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Bishops’ Residenz

About Manaus

Manaus, an altered spelling of the indigenous Manaós people, sits at the confluence of the Black and Solimões Rivers, a thousand miles up the Amazon from the Atlantic. The city is divided into several districts called igarapés by the flow of several side channels of the river.

Manaus was first settled in the late 17th century with the building of the Fort of São José do Rio Negro, built to protect Portugal’s new holding from the Dutch, who had by that time settled in nearby Suriname. The city changed names and spellings a number of times; Manaus was finally decided upon in 1939.

Manaus prospered on the rubber boom from 1890 to 1930. Opulent buildings were constructed and electricity lit up the streets at night, a novelty and an extravagance for a newly wealthy city. When the price of rubber collapsed, the economy faltered. It wasn’t until 1967, when the city was declared a duty-free zone, that prosperity returned.

Today Manaus manufactures electronics, chemical products and soap, while exporting Brazil nuts and jute. Most notably, however, it is a center of ecotourism and the starting point for countless rainforest explorations into the Amazon.

Manaus Lifestyle and Culture

While in Manaus, it’s easy to forget you’re surrounded on all sides by hundreds of miles of forest. Manaus holds tight to its Brazilian tribal roots, reflected in the small-town culture that endures amid the big-city feel. Locals are warm and hospitable, a mix of European settlers and local tribes. The city’s prosperity from the rubber trade earned it a reputation as the “Paris of the Amazon.” Elegant buildings, gracious avenues and colorful facades are still visible in the Old Town. Fine museums detail the history of the Amazon region, the Portuguese influence and its people.

Along the river’s shoreline, the upscale district of Ponta Negra is lined with beachside high-rises and wide streets. Downtown, the pleasant and easily navigable streets lead to the Teatro Amazonas (Amazon Theater), a grand, Italian Renaissance-style opera house built in 1896. Every year the opera house hosts the Amazonas Opera Festival from March to May with participation from the Amazonas Philharmonic. In July it hosts the Amazonas Jazz Festival.

Manaus Sights and Landmarks

Manaus enjoys the legacy of its rubber-baron past and indigenous cultures. Several landmarks reveal the pride of its people.

The Amazon Theater was constructed when demand for rubber was at its height. Most everything about it, including the striking tiled dome, was influenced by the grand halls of Europe. Its entrance drive was laid with local rubber to keep down the noise of carriages late for the show.

The extravagant Rio Negro Palace (Black River Palace) was built at the end of the 19th century as the home of German rubber baron Waldemar Scholz, and was later used as the official governor's residence. In 1997 it was converted into a cultural center with concerts and art exhibits.

The Museu do Seringal Vila Paraíso (a rubber plantation museum located on the grounds of a former rubber-baron estate) pays homage to the city’s rubber industry in a fascinating and engaging open air venue. During your visit, you can see how rubber trees are tapped and tour the historic townhouse.

The Museu do Homem do Norte (Museum of Northern Man), part of the Centro Cultural dos Povos da Amazônia (Cultural Center of the Amazonian People complex), contains artifacts and multimedia exhibits on Amazonian indigenous tribes.

Manaus Entertainment and Activities

Many of Manaus’s activities shed light on its stunning setting amid rainforests and rivers. Spanning over 38 square miles, the Jardim Botânico Adolpho Ducke, the city’s botanical gardens, comprise the world’s largest urban forest. Five hiking trails, an open air museum featuring Amazonian flora and fauna, and an observation tower allow for hours of ecological exploration.

Used as a research station for the National Institute of Amazon Research, the Bosque da Ciência (Forest of Science) has enclosures for rescued manatees, giant otters and more. Additional animals such as monkeys and sloths roam free, providing a great place to walk around and get a feel for the rainforest.

Praia da Lua is a lovely Manaus beach with white sand and jewel-toned water.

Manaus is also a popular city from which to embark a small boat to view a remarkable natural phenomenon, the Meeting of the Waters, where the dark waters of the Rio Negro (Black River) and the sand-colored waters of the Amazon run side by side.

Manaus Restaurants and Shopping

Manaus cuisine is influenced by its Brazilian, Indian and European ancestry. Freshwater fish, forest spices and cassava comprise the backbone of many local dishes. The most ubiquitous and, by some accounts, most delicious is caldeirada de tambaqui, a fish stew prepared with tambaqui, spices and boiled eggs. Try it at Tambaqui de Banda, where most dishes serve two or more people. This relaxed venue combines no-fuss local food with views of the opera house from an outdoor patio.

Tacacá is a soup made from jambú (flowering herb), tucupi (broth made with wild manioc), dried shrimp and small yellow peppers. Also try tapioquinha, a glutinous pancake made from manioc starch, usually buttered and filled with tucumã palm fruit and farmer’s cheese. The region is home to the world’s largest variety of exotic fruits, so you can sample araçá-boi, acai, cupuaçu, graviola, pupunha, taperebá and many more.

For an upscale, reservations-only experience, dine at Banzeiro, one of Manaus’s fine restaurants specializing in fish and other Amazonian specialties. More casually, Restaurante Castelinho offers hearty self-serve food, with an atmospheric setting in a rubber-baron mansion.

Mercado Municipal is the city’s main market, modeled after Les Halles in Paris. One of the largest open markets in the city, it offers fruit, spices, fish, indigenous artifacts and a bounty of other products. For genuine Amazonian traditional crafts including pottery, baskets and folk art, browse Galeria Amazônica on Praça São Sebastião.