Founded in the 16th century by the Portuguese, the town’s history is linked to the sugar-cane industry. It was rebuilt after being looted by the Dutch, its basic urban fabric dates from the 18th century. The harmonious balance between the buildings, gardens, 20 Baroque churches, convents and numerous small passos (chapels) all contribute to Olinda’s particular charm.
The historic center of Olinda contains a number of buildings that are outstanding from the point of view of both their architecture and decoration. Travelers can look forward to an exceptional ensemble of landscapes, urbanism and architecture when travelling to Olinda. The lush vegetation of the roadsides, gardens, hedgerows and convent precincts all form a landscape in which the salient feature is the town nestling in a mass of greenery, bathed in tropical light, with the sandy shore and ocean below.
Besides its natural beauty, Olinda is also one of the most important of Brazil’s cultural centers. Declared in 1982 a Historical and Cultural Patrimony of Humanity by the UNESCO, Olinda relives the magnificence of the past every year during the Carnival, in the rhythm of frevo, maracatu and others rhythms.
Olinda features a number of major tourist attractions, such as a historic downtown area (World Heritage Site), churches, and the Carnival of Olinda, a popular street party, very similar to traditional Portuguese carnivals, with the addition of African influenced dances. The largest attraction to the city is by far the Carnival. People travel from far and wide to the old historic town center to enjoy the festivities that come along with the Carnival.
Along with Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, Olinda has one of three most attended carnivals in Brazil. Unlike in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, however, admission to Carnival is free in Olinda and it is organized by the people. They organize their own blocks, play their own music, and follow their own paths. The city government merely provides the infrastructure while the people provide rest including the indomitable spirit and tireless energy as they proceed all over the city. Whereas In Rio, the main attraction is the parade of samba schools, which take place inside a closed arena, called Sambódromo in Olinda, no place is closed every street and every corner is part of Carnival and there are no bleachers or roping. Often times the partying also serves as social commentary. The music and even the costumes can be satires on political and social issues of the day.
So when you’re in Olinda, don’t forget to get your samba on and party like a local.