Should You Visit Vitória,
Espírito Santo, Brazil?
Yes, And Here’s Why.
Should You Visit Vitória, Espírito Santo, Brazil? Yes, And Here’s Why.
Published February 17, 2021
Have you ever heard of the Brazilian state of Espírito Santo? If you haven’t, that’s okay; I didn’t know about it before coming to Brazil, either! I also didn’t know I’d be visiting until about a month ago, but I’m so glad I decided to check it out!
Espírito Santo is surrounded by two massive states (Minas Gerais to the west and Bahia to the north), the Atlantic Ocean to the East, and Rio de Janeiro to the south. It’s no wonder that many travelers overlook ES since all three states mentioned are popular tourist destinations. However, the state’s capital, Vitória, should be on the bucket list of serious travelers who want to get to know Brazil beyond its tourist hotspots.
There are a surprising number of unique attractions in Vitória, a medium-sized metropolis that might seem nondescript before you start exploring. Keep reading to see what you shouldn’t miss on your visit to this mellow seaside city!
An Amazing Culinary Scene
This might come as a surprise, but the number one reason I recommend visiting Vitória is its impressive collection of restaurants and cafes. Small and medium-sized cities in Brazil tend to have good food but not a lot of variety. Luckily, Vitória has both! Most of the boutique eateries I recommend are in the Praia do Canto neighborhood. In fact, the food scene here was so good that I wrote a separate blog post specifically about that! Be sure to check it out by using the image link below!
Below are some brief introductions to four parts of the city that you might spend time in as a visitor.
Praia do Canto
My first impression of this upscale residential area was that it was very quiet without anything to do. It is indeed calm, but it’s also home to many of the city’s best restaurants and is about as centrally located as you can get. Foodies will want to explore each and every street with eyes peeled for dining establishments that look interesting.
Given that “praia” means beach, it shouldn’t be surprising that this neighborhood’s eastern edge is a small beach with a palm-lined promenade. To learn more about Vitória’s beaches, check out the section about them below.
Ilha do Frade
This small island is connected to the mainland by a short bridge. It’s one of the most unusual parts of the city because it’s probably the wealthiest neighborhood I’ve seen in Brazil so far. Some of the houses here are really over the top, with massive walls and security guard booths in front. It’s honestly surprising that this isn’t a gated community, but visitors are free to enter. It’s hard to feel welcome though due to dozens if not hundreds of massive signs everywhere reminding you that you’re being filmed for security reasons.
If you’re willing to walk to the far end of the island, you can check out Prainha do Meio (the only easily accessible beach here) as well as the small park in the middle of the island. Even if technically the other small beaches on Ilha do Frade are public, they really don’t feel like it. I wasn’t interested in being accused of trespassing onto private property, so I stuck to walking on the main roads.
Unless you’re really curious about exploring the entire island, I would recommend crossing the Av. Des. Alfredo Cabral bridge (which offers great skyline views of the city) and visiting the first two beaches you encounter, Praia da Ilha do Frade and Praia dos Barcos. These are very clearly public beaches where you’ll almost certainly see other people relaxing.
Ilha do Boi
Enseada do Suá (Praça do Papa)
In this area, you can find a waterfront park called Praça do Papa (Pope’s Square) which is a large open plaza with views of the city of Vila Velha to the south across the Santa Maria da Vitória River.
Normally “Centro” in Portuguese refers to a town or city’s downtown, but in Vitória, Centro is actually not centrally located at all. It should probably be thought of more as a historic and government center than the business or commercial center, which is arguably in Praia do Canto. In any case, Centro is worth a visit if you have the time but not an absolute must-visit.
The most notable attraction here is the Palácio Anchieta, a fancy government building with a history going back to the 1500s. They actually offer tours to visitors, which is a good way to learn a little bit about the building as well as the city’s history.
Another thing to check out here is the Catedral Metropolitana de Vitória, a grand church with gothic spires.
Centro is home to a lot of other interesting architecture as well as Parque Moscoco and the Espírito Santo Museum of Art. However, in all honesty, the area feels a bit run-down. Centro also really clears out in the late afternoon. If you’re going to check it out, aim to visit in the morning or during lunch hour and keep a close eye on your personal belongings.
If you’re running short on time and have to choose between Centro and Vila Velha, go with the latter! Vila Velha is actually a different city that’s separated from Vitória by the Santa Maria da Vitória River. It’s a sprawling suburb, so I’ve put together a separate blog post about the four things you should do there, which is linked below! Plan to spend between one and two days in “VV” depending on how tight your schedule is.
Vitória has three main beaches that are near each other. It’s easy to walk along the coastline for an hour or two to see all three of them.
Praia do Canto
This beach is located in the neighborhood that shares the same name. It’s bounded on the north by a few small boat docks and on the south by the Av. Des. Alfredo Cabral bridge. It’s a pretty calm shoreline that only takes a few minutes to walk the length of.
Curva da Jurema
Locals seemed to prefer this beach over Praia do Canto, located a short distance south of the bridge to Ilha do Frade. It does seem like a slightly better place to relax or swim, and there are a cluster of kiosks selling snacks, drinks, and fast food.
Praia de Camburi
Camburi Beach is a long, yellow-sand beach with bluer waters than the two mentioned above. It runs along the eastern side of the Jardim da Penha and Mata da Praia neighborhoods in the north of the city. It’s nice to go for a walk along this beach, but there are fewer restaurants and businesses in this area.
A Final Note on Beaches
In all honesty, the beaches in Vitória are nice but not spectacular. In fact, I think the main beach in Vila Velha is a lot nicer than these three.
Another famous beach destination in Espírito Santo is Guarapari, a smaller town about 60 kilometers south of the capital. I would’ve loved to check it out, but I didn’t have time. If you’ve been to Guarapari, leave a comment below and let me know how it was!
How long should you stay?
I spent two weeks in Vitória but was working remotely some mornings and evenings, and I got rained in for about three or four days of the trip. In other words, you definitely don’t need that long to see everything. If you’re going at a leisurely pace, five days would probably be good. If you’re really efficient, you could probably see most of what’s mentioned here in three days.
Where should you stay?
The city itself is not massive, so everything I recommend in this post is a short (twenty minute or less) Uber drive away from everything else. With that said, I really recommend finding accommodation in Praia do Canto. It’s the perfect area: close to the beach, safe, upscale, home to most of the city’s best restaurants, and centrally located.
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Vitória may not look like the most exciting destination at first glance, but I suspect that it will grow in popularity this decade and beyond. That’s because it’s ideal for remote workers, digital nomads, and long-term travelers. I expect all of these trends to take off post-pandemic, and I think international travelers will come to love quieter, more local cities around the world just like this!
What do you think? Would you spend a week or so in Vitória? Have you been here before? Leave a comment and let me know! Thanks so much for reading, and see you next time!
This post was published on Feb 17, 2021