Porto Alegre (literally: Happy Harbor) is the capital of the southernmost state of Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul. The city was founded by immigrants from the Azores in 1742. In the nineteenth century many German and Italian immigrants settled in the city. This variety in population is recognized in architecture. Obviously there are many Portuguese influences, but you also see Spanish and other European architectural styles. The Brazilians also say that the most beautiful women of the country live in Porto Alegre. Judge for yourself...
The city itself has almost one and a half million inhabitants, but over four million people live in the entire urban area of Porto Alegre.
Porto Alegre is located in the south of Brazil, where the Guaíba River discharges into Brazils' largest lagoon, Lagoa dos Patos. This lagoon is 280 kilometers long and is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a sandbank which is on average eight kilometers wide. The city itself lies in the transitional area of subtropical woods and the South American pampas (grassland).
Porto Alegre's harbor plays an important role in the export of local products, including fruit (mainly plums and peaches), rice, cassava, beef, soybeans and wood. There's also a large leather industry, making mainly shoes. The electro technical and IT industries are rising. Furthermore there are steel mills and a large petrochemical complex. Porto Alegre is also an educational center, with among others two universities and other institutes of higher education.
The city airport is situated north of Porto Alegre. The airport is officially called Salgado Filho and is easily reachable by rental car, at least outside rush hour. From the center you follow Avenida Pres. Castelo Branco (the main road from the river) or Avenida Farrapos north. The route to the airport is clearly signposted.
Porto Alegre has good and effective public bus transportation. For the largest part city busses run on free bus lanes. It can be difficult finding out which bus stops where, at what time and what the destination is. Locals are always prepared to help you out. Minivans (recognizable by the red and blue colors) can be stopped anywhere and you can get off at any desired location.
There's also a metro line between the city center and the northern suburbs.
It's not difficult to find your way around in Porto Alegre in a rental car. From the center big highways (Avenidas) run in every direction. Porto Alegre is a busy business city though, with long traffic-jams during morning and evening rush hour. You need to pay to park in the city center, but in the so-called Areas Azul, you can park a short time (10 minutes) for free. It's best to park your rental car on a guarded parking lot or in one of the parking garages in and around Porto Alegre's center.
Porto Alegre has a large supply of accommodation. Because the city is the commercial heart of southern Brazil there are many business hotels, but you can also find midrange and budget hotels. We do recommend booking your hotel room well in advance.
For more information about Porto Alegre we recommend Google and the following sources: