Natal, the capital of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, is a city on the Atlantic coast. Natal has some great beaches, historical sites, and nature areas, and it is a frequently used base for exploring the paradisiac beaches and nature of the Rio Grande do Norte state.
- South: The most affluent area of the city and also where most tourists stay. Contains the Ponta Negra beach and most upscale hotels, shopping malls and restaurants
- East: Contains the city's Historical Center, impotant sights such as Forte dos Reis Magos and Ponte de Todos, and beaches that mix visitors and locals such as Praia do Meio and Praia dos Artistas. Also contains the entrance to Parque das Dunas
- North: An industrial/working class area which is now the most populous of Natal. Contains the Redinha beach, which provides some nice views of the city and with very local feel
- West: A mostly poor and in some parts run-down area, it contains the intercity bus terminal that can be used to reach other cities, like Tibau do Sul
Natal was founded on 25 December 1599, hence its name (Natal means Christmas in Portuguese). Unlike other Northeastern capitals, it did not quite benefit from the economic boom resulting from the region's sugar cane production. Instead it grew moderately and more organizedly, burgeoning on the state's cattle-raising activities and salt and oil extraction.
Nowadays Natal is one of the 8 most visited cities of Brazil. Unlike other large cities of the Northeast of Brazil, like Recife or Salvador, Natal does not have a fascinating Historical Center or a vivid nightlife. In contrast, it is regarded as being significantly calmer than other large cities in the region, and as having a superior quality of life. Many rich Brazilians and foreigners alike have summer houses in the city.
One of the primary reasons to visit Natal is to use it as a base to explore the wonderful state of Rio Grande do Norte, including beaches like Pipa, Baía Formosa, Barra do Cunhaú and Genipabu, and lakes like Carcará and Coca-Cola (See #Go next). The city has many lodging options and a couple of good and reasonably priced restaurants.
- 1 Governador Aluízio Alves International Airport (Aeroporto Internacional Governador Aluízio Alves NAT IATA) (25 km from Natal's center, located at São Gonçalo do Amarante city). There are numerous direct flights from important Brazilian cities, including Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Campinas, Fernando de Noronha, Fortaleza, Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Salvador, and São Paulo. TAP flies daily to Lisbon.
To get to the city, take the Natal bus at the doorstep of the terminal, R$ 2.60. To get to Ponta Negra, get off after about 15 minutes at Natal Shopping, cross the pedestrian bridge and take any bus with Ponta Negra in its name, -another R$ 2.
The airport is far from town and complicated or expensive to get because no reasonable quality bus connection exists.
A taxi to Ponta Negra is more than R$ 43 at fixed prices, possibly a few R$ cheaper on the meter. 40 minutes.
Natal's bus station is about 3 km southwest of the city center, and some 5 km northwest of the Ponta Negra beach. A taxi to the latter is about R$ 25. Bus No 66 does the same run in about 45 minutes.
A bus ticket in Natal (as of June 2018) is R$3.65. It's recommended doing a bus card if one plans using the bus, since in addition to being more easy (no hassle with exchanges) it's possible to get a second bus without paying if this is done in less than one hour after the first one. The bus stops at the shopping centres Midway Mall, Via Direta and Natal Shopping cover most of the city. The "Line R" bus of Trampolim da Vitória company goes from Midway Mall to the International Airport for R$2.50 and is the only one going there.
Renting a car may be convenient if you, as many visitors, plan to use Natal as a base for day trips outside the city. Even the beaches at the neighbouring municipalities of Parnamarim and Extremoz are complicated to reach using public transport.
You may explore the coast on the beach rather than a road, by hiring the service of a dune Buggy driver. It costs typically R$320 per vehicle or R$80 per person if you join a group. You may find cheaper services, but be aware of unlicensed drivers; accidents caused by unskilled Buggy drivers sometimes occur.
