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Not to be confused with Hortaleza.
For other uses, see Fortaleza (disambiguation).
The Municipality of Fortaleza
Up to bottom, left to right: Iracema Beach; dome of the planetarium at Dragão do Mar Center of Art and Culture; Mosaic at the beach sidewalk; Monument to Iracema; footbridge at Dragão do Mar Center of Art and Culture; Boats and Mucuripe; Metropolitan Cathedral of Fortaleza.
Up to bottom, left to right: Iracema Beach; dome of the planetarium at Dragão do Mar Center of Art and Culture; Mosaic at the beach sidewalk; Monument to Iracema; footbridge at Dragão do Mar Center of Art and Culture; Boats and Mucuripe; Metropolitan Cathedral of Fortaleza.
Flag of Fortaleza
Official seal of Fortaleza
Nickname(s): Fortal
Motto: "Fortitudine"
Location of Fortaleza
Fortaleza is located in Brazil
Location in Brazil
Coordinates: 3°43′6″S 38°32′34″W / 3.71833°S 38.54278°W / -3.71833; -38.54278Coordinates: 3°43′6″S 38°32′34″W / 3.71833°S 38.54278°W / -3.71833; -38.54278
Country  Brazil
Region Northeast
State Bandeira do Ceará.svg Ceará
Founded April 13, 1726
 • Mayor Roberto Cláudio (PROS)
 • Municipality 313.8 km2 (121.2 sq mi)
Elevation 21 m (69 ft)
Population (2013)
 • Municipality 2,551,806
 • Rank 5th
 • Density 8,100/km2 (21,000/sq mi)
 • Metro 3,602,319
Time zone BST (UTC-3)
Postal Code 60000-000
Area code(s) +55 85
Website Fortaleza, Ceará

Fortaleza (Portuguese pronunciation: [foʁtaˈlezɐ], Fortress) is the state capital of Ceará, located in Northeastern Brazil. With a population close to 2.55 million (metropolitan region over 3.6 million), Fortaleza is the 5th largest city in Brazil.[1]

The first Portuguese settlers arrived in 1603 and were defeated by the Amerindians, who killed and ate the first bishop, and then by the Dutch, who drove them out of the area and built forte Schoonenborch. In the 18th century, the Portuguese came back and built another fort in 1816, on the site of the Dutch one. It's called Nossa Senhora da Assunção. Fortaleza still keeps signs from the past in churches, museums, theaters, fortresses and historic buildings.[2]

To the north of the city lies the Atlantic Ocean; to the south are the municipalities of Pacatuba, Eusébio, Maracanaú and Itaitinga; to the east is the municipality of Aquiraz and the Atlantic Ocean; and to the west is the municipality of Caucaia. Residents of the city are known as Fortalezenses. Fortaleza is one of the three leading cities in the Northeast region together with Salvador and Recife.[3]

The city has a modern appearance with wide avenues. Its harbour, long an open roadstead, has been protected and greatly improved by construction of a breakwater with port facilities at Mucuripe Point, 4 miles (6 km) to the east. The port's exports include sugar, cashews, lobsters, salt, cotton, carnauba wax, fruits, hides, textiles, and clothing. Fortaleza's factories also produce dyes, electroceramics, and styrofoam packing materials. Marine algae is processed there for use in fertilizers, stock feed, agar, and carrageenan.[4]

In 2014, Fortaleza hosted the 6th BRICS summit, was the sixth annual diplomatic meeting of the BRICS, a grouping of world's major emerging economies that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Occurred the creation of the BRICS Development Bank, is a rival to the IMF and World Bank.[5][6]

Fortaleza is the seat of the Federal University of Ceará and the University of Fortaleza. Also in the city are the José de Alencar Theatre, a restored example of Art Nouveau style, the President Castelo Branco Mausoleum, which honours Ceará's most famous national figure, and Castelão Stadium, one of the largest football stadiums in the country.[4]

The city was one of the host cities of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Additionally, Fortaleza was one of the host cities of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.


