May and October-November: During these months, the weather is just right – not too hot, not too cold, and you’ll avoid the rainy season. It’s perfect for wandering around the city, seeing the sights or enjoying the countryside.

Ready to visit Porto Alegre?

Now that you know more about Porto Alegre, would you like to go there? Or would you like to learn some Portuguese first to prepare yourself? Maybe you can come to Brazil and learn Portuguese in 30 days. Or check out more dicas and learn more about Brazil and the Portuguese language.
Hugs from Rio & Learn, Rio de Janeiro!

Click the links below to see more related Dicas:
Brazilian States and their Capitals
History of Rio de Janeiro
São Paulo History
Rio Grande do Sul

This post is also available in: English Português (Portuguese) Español (Spanish)

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