By taxi or public transportEdit
- Taxis: flag at R$4.15, per kilometre R$2.15 (rate 1) or R$3 (rate 2)
- Buses: cost R$2.90 and get very crowded at peak hours
- Urban trains: very cheap (R$0.50), but do not reach any major tourist sights
- Forte dos Reis Magos (Fortaleza dos Reis Magos), Avenida Presidente Café Filho, s/n, Praia do Forte (next to Ponte Newton Navarro), ☏ . Tu-Su 08:00-16:00. The star-shaped fortress is the oldest and most important historical construction of Natal. It was built in 1598 to protect the coast against French pirates, and during the colonial period it was perhaps the most important of Brazil's defence barriers. It is located in the water, accessible using a pedestrian path from Praia do Forte. For about 300 years, it worked as military quarters, administration office and prision, and it was also for some time under Dutch control. The name of the fortress is due to the statues of the Biblical Magi in the entrance. R$ 3.
- (Ponte de Todos). The imponent bridge over the Potengi river, with 1.8 km length and up to 100 metres high, links the North and East parts of the city and is a sight to not be missed. It can be observed from Forte or Redinha beaches.
- Parque das Dunas, Av. Alm. Alexandrino de Alencar, s/n, Tirol, ☏ . An 11.7 million-m² nature reserve located next to the coast, dividing the East and South parts of the city, and famous for its sandy dunes. In the entrance of the park is Bosque dos Namorados, with various recreational facilities and orientation on exploring the rest of the park.
- Parque da Cidade (Parque da Cidade Dom Nivaldo Monte), Av. Omar O’ Grady, s/n, Candelária. A 640,000-m² nature reserve located between the South and West parts of the city. The main sight is the "eye-shaped" tower designed by the premium architect Oscar Niemeyer.
Natal's Historic Centre is in the Cidade Alta e Ribeira neighborhoods, including also some buildings of Tirol e Petrópolis. It was declared a national heritage site in 2010. Although the city dates from 1599, most of the historical buildings were constructed in the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, in different styles including colonial, neoclassic, art-déco and modern.
- Memorial Câmara Cascudo, Praça André de Albuquerque, 30, Cidade Alta, ☏ . Tu-Su 08:30-18:00. The memorial, built in 1875 in neoclassic styles, is about the life and work of Luis da Câmara Cascudo, Rio Grande do Norte's most famous anthropologist and folklorist who lived between 1898-1986. free.
- Igreja de Santo Antônio (Igreja do Galo), Rua Santo Antônio, 683 - Cidade Alta, ☏ . M-F 08:00-16:00, Sa 08:00-14:00. Church in baroque style built in 1766. The metallic bird on its tower gives the church the nickname "Igreja do Galo". Contains a museum with religious artwork.
- [formerly dead link] Teatro Alberto Maranhão, Praça Augusto Severo, s/n, Ribeira, ☏ . The biggest and oldest theatre of the city, built in 1898 in French style.
- Solar Bela Vista, Av. Junqueira Alves, nº 417, Cidade Alta, ☏ . Palace built in 1907 as a residence, which would later become one of the most luxurious hotels in the city. Now it is a cultural centre.
- Palácio Felipe Camarão, Rua Ulisses Caldas, 81 - Cidade Alta. City hall of Natal, built in 1922 in eclectic style.
- Rua Chile, Ribeira. Historical street with houses from the 19th century. Contains one of the former palaces of the state government. Nowadays contains restaurants, museums, clubs and cultural centres.
- [dead link] Centro de Turismo de Natal, Rua Aderbal Figueiredo, 1980, Petrópolis, ☏ . Daily 09:00-19:00. Built in the 19th century, it was first an orphanage and later a public prison. Now it contains about 40 shops specialized in local handcrafts, plus an art gallery, a club and a restaurant.
As in the most of Brazil, in Natal's urban beaches you may use the chairs and tables provided by kiosks. It may be free as long as you consume, or you may be charged a fee (like R$15). This should be negotiated up front to avoid misunderstandings.
- Ponta Negra (accessible from Av. Eng. Roberto Freire). The favorite beach of tourists and wealthier locals. Excellent water quality and infrastructure, with many restaurants and utility shops in the beach front. Contains Morro do Careca, the tallest sand dune of Natal and one of the city's most famous landmarks. Near Morro do Careca the ocean is very calm, which makes it one of the favorite spots to bring kids to the water.
- Via Costeira (accessible from the freeway of same name, or walk from Ponta Negra beach). Consists of 10 km of beaches on the east side of Parque das Dunas, linking the South and East parts of the city. It is contiguous with Ponta Negra beach, so you can walk from one beach to another. Contains no infrastructure other than a university and some luxurious hotels. For that the reason, the beach is always almost empty.
