The largest city in the south of Brazil, Porto Alegre offers visitors an elegant neoclassic historic center, pleasant parks, fabulous views of the Guaíba River, friendly cafes, and affordable fine dining. The 1.5 million residents of Porto Alegre are proud descendents of the Gaucho cowboys, famous for their horseback riding skills. Although horses have been relegated to the countryside, it is not unusual to spot locals donning the traditional Gaucho uniform of baggy pants, leather riding boots, and a widebrimmed hat.

Things to Do

Praça da Alfandega features beautifully restored 1920’s neo-classic buildings that have been converted into museums and other vibrant community spaces, such as the Usina do Gasômetro, a former gas plant that was turned into a dynamic cultural center. Boat tours afford great city views from the water. The interactive Science and Tecnology Museum features “hair-raising” displays and plenty of fun experiments. The Sunday craft market at Parque da Redenção is perfect for snapping up local leather souvenirs.

Restaurants and Dining

Meat lovers will be in heaven with the traditional Gaucho churrasco, an all-you-can-eat feast of barbecued cuts of beef, pork, and lamb. Waterfront restaurant Galpão Crioula provides the full Gaucho experience and even shows diners how to enjoy the traditional “chimarrão” erva-mate tea, served in a gourd and sipped through a metal straw. The upscale residential neighborhood Moinhos de Vento draws well-heeled diners for contemporary Basque pizza with sangria at Bazkeria or fresh sushi at Daimu.

Active Pursuits

The region around Porto Alegre features some excellent vineyards. Visit the Miolo, Salton, and Casa Valduga wineries just outside of Bento Gonçalves to sample some of the best Brazilian wines. For more adventurous pursuits head to Gramado and Canela, the most popular mountain resorts near Porto Alegre. The resorts offer outdoor-lovers great hiking, rafting, rapelling, and horseback riding. The towns also have a number of fine restaurants and spas.