Plan of Fort Schoonenborch in 1649.
Fortaleza in 1910.
Passeio Público in 1919.

Fortaleza's history began on February 2, 1500, when Spaniard Vicente Pinzón landed in Mucuripe's cove and named the new land Santa Maria de la Consolación. Because of the Treaty of Tordesillas, the discovery was never officially sanctioned. Colonisation began in 1603, when the Portuguese Pero Coelho de Souza constructed the Fort of São Tiago and founded the settlement of Nova Lisboa (New Lisbon).[7] After a victory over the French in 1612, Martins Soares Moreno expanded the Fort of São Tiago and changed its name to Forte de São Sebastião.[8]

In 1630 the Dutch invaded the Brazilian Northeast and in 1637 they took the Fort of São Sebastião and ruled over Ceará. In battles with the Portuguese and natives in 1644 the fort was destroyed.[8] Under captain Matthias Beck the Dutch West Indies Company built a new fortress by the banks of river Pajeú. Fort Schoonenborch ("graceful stronghold") officially opened on August 19, 1649. After the capitulation of Pernambuco in 1654, the Dutch handed over this fortress to the Portuguese, who renamed it Fortaleza da Nossa Senhora de Assunção ("Fort of Our Lady of the Rising"), after which the city of Fortaleza takes its name.[9]

Fortaleza was officially founded as a village 1726, becoming the capital of Ceará state in 1799.[10]

During the 19th century, Fortaleza was consolidated as an urban centre in Ceará, supported by the cotton industry. In 1824, the city was targeted by the revolutionaries of Confederation of the Equator. Between the years 1846 and 1877, the city went through a period of enrichment, economic and infrastructural improvement. This included the export of cotton and the development of diverse workmanships, such as the creation of the 2 secondary schools, the Ceará and Mucuripe Lighthouse in 1845, Santa Casa de Misericórdia de Fortaleza in 1861, Prainha Seminary in 1864, Public Library in 1867 and the Public transportation network in 1870, which began with the construction of Railroad of Baturité.[11]

Ferreira Square in 1920.

In the twentieth century, Fortaleza underwent significant urban changes, with improvements and the rural exodus to the city, with growth mostly towards the end of the decade of 1910, this made the city the seventh most populated city in Brazil. In 1922, Fortaleza reached its first hundred thousand inhabitants with the annexation of the cities of Messejana and Parangaba, now important districts of the city.[12] In 1954, the first university in the city was created, the Universidade Federal do Ceará.[13]

During the years of 1964–1985 several changes took place in Fortaleza which made the city a central region for industries. Governor Virgílio Távora (1963–1966) initiated the implantation of Industrial District of Fortaleza (DIF I). One decade later, the city already had about a million inhabitants, Metropolitan areas were created Brazil (1973), making the city one of them.

View of Leoes Palace in 1936

In 1983 DIF I started to integrate the territory of the new city of Maracanaú, which, just some years ago, was made again part of the Greater Fortaleza (the city's Metropolitan area). In the 1980s, Fortaleza exceeded Recife in population terms, becoming the second most populous city in Northeastern Brazil, with 1,308,919 inhabitants.[14]

During the political awakening that followed the military regime, the people elected the city's first woman mayor, Maria Luíza Fontenele of the Brazilian Workers' Party, which meant that the city administration was controlled by a party of the centre-left. At the end of the twentieth century, the administration of the city hall and the city underwent a range of structural changes with the opening of several avenues, hospitals, cultural spaces and it became one of the main tourist destinations in the Northeast and in Brazil.[15]


Aerial view of Iracema Beach.