- Areia Preta, Av. Gov. Silvio Pedrosa. Beach in the East region with darker sands. The buildings in the beach front cast shadows on part of it during the afternoon.
- Praia dos Artistas, Av. Pres. Café Filho. Beach in the East region. Former glamorous beach that is nowadays more popular among locals. Contains, however, decent tourist infrastructure, including hotels, bars and restaurants. May be preferable for lodging if you want to stay closer to the Historical Center.
- Praia do Meio, Av. Pres. Café Filho. Contiguous with Praia dos Artistas, and sharing similar characteristics with it. Cheap food and warm water.
- Praia do Forte, Av. Praia do Forte. Contiguous with Praia do Meio, and where Forte dos Reis Magos is located. Also has a view of Ponte de Todos. The beach does not have almost any infrastructure, however, and will usually be almost empty.
- Redinha (accessible from Av. Dr. João Medeiros Filho). The only beach in the North region. Mostly frequented by locals, and known for cheap food. The beach has also a platform that goes to the sea, and by walking to the tip of the platform, you can have a wonderful view of Ponte de Todos and the rest of the city.
- Hire a buggy with a driver and travel along the coast, both North and Southwards. The coast of the State of Rio Grande do Norte affords a rare combination of dunes, lagoons, sandstone cliffs and vegetation in between.
- Watch the sunset by Potengi River. A good spot is near the Army base and there are some ships on the river.
- The To a Toa Boat Cruise [dead link] at the Potengi river to watch the sunset. You will see the city from different angles, pass through historical places and neighborhoods, mangrooves, river beaches. Recorded guiding in English and Portuguese.
- Forró com Turista, Rua Aderbal Figueiredo, 1980, Petrópolis (at Centro de Turismo), ☏ . thu. A weekly party that happens every Thursday at the old prision (Centro do Turismo), and also every Tuesday during January. It is especially geared towards tourists and there you can learn to dance forró, one of the most popular musical styles from the Northeast of Brazil.
- Genipabu - Dunes, fresh water lagoons and dune buggy rides.
- Alecrim neighborhood (Near Alecrim train station). Alecrim, in the East side, is the main center of popular street in Natal, where 40% of the shops in the city are located. It is hosts the city's most traditional farmer's market, that happens every Saturday, from 06:00 to 15:00, in the crossing of Coronel Estevam and Presidente Quaresma, gathering more than 400 sellers.
- [formerly dead link] Midway Mall, Avenida Bernardo Vieira, 3.775, Tirol. By far the largest shopping mall of the city, containing 270 shops, 7 cinema rooms, 4 gourmet restaurants and one theater.
- Praia Shopping, Av. Engenheiro Roberto Freire, 8790, Ponta Negra (At Southeast side of Parque das Dunas). Shopping mall with about 100 shops, with the obvious advantage of being located at Ponta Negra, where most visitors stay. It is about 750 m from the beach, but since it is in the extreme north of Ponta Negra, it may not be so close to where you are staying.
- [dead link] Shopping de Artesanato Potiguar, Av Eng Roberto Freire, 8000, Ponta Negra, ☏ . A commercial center with about 164 shops, most selling local handcraft. It is next to Praia Shopping.
Plenty of seafood restaurants with outdoor seating can be found along the beaches.
- Mangai, Two locations, one at Ponta Negra, the original one In Lagoa Nova, near the stadium. Excellent regional food. Highly rated and a must if you wish to get to genuine local cuisine. +55 84 3206 3344
- [dead link] Abade, Via Costeira, 8828, ☏ . Once voted the best restaurant in town.
- Pizza - If you like pizza, there are three main pizzerias that offer a fixed price menu (about R$15) and you can eat all that you want. "Bella Natal" can be found in "Cidade Jardim" shopping center, and "Vila Mangiare" and "Cantina La Nonna" can be found on Salgado Filho avenue.
- Beach food The most typical beach food is "ginga com tapioca" and the best is served at Redinha market (don't go there on Sundays as it's very crowded).
- Camarões, Av. Eng. Roberto Freire 2610, Ponta Negra, Natal. Excellent restaurant specialized in shrimp dishes. The only drawback is the long line of people waiting for a table from around 6:30PM to 9PM. Has 3 other branches in Natal.
