Capital of Rio Grande do Sul

All Brazilian capitals:
Aracaju (SE), Belém (PA), Belo Horizonte (MG), Boa Vista (RR), Brasília (DF), Campo Grande (MS), Cuiabá (MT), Curitiba (PR), Florianópolis (SC), Fortaleza (CE), Goiânia (GO), João Pessoa (PB), Macapá (AP), Maceió (AL), Manaus (AM), Natal (RN), Palmas (TO), Porto Alegre (RS), Porto Velho (RO), Recife (PE), Rio Branco (AC), Rio de Janeiro (RJ), Salvador (BA), São Luís (MA), São Paulo (SP), Teresina (PI), Vitória (ES)

Porto Alegre is the southernmost capital in Brazil. The city was founded by families from the Azores, and with time many migrants arrived from Germany, Italy, and later from England, Spain, The Lebanon, Africa. The cultural diversity is reflected by many festivals that occur in the city. Porto Alegre is also one of the major Brazilian carnival cities. The city is one of the greenest in Brazil, and has a very high living standard.

Porto Alegre

Porto Alegre (nicknamed Poa) is the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, located in the southern region of Brazil. The state shares borders with Santa Catarina and the neighboring countries Argentina and Uruguay. The metropolitan region counts almost four million inhabitants, while the city itself hosts a little more than 1.4 million people (IBGE, 2010). Porto Alegre – located at more than 2000 km from the capital of Brazil, Brasília – is situated at an average altitude of 10 meters, within an area of 497 square kilometers. The human development index of Porto Alegre is 0,865, the highest of Brazilian cities with more than one million inhabitants, and the ninth highest among all Brazilian cities (UN, 2003).

Porto Alegre in 1772


The region of Porto Alegre was inhabited by a number of guarani indian tribes. The Treaty of Tordesilhas (1494) divided the Southern American continent in a Spanish and a Portuguese zone; the region of Rio Grande do Sul was then situated in the Spanish zone. The first settlers were Spanish and were concentrated around the so-called Missões (missions). The Iberian Union of Spain and Portugal between 1580 and 1640 the zones were less strict, allowing Portuguese to the region of Porto Alegre when Portugal became independent again in 1640. In 1680, Portuguese founded Colônia do Sacramento, now Colônia in Uruguay. The route to that city along the coastline of Rio Grande do Sul quickly was claimed by the Portuguese. In 1732, Manoel Gonçalves Ribeiro received an area (seismaria) that was called Campos de Viamão, and constructed a settlement. Other landowners arrived in the region; one of them, Jerônimo de Ornellas, gained one of the most important locations: Sant’Anna, on the rock bearing the same name, for his cattle and his farm. 1742, a Royal Decree allowed Azorians to migrate to the south of Brazil, initially in the neighboring capitania of Santa Catarina. Two years later, Jerônimo received formal confirmation of his land claim, and he intensified his cattle business. In 1750, about sixty Azorian families were sent from Santa Catarina to Viamão. Due to the lack of water wells, the families (casais) moved to the the Port region, who was named Porto dos Casais. One year later, more Azorian families arrived, together with militiamen for their protection. Soon a little village was constructed. When the village of Rio Grande was conquered by Spanish troops in 1763, Viamão became the new capital of the capitania. Many inhabitants from Rio Grande fled to Porto dos Casais; the settlement was elevated to a freguesia (district) on March 26, 1772, the founding date of Porto Alegre. It was then called Freguesia de São Francisco do Porto dos Casais. Less than one year later, it was renamed in Nossa Senhora da Madre de Deus de Porto Alegre. In 1773, Porto Alegre became the new capital of Rio Grande do Sul.

Double-deck tram
Copyright © 1997 – 2003 Ronaldo Marcos Bastos

On December 11, 1810, the freguesia was elevated to the status of a vila. One year later, on December 16, 1812, Porto Alegre formally became the seat of the capitania of São Pedro do Rio Grande. On November 14, 1822, Porto Alegre gained the status of a city. The economic situation worsened, igniting the Farroupilha Revolution in 1835. From September 25 to June 15, 1836, the Revolutionaries controlled Porto Alegre. Despite the ongoing attacks by the Farroupilhas, the city remained loyal to the imperial government, and therefore gained the title ‘Mui Leal e Valerosa Cidade de Porto Alegre’. (very loyal and valuable city of Porto Alegre). Since 1845, migrants from Europe – Italians and Germans – arrived and started their local businesses. During the Paraguayan War (1865-1870), Porto Alegre was benefited with government money; the infrastructure became improved and modernized, the Mercado Público was constructed, and tramlines started their services. At the time of the Brazilian independence, the city hosted about 22 thousand inhabitants, their number was increased to roughly 70 thousand at the turn of the 20th century. The city gained a sewage system, hospitals, and certain faculties. In 1901, the imposant Palácio Municipal was constructed.