Fortaleza has a typical tropical climate, specifically a tropical wet and dry climate, with high temperatures and high relative humidity throughout the year. However, these conditions are usually relieved by pleasant winds blowing from the ocean. Average temperatures are not much different throughout the year. December is the warmest month, with a high of 30.7 °C (87.3 °F)[16] and low of 24.6 °C (76.3 °F).[17] The rainy season spans from February to May (locally called "winter" due to the rain, not the temperature), with rainfall particularly prodigious in March and April.[18] The average annual temperature is 26.6 °C (79.9 °F).[19] The relative humidity in Fortaleza is 79%,[20] with average annual rainfall of 1,608.4 millimetres (63.32 in).[18]

Fortaleza weather is unique in that there is usually rain during the first seven months of the year from January to July. During this period, relative humidity is high. Fortaleza's climate is usually very dry from August to December, with very little rainfall.[18][20]

Climate data for Fortaleza (1961–1990)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 37.7
Average high °C (°F) 30.5
Daily mean °C (°F) 27.1
Average low °C (°F) 24.4
Record low °C (°F) 20
Rainfall mm (inches) 119.1
Avg. rainy days (≥ ≥ 1 mm) 11 15 22 21 19 14 10 5 5 4 3 6 132
 % humidity 78.1 81.4 84.7 85.2 83.6 81 78.8 75.3 74.4 74 73.7 75.9 78.8
Mean monthly sunshine hours 225.2 182.3 150 157.1 208.4 238.7 268.3 295.9 281.6 291.4 282.2 262.3 2,843.4
Source: Brazilian National Institute of Meteorology (INMET).[19][16][17][18][21][22][20][23][24]


In Fortaleza there are some remaining areas of mangrove, in preserved areas.[25][26] Some species of fruit trees are also found in many areas of Fortaleza, specially coconut and mango trees.


View of Fortaleza's coast.
Metropolitan Cathedral of Fortaleza.

According to the 2010 IBGE Census, there were 2,315,116 people residing in the city of Fortaleza.[27] The census revealed the following numbers: 1,403,292 Pardo (multiracial) people (57.2%), 901,816 White people (36.8%), 110,811 Black people (4.5%), 33,161 Asian people (1.4%), 3,071 Amerindian people (0.1%).[28]

In 2010, the city of Fortaleza was the 5th most populous city proper in Brazil, after São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Brasília.[29]

In 2010, the city had 433,942 opposite-sex couples and 1,559 same-sex couples. The population of Fortaleza was 53.2% female and 46.8% male.[28]

The following cities are included in the metropolitan area of Fortaleza (ordered by population): Fortaleza, Caucaia, Maracanaú, Maranguape, Aquiraz, Pacatuba, Pacajus, Horizonte, São Gonçalo do Amarante, Itatinga, Guaiúba and Chorozinho.[30]


The prevailing religion of Fortaleza is Roman Catholicism, due to the influence of Portuguese settlers and missionaries during the colonial rule of Brazil.

Religion Percentage Number
Catholic 79.0% 1,691,487
Protestant 12.58% 269,469
No religion 5.99% 128,190
Kardecist 0.83% 17,780
Jehovah's Witnesses 0.64% 13,758
Other religions 0.7% 15,923

Source: IBGE 2000.[31]


Shopping mall in Fortaleza.

Fortaleza's GDP is R$42 billion, arising from its diversified commerce, industry and tourism. Downtown Fortaleza, or Centro, is where most commercial activities happen. Monsenhor Tabosa Avenue, near Iracema Beach and Aldeota neighborhood are significant commercial districts as well. Fortaleza has two of the ten biggest malls in the country, Shopping Iguatemi and RioMar Shopping, the seventh and the eighth largest, respectively. Fortaleza is home to several other malls, the most significant being RioMar Norte, Shopping Del Paseo, North Shopping Jóquei, Parangaba Shopping, Via Sul, Varanda Mall and Jardins Open Mall.[32]

The manufacturing industry produces footwear, textiles, leather-derived items, and processed food and beverages. Presently, Fortaleza offers a wide variety of event spaces, allowing different kinds of events to be promoted, ranging from small business meetings to national and international conventions and fairs that receive thousands of people. The biggest and best-equipped event venue available in the Northeast of Brazil is the Event Center of Ceará (CEC) in Fortaleza, opened in 2012. Additionally, many hotels, business centers and other venues also offer adequate spaces for different types of gatherings. Now-defunct TAF Airlines used to have its headquarters in Fortaleza.[33]

Ponte dos Ingleses.