- A Cantina da Praia, Ponta Negra beachfront (By Quisque 06). Lunch and dinner all you can eat with a view. R$ 12.
- O Boiadeiro, Ponta Negra beachfront (By quisque 04). Lunch and dinner. Thick steaks at around R$ 30.
- [dead link] Casa do Cangaço, Avenida Erivan França, 901 (Gorbea Shopping, Orla de Ponta Negra), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 10:00-23:00. Regional food. Very tasty biju (tapioca), filled with many different flavors to choose from. It also sells regional items and cachaça.
- Dolce Latte, Rua Hernani Hugo Gomes, 365 Capim Macio, Natal-RN (Next to Praia Shopping), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 11:00-22:30. Gelatos, frappés and more, all made without artificial flavors. Great gelato!
Ponta Negra nightlife has concentrated along Rua Dr. Manoel Arauju, aso known as Rua da Salsa, a few blocks inland from the beach at kiosk 11. A lot of holiday prostitutes blend in. Near the city center is the Ribeira district with quite a few options. A nighttime cab to Ponta Negra runs close to R$ 50. Buses 46 and 54 do the stretch in about 45 minutes.
- Buraco da Catita, Rua Câmara Cascudo, Ribeira (Near the Rodoviaria Velha). Wed - Sat 7 PM - midnight. Live music most nights.
Most tourist lodgings are in Ponta Negra, heaps and heaps of them. Posted prices are negotiable in low season.
- Che Lagarto Hostel Natal, Rua Poeta Jorge Fernandes, 45, Ponta Negra, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 11:00. Each room has its own bathroom. Lockers. Kitchen facilities. Free wi-fi. Dorm bed from R$ 30, also has double rooms. Breakfast included..
- Pousada Ponta Negra, Rua Afonso Magalhães 115. Kitchen facilities. Dorm bed R$ 30, also has singles and doubles.
- [formerly dead link] Albergue da Costa, Ponta Negra. Dorms R$ 45. Also has private rooms..
- Republika (Behind Praia Shopping). A bit back from the beach.
- [dead link] Pousada Maravista. One small block from the beach. Balcony breakfast with a view. Single R$ 70, Double R$ 120, Triple R$ 150.
There was a lot of concern a while ago when the cops were on strike. It made national and international news, but even then the city was protected by the Army and the National Guard. In 2017 Natal was listed as the 4th most violent city by murder rate in the world. The main tourist areas, as in other Brazilian tourist destinations, are relatively safe. It is Brazil, so you should be aware of the recommended safety precautions: watch your belongings, travel well lit streets at night, don't go wandering off to deserted places you don't know and try to avoid walking around alone. If you are driving and following the GPS, pay close attention to where you are going to make sure you aren't entering a slum of sorts. Tourists should be particularly careful in the beaches of the East Side and North Side - in particular, one should never walk alone from Praia do Forte to Forte dos Reis Magos - the area is scarcely policed. Go to Forte dos Reis Magos by taxi or by a guided tour. It is relatively safe to walk around Ponta Negra, though, since that is the main tourist spot. Ask for safety tips where you are staying, the locals always know best and will tell which places to avoid.
- Extremoz, in the metro area of Natal, contains the renowned Genipabu beach and the quieter Pitangui. Both beaches are surrounded by natural dune parks where it is possible to various activities such as sandboarding, dromedary rides and buggy rides
- Parnamirim, in the metro area of Natal, contains the visitable Barreira do Inferno rocket launch center, the biggest cashew tree of the World, and well-known beaches like Pirangi do Norte
- Nísia Floresta contains 22 transparent lakes and beaches, Praia de Búzios being the most well-known
- Tibau do Sul contains several kilometers of amazing beaches surrounded by cliffs, including Praia da Pipa, one of the most famous of Brazil's Northeast. If you have time, it is worth staying more than a day trip
- Canguaretama contains the beautiful Barra do Cunhaú beach
- Ceará-Mirim is a historical/coastal town that prospered in the past during the Sugar Cane era
- Baía Formosa, at the border with Paraíba, is the most unspoiled and preserved paradise of Rio Grande do Norte's South Coast
|Routes through Natal|
|Touros ← Extremoz ←||N S||→ Parnamirim → João Pessoa|