Porto Alegre, the largest city in the south of Brazil, is the capital city of Rio Grande do Sul, land of the valiant Gauchos and the infamous churrasco barbeque. It is located on the eastern shore of lake Guaíba, and it is the point where five rivers converge forming the Lagoa dos Patos, a huge lagoon navigable even by large boats. The city was founded in 1742 by immigrants from the Azores region (Portuguese immigrants). Since the 19th century, Porto Alegre has been receiving immigrants, particularly from Europe (Germans, Poles and Italians), who have heavily influenced architecture and cuisine, among many other cultural aspects. Located at the junction of five rivers, Porto Alegre has become an important port as well as one of the most important industrial and commercial cities of Brazil. Products of the rich agriculture and livestock such as soybeans, leather, canned food, meats, and rice are exported to several countries. The city’s population is about 1,500,000 inhabitants.
The state of Rio Grande do Sul experiences all four seasons. It is important to remember, however, that the duration of each season in Brazil (and in all countries of the Southern hemisphere) differs from the period of each season in the countries North of the equator. The dates of the beginning and the end of each season are:
Spring: from September 23 to December 21.
Summer: from December 21 to March 21.
Autumn: from March 21 to June 21.
Winter: from June 21 to September 23.
In Porto Alegre, summers are very hot, often reaching 35°C (95°F), while winters are quite cold, with temperatures ranging between 0 and 5 degrees Celsius (32-41°F) for several weeks. It is not easy to predict the weather of Rio Grande do Sul due to several factors that influence the sudden changes in temperature, including heat waves and cold fronts. Unpredictable circumstances can result in a very warm day or even week in the middle of the winter, and conversely, a cooler day or week in the summer.
Even in the span of one day it is possible to experience the four seasons, starting with a hot morning and ending with a brisk night. It is also important to be prepared for days of heavy rain that occur with increasing frequency, especially during the summer.
A major environmental effort of the city, Porto Alegre is considered to be the “greenest” city in Brazil, featuring many large parks throughout the city and many trees lining the streets.
The official language of the Federal Republic of Brazil is Portuguese. Consequently, any international student or scholar who wants to conduct studies or researches at a Brazilian educational institution should strive to understand and speak the Portuguese language to perform well in their studies. Native Spanish speakers are basically understood by Brazilians, particularly in Rio Grande do Sul, and it may be generally easy to adapt to Portuguese. At the graduate level, it is common to study the literature of several countries and cultures in their original languages. UFRGS has an excellent Portuguese as a foreign language course for those who are interested in learning Portuguese or improving their knowledge about the language.
The Parque da Redenção is one of the largest green parks in Porto Alegre and it is located in the southeast of the city. It is a great place for recreation, especially on the weekends. On Sundays, one of the largest fairs featuring crafts, antiques, and other artisanal goods line the park, making Brique da Redenção a great place to spend the morning or afternoon.
The Usina do Gasômetro is now located where a historical electric industry stood, on the shores of lake Guaíba. The large chimney is still maintained, and the sight is considered one of the city postcard views. Famous for being one of the best places to enjoy the sunset, the Usina do Gasômetro is also a great weekend destination, giving locals and tourists a great view while they sit down to drink chimarrão, or even walk, bike, and rollerblade along the sidewalk that borders the lake.
The port of Porto Alegre is near the Gasômetro, a place from which sightseeing boats depart, continuing on to sail through the numerous islands scattered along the lake Guaíba. For information about tours, visit:
The Parque Moinhos de Vento (commonly called Parcão) is a large park in the heart of the neighborhood Moinhos de Vento, and it is surrounded by restaurants, bars, shops and a mall (Moinhos de Vento Mall). Not only does this park have paths for walking, running and recreation, but also courts for sports and a playground for children. It is undoubtedly a great choice for weekends and sunny afternoons.
The Iberê Camargo museum is located in the southern area of the city, on the shores of lake Guaíba, offering its visitors not only the enjoyment of its featured art, but also the city’s famous sunset, complete with a cafe next to the museum to enjoy the view. Iberê Camargo was a Brazilian artist who lived in Porto Alegre, and he is among the biggest names of 20th century art. The official website of this museum is:
The Casa de Cultura Mario Quintana is an institution linked to the State Department of Culture. The traditional spaces of this cultural center are dedicated to cinema, music, visual arts, dance, theater, literature as well as workshops and events related to culture. All these spaces honor the great names of culture of Rio Grande do Sul. Further information can be found at: http://www.ccmq.com.br/
The Santander Cultural is an exhibition site directed to the fields of visual arts, music, film and reflection. There is always something happening in this dynamic cultural center. To keep informed on the latest exhibitions and events, you can access the link: http://www.santandercultural.com.br/
The Mercado Público is part of the historical and cultural heritage of Porto Alegre, inaugurated in 1869 to house the trade supply of the city. Later, it went on to become an icon shopping sight of the State Capital. All kinds of goods may be found here, from the regional and artisanal to the nationally produced. Cultural events are also featured here, including concerts, art exhibitions, parades and soirées. The official website of the Mercado Público is: http://www2.portoalegre.rs.gov.br/mercadopublico/
Rua dos Andradas is a traditional and historical street, where one can find the oldest preserved buildings dating back to the days of the Empire. Lined by the shadows of trees, this street also features typical and traditional bars, pubs and restaurants, as well as museums and other cultural sites
There are more than 60 movie theaters in Porto Alegre, which exhibit everything from traditional cinema to the latest releases. Students are entitled to a discount in many cultural sites in Porto Alegre, mainly in cinema, theaters and concerts. For cinema, specifically, the student usually pays half of the normal entrance fee. In order to get this discount, it is essential to have the international student card, or the UFRGS ID Card (along with a proof of registration). Below is a very useful link with prices, addresses and programming of several movie theaters in Porto Alegre:
There is also a cinema at UFRGS Central Campus. It is called Sala Redenção, and it is a movie theater for students. For more information about this theater and about the UFRGS cultural session schedule, visit: http://www.difusaocultural.ufrgs.br/
The nightlife in Porto Alegre is lively and charming. There are places for all tastes. As in the rest of Brazil, in Porto Alegre the nightlife begins relatively late compared to other countries. People usually get together around 10pm for a happy hour, then go to a nightclub or stay where they started off the night. If the plan is to go to a nightclub, it is important not to be late, because queues tend to get pretty big around midnight.
One great location for nightlife is the street Padre Chagas. Bars, pubs, restaurants, and charming and stylish nightclubs line this street and its surrounding area, making it a great place to go out, as well as stroll and shop in many clothing stores.
Other options are bars and restaurants at Mercado Público or at Chalé da Praça XV, both located downtown. In these areas you will find traditional and historical bars.
The Cidade Baixa neighborhood also features many lively and fun pubs and bars, along the streets General Lima e Silva, Rua da República and José do Patrocínio. These streets also feature many cafés and the busy movement of many students.
The largest festivals in Porto Alegre include: the Semana Farroupilha from September 13 to 20, and the Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes on February 2, which consists of a procession of fishing boats in tribute to their patron saint.