Fortaleza's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) represents one of the most important contributions to the State's and the Northeast region's economy. Its economy is mainly based on trade and industry. The key sectors are leather, fur, footwear, food, drinks and wheat production. Mining is also one of its economic pillars. Note that the city has many natural and fossil resources. Fortaleza's real estate market has also been experiencing strong growth in the 2000s. In fact, the building of skyscrapers and residential complexes are boosting the city's economy through investments.[34]

Several water sports such as surfing, kite surfing and water skiing are practiced in the region. The city also hosts tourist attractions such as Micareta Fortal and Beach Park, the largest water park in the country located in Aquiraz. This park attracts more than 500,000 visitors each year, including foreigners.[34]

The GDP for the city was R$42,010,111,000 (2011).[35] The per capita income for the city was R$16,962.89 (2011).[36]


UFC's Rectory Building.

Higher education in Fortaleza is provided by a significant number of public and private institutions. Fortaleza is home to some of the most important universities and research centres in the northeast region of Brazil.

As with the rest of the Brazilian cities, education in Fortaleza is regulated by their Brazilian Federal Government. They use Portuguese are their medium of instruction, but, the schools also use Spanish and English. There are a number of public and private institutions that offer higher education in the city. This is the home of one of the state’s federal universities, Universidade Federal do Ceará. It is also the home of the second biggest university in the state which is the Universidade Estadual do Ceará. Other universities found in the city are Universidade de Fortaleza, Universidade do Vale do Acaraú and Universidade Regional do Cariri. To learn Portuguese in Fortaleza, the city also offers various language schools that will be able to teach how to speak and write in Brazil's official language. There are simple language schools that will mainly provide the technical skills while there are others that will certify as someone who can speak the Portuguese language.[37]


João Felipe Railway Station in Fortaleza.

Since the end of the 19th century, the city has been home to various cultural institutions. The Instituto do Ceará (Ceará Institute) was established in 1887, and conducts research in history, geography and anthropology. The Academia Cearense de Letras (Ceará Academy of Letters) was the first institution of the sort in the country, established on August 15, 1894. In 1892, Fortaleza was the site of a cultural movement of literary expression called "Spiritual Bakery". There are many other cultural centres, including the Banco do Nordeste Cultural Centre and the Dragão do Mar Center of Art and Culture. The folklore of Fortaleza is rich and diverse, and has roots in a mixture of beliefs originating from white colonisers and native groups. Minor, but also considered important, are Syrian-Lebanese and African traditions.

Some of the cultural manifestations are:

Ancuri Music School in Fortaleza.
  • Quadrilhas juninas: hundreds of large groups of traditional folk dances organized to make presentations, usually to the sound of forró, during the festas juninas, in the month of June (and also July).
  • Bumba-meu-boi or Boi-Ceará: songs and dances inspired by legends about a mythical ox, with Portuguese roots.
  • Torém: dance originated from the Tremembé natives.
  • Violeiros, cantadores and emboladores: musical manifestations expressing social criticism, with typical Northeastern origins.
  • Maracatu: Dance and music, the Fortaleza maracatu belongs to the Baque Virado or Nação styles and is celebrated during carnivals.
  • Dança do coco: originated by Afro-Brazilians. On the coast it is for men only, while in the hinterland it is danced in pairs.


Straw sheds at Praia do Futuro Beach.
Main article: Brazilian Carnival

Fortaleza Carnival season is not as famous as that in other northeastern cities like Salvador or Recife. Through the streets of Fortaleza, the Carnival brings the samba together with festivities as a celebration of Fortaleza's past and diverse culture. It is particularly notable for its unique style of maracatu known as maracatu cearense.[38]


View of Fortaleza's Mucuripe lighthouse.

