Porto Alegre, the largest city in the south of Brazil, is the capital city of Rio Grande do Sul state, land of the Gauchos and churrasco. It is located on the eastern shore of Guaíba lake, the point where five rivers converge forming the Lagoa dos Patos, a huge lagoon navigable even for 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), which were of decisive importance, influencing architecture and cuisine, among other cultural aspects. Located at the junction of five rivers, it has become an important alluvial port as well as one of the major 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. Its population is about 1,500,000 inhabitants.
The state of Rio Grande do Sul goes through all the four seasons in their specific characteristics. 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 situated in the Northern hemisphere. 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.
Especially in Porto Alegre, summers are very hot, often reaching 35 °C (95 °F), while winters are quite cold, with the possibility of temperatures between 0 and 5 degrees Celsius 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, such as “hot flashes” and “cold fronts”, as the phenomena are called here. It means that one can witness a really hot a day, or even a week, during the winter and a cold day in mid-summer, the latter example being less common.
Even during the same day it is possible to enjoy aspects of all the four seasons together, starting with an extremely hot morning and ending with a frigid night. It is also important to be prepared for days of heavy rain that occur with increasing frequency, especially during the summer.
A great attraction in Porto Alegre is that it is considered the “greenest” city of Brazil, which means green parks and lots of trees everywhere.
The official language of the Federative Republic of Brazil is Portuguese. Consequently, any international student or scholar who wants to conduct studies or researches at a Brazilian educational institution should grasp the Portuguese language to perform well in their studies, and to be adequately evaluated. Native Spanish speakers are basically understood by Brazilians, particularly in Rio Grande do Sul, and generally adapt quite easily 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 second language course for those who are interested in learning Portuguese or improving their knowledge about the language.
Leisure and culture
Parque da Redenção
The Parque da Redenção is one of the largest green parks of Porto Alegre and is located southeast of the city. It is a great place for hiking and recreation, especially on weekends. On Sundays, one of the largest regular fairs of crafts and antiques takes place and it is called Brique da Redenção.
Usina do Gasômetro
The Usina do Gasômetro is where an old electric industry on the shores of Guaíba lake was located. The large chimney is still maintained and is considered one of the city postcards. This place is famous for being one of the best places to see and enjoy the famous and elusive sunset of Porto Alegre. During the weekends, this place is the right destination for many city residents and tourists because of the view of Guaíba lake, with its islands and nature, and also for the boardwalk along the lakeshore, which is commonly used for walking, bicycles, rollers and others.
Near the Gasômetro is the port of Porto Alegre, a place from where the sightseeing boats depart sailing through the numerous islands scattered along the Guaíba lake. For information about tours, visit:
Parque Moinhos de Vento – Parcão
The Parque Moinhos de Vento (commonly called Parcão) is a large park in the heart of Moinhos de Vento neighborhood, surrounded by restaurants, bars, shops and a mall (Moinhos de Vento Mall). Not only does this park have green and walking areas, but also sports courts and a playground for children. It is undoubtedly a great choice for weekends and sunny afternoons.
Fundação Iberê Camargo
The Iberê Camargo museum is located in the southern area of the city, on the shores of Guaíba lake, which offers for its visitors not only enjoyment of its arts, but also the famous city sunset, since there is a cafe next to the museum where they serve snacks and drinks. Iberê Camargo was a Brazilian artist who lived in Porto Alegre and who is among the biggest names of 20th century art. The official website of this museum is: http://www.iberecamargo.org.br/
Casa de Cultura Mario Quintana
The Casa de Cultura Mario Quintana is an institution linked to the State Department of Culture. The traditional spaces of this cultural center are directed 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 Mercado Público is a historical and cultural heritage of Porto Alegre and was inaugurated in 1869 to house the trade supply of the city. Later, it was listed as a cultural heritage, becoming a shopping icon of the State Capital. All kinds of goods, from regional and national, unique and special products, to cultural events (such as concerts, art exhibitions, parades and soirées) can be found at the Mercado. The official website of this place is: http://www2.portoalegre.rs.gov.br/mercadopublico/
Rua dos Andradas
The Rua dos Andradas is a traditional and historical street, where one can find the oldest preserved buildings dating from the days of the Empire. In addition, typical and traditional bars, pubs and restaurants are found on the street, as well as smaller museums and other cultural sites, all of this lined by the shadows of trees.
There are more than 60 movie theaters in Porto Alegre, which display from old movies to the latest releases. Students are entitled to a discount in many cultural sites in Porto Alegre, mainly to 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 theUFRGS ID Card (along with a proof of registration).
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:
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 option for nightlife is Padre Chagas Street. Not just on this street, but also in its surroundings you will find several bars, pubs, restaurants and charming and stylish nightclubs, as well as clothing stores and similar shops.
Other options are bars and restaurants at Mercado Público or at Chalé da Praça XV, both located downtown. In these places you will find traditional and historical bars.
There is also the Cidade Baixa neighborhood, which covers the streets Gal. Lima e Silva, República and José do Patrocínio, where you will find not only lively and fun pubs and bars, but also many people walking in this busy neighborhood.
*Among the largest festivals in Porto Alegre there are: 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.
- It is important to be aware of your belongings while walking through downtown streets.
- Avoid walking at night through dark places, especially if you are alone.
- If possible, do not carry much money with you and avoid leaving valuables clearly on display.
- When you need information, go to a commercial establishment.
- Do not cross the Redenção park at dusk.
- Do not ask for information about exchange houses on the streets.
- Use your phone, iPod, notebook or other electronic devices with discretion.