Praça Matriz, 1865
Copyright © 1997 – 2003 Ronaldo Marcos Bastos

Porto Alegre became an important city with commercial facilities. Between 1909 and 1928, Porto Alegre borrowed a large sum of money for the construction of a large number of housings and little castles for the new government employees. Most of these constructions are examples of the eclectic architecture. More migrants arrived, not only from Italy and Germany, but also from England, France, Spain, The Lebanon, Africa, and Jews. The ties with Germany were tight, especially when president Vargas had fascist sympathies. At that time, it was not common that battalions of young men were marching with banners bearing the swastika symbol. They disappeared when Brazil declared war to Germany and Italy. At present, Porto Alegre is a modern city with a very high living standard.

Economic activity

Since the arrival of the first settlers, agricultural activity was dominated by growing cattle. The strategic position of Porto Alegre with its port facilities made the city an important commercial center. Principal agricultural products are rice, corn, beef, and milk. The industrial sector now is losing its share to the commercial sector. Commerce and services are very strong in Porto Alegre: the good quality of the infrastructure, technological knowledge and skilled employees attract companies to the city. Tourism is emerging in Porto Alegre, while the city council plans to create a technological center in the city.

Mercado Público – Porto Alegre

What to see

The city offers the possibility to make use of a tourist bus. For a fee of 15 reais (6 euro, 2011) one may enter a double deck bus, with an open upper deck. The length of the entire track through the historical center is 28 km, the bus ride may take about 80 minutes. Some tourist locations on this track are: Parque Farroupilha or Rendenção is the popular city park, with dozens of monuments, a small zoo and a botanical garden; Parque Moinhos do Vento (windmills) or Parcão, with a replica of a windmill; Praça Matriz, heart and political center of Porto Alegre, with the Catedral Metropolitana; Praça da Alfândega, with three interesting museums, and Casa de Cultura Mário Quintana; Prefeitura Municipal, in neoclassical style;Mercado Público Central, the large central market; Usina do Gasómetro, an antique therm-electric power station; Anfiteatro Por-do-Sol, an open-air theater along the Lago Guaíba; and the two stadiums of the soccer clubs Internacional and Grêmio.

Lago Guaíba

Another route with a tourist bus runs through Zona Sul, the southern region. This 41 km long track will take about 90 minutes, and also will cost 15 reais (2011). Some touristic locations along this route are: Caminho dos Antiquários, an antique market; Orla Lago Guaíba, the beach of the freshwater lake, with an excellent opportunity of a beautiful sunset; Parque Harmonia, with various aspects of the regional culture; Morro do Osso, a 140 m high hill with an overview of the city; Ipanema Beach, one of the most popular beaches in the city; Santãrio Mãe de Deus, with a 360 degrees overview of Porto Alegre.

Aparados da Serra

The Department of Tourism of Rio Grande do Sul provides the possibility to contract a certified guide. There are guides in various cities, and eight different foreign languages are offered, including even Russian and Mandarin Chinese.
The state of Rio Grande do Sul has many touristic possibilities. At the border with the state of Santa Catarina, there is the National Park Aparados da Serra, 190 km north of Porto Alegre, with deep canyons. The deepest canyon measures more than 720 m. Also at the border with Santa Catarina, in the municipality of Torres, are the state parks of Guarita and Itapeva, flanked by beaches with the same name. In Canela, about 120 km north of Porto Alegre, is the state park of Caracol, with the famous Caracol Waterfal. More national and state parks, and trekking routes are listed on the site of Department of Tourism. Rio Grande do Sul also has many beautiful beaches. For an impression of the beaches in the southern part (Litoral Sul), see this page with downloadable videos. Beaches of Litoral Norte (northern region) are listed on this page. About 200 km northwest of Porto Alegre is the famous touristic wine region of Uva e Vinho (Grape and Wine). A combination of nature, culture and gastronomy. Tourists locations and routes in other regions in Rio Grande do Sul are listed on this page.

Caracol Waterfall


Porto Alegre para turistas
Porto Alegre – Brasil 2014
Porto Alegre (English)
Porto Alegre é demais!
Short history of Porto Alegre

São Miguel das Missões

Nova Petrópolis

Bento Gonçalves

São Francisco de Paula
Antônio Prado

Cambará do Sul
Porto Alegre

By Adriano Antoine Robbesom


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