Fortaleza is the home of numerous landmarks. They include:


Brazilian cuisine includes feijoada, churrasco, rice and beans. There are some dishes which are typical of the Northeast of Brazil, such as macaxeira (cassava), tapioca, carne de sol, but the most typical food of Ceará is baião-de-dois (a kind of risotto with beans, and cheese).


Aerial view of the city.

The city stretches 20 kilometres (12 mi) along the coast and up to 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) inland. "Centro" is the oldest part of town and is a lively area to wander round by day, with many busy streets full of small stores. The bus station is 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) south of Downtown Fortaleza "Centro" and the airport is 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) further south.

The main areas of interest are east of "Centro". First is Iracema Beach, a tightly packed nightlife, restaurant and accommodation zone. Then there’s Meireles, the middle-class beach, 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) to 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) east of Downtown.

South of Meireles, another middle-class suburb, Varjota, is home to many of Fortaleza's best restaurants. East of Meireles is the port area, Mucuripe, beyond which the coast veers southward and leads down to the city's best beach, the 5 kilometres (3.1 mi)-long Futuro Beach, starting some 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) east of "Centro".[39]

Historic Centre of Fortaleza.

Fortaleza is a big tourist destination for the domestic Brazilian market. The city has several major hotels which are rated as five stars. In addition there are several four star hotels as well as inns. Further along the beach front is the new pier and later the roller skating area close to Iracema beach.

During daytime, the beach at Praia do Futuro has a large attendance. At Praia do Futuro, tourists find several good quality beach leisure complexes, of which the most popular are Crocobeach, Atlantidiz and Cocobeach. Food in any one is of standard beach quality and the atmosphere is holiday-like.

In addition to the beach, has the cathedral, the fort, the popular market, major shopping centres (such as Iguatemi) as well as other beaches (cumbuco, beach park, or further afield)

Scuba diving is possible in the area of Pedra da Risca do Meio State Marine Park, a marine protected area located about 10 nautical miles from the shoreline of Fortaleza.

Urban beaches[edit]

"Praia do Futuro" redirects here. For the Brazilian film, see Praia do Futuro (film).

Fortaleza has about 25 kilometres (16 mi) of urban beaches. From North to South, the urban beaches of Fortaleza are Iracema, Meireles, Mucuripe and Praia do Futuro. Each beach has its own peculiarities:

  • Iracema is the Bohemian beach, with bars and nightclubs;[40]
  • Mucuripe is the place where jangadas can be found. Still used by fishermen to go into high seas, jangadas can be seen along the way during the afternoon and evenings, and returning from the sea in the morning; part of the catch of the day is sold in an old style fish market.[41]


Cocó Park.

Parque Ecológico do Côco was set up in 1991 after local ecological groups pressed for protection of the mangrove swamps from encroaching highways and the industrial zone. It's Fortaleza's most popular recreational park, and organizes activities to promote environmental awareness in its visitors. A boat tour along the Cocó River allow to fully appreciate the park's wildlife and unique flora.[42]

Cocó Park is the city's largest green area, near the Iguatemi-mall. It is a conservation area, a natural life state park. It is named after the river that forms the mangrove biome, the Cocó River. Currently, with an area of 1.155,2 hectares the park has three areas for structured leisure activities, sports and culture.

Park Adhail Barreto was the first area to promote the use of the area of the River Cocó. The Parque Ecológico do Cocó has a playground, jogging track, ecological trails, and promotes cultural and artistic shows, sports competitions, concerts as well as environmental education events.

The urbanized area of Tancredo Neves was the last intervention in the area of the park. After removal of families in areas of the park, the state government implemented in two local sports fields, football fields, walking trails, bycicle paths and play areas.[43]

Centro Dragão do Mar de Arte e Cultura[edit]

The complex includes cinemas, performance spaces, a cafe, a planetarium and two museums: the Museu de Arte Contemporânea, and the Memorial da Cultura Cearense with exhibits on Ceará's traditional way of life and culture. Elevated walkways join blocks on different streets and it all blends well with the surrounding older buildings, many of which have been restored to house bars, restaurants and artisans' workshops. It's a successful social focus for the city, and is very popular with locals.[44]

Tourism center[edit]

The Centro de Turismo, a converted 19th-century jail, houses a lot of craft stalls and, upstairs from the tourist information office, the Museu de Arte e Cultura Popular, with an impressive collection of Ceará crafts.[45]


International Airport[edit]

The passenger terminal at Pinto Martins – Fortaleza International Airport is totally air-conditioned and has four levels. There are direct flights to Lisbon, Milan, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. All major destinations in Brazil are also connected to Fortaleza.


The system of traffic monitoring is known by the acronym CTAFOR,[46] which stands for "Controle de Tráfego em Área de Fortaleza" (Traffic Control of the Area of Fortaleza).


Fortaleza Metro on the South Line.

MetroFor is the 43 kilometres (27 mi) rapid transit system for the city of Fortaleza.[47] The system began operation on October 24, 2012.

Its lines have roots in the old system of the Brazilian Company of Urban Trains (CBTU) in Fortaleza, which were adapted to service the new underground. The system has 28 stations: 18 on the south line, four of which are underground, and 10 on the west line beyond the central station.

A new East line, totally underground, started to be built on February 2014.


Fortaleza Harbour is an artificial port located in the Mucuripe inlet. The quay is 1,054 metres (3,458 ft) long. It contains an exclusive mooring platform for oil tankers. Its warehouse area is 6,000 square metres (65,000 sq ft) in area and offers more than 100,000 square metres (1,100,000 sq ft) for container placing. It also contains two wheat mills and is interconnected to the railway system by an extensive maneuver area.

Bike lane[edit]

Fortaleza officially has 71 kilometres (44 mi) of bike lanes.[48]


Arena Castelão.

The most popular sport in Fortaleza, like the rest of Brazil, is football (soccer). The main games of the Ceará State Championship are played in Fortaleza. There are several association football clubs in the city. The most important ones are Ceará SC, Fortaleza EC and Ferroviário AC. The city is host to the Free Kick Masters Tournament on December 28, 2013 and also one of the host cities of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and 2014 FIFA World Cup, for which Brazil was the host nation.

Kitesurf in Futuro Beach.

In addition to football, Fortaleza is also home to nautical sports. Strong winds make Praia do Futuro an excellent place for this kind of practice. Fortaleza commonly hosts world competitions of surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. The city has also traditions in another sports, as beach volleyball, Table tenis, Skateboard, Surf, Bodysurf and Futsal.

Additionally, Fortaleza is a natural developer of high-level athletes in combat sports, as evidenced by several Fortalezans' recent success in mixed martial arts.[49]

Internal view of Arena Castelão.

Futuro Beach, means the beach of the future and this is most ideal place for water sports. Kitesurfing, windsurfing and surfing are the most popular water sports in the city. The beach of Praia de Futuro is the favorite spot for water sports enthusiasts because of the strong winds. Another reason that water sports is thriving in Fortaleza especially in this beach is because of the low equipment costs available.

These have made the city known as a good and ideal place for surfing and have put them on the map. Various international competitions are even held in Fortaleza for water sports enthusiasts. Surfers from around the World flock to the city to witness professionals battle out their surfing skills. These competitions are usually held between June and February. During these months the weather is at its best and waves and winds are great for surfing and other water sports.[50]

Notable people[edit]

Statue of Rachel de Queiroz in Fortaleza.

International relations[edit]

Twin towns – Sister cities[edit]

Fortaleza is twinned with:

Country City
Venezuela Venezuela Caracas coat of arms.gif Caracas[51]
United States United States MiamiBeachCity seal.png Miami Beach[52]
Italy Italy Montese-Stemma.png Montese[53]
Brazil Brazil Brasão de Natal.jpg Natal[54]
Cape Verde Cape Verde Cape Verde Praia[55]
United States United States Racineflag.gif Racine, Wisconsin[56]
Senegal Senegal Senegal Saint-Louis[57]


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