The Northeast’s second-largest city, RECIFE appears shabby and dull on first impressions, but it’s lent a colonial grace and elegance by Olinda, just 6km north. Recife itself has long since burst its original colonial boundaries, and much of the centre is now given over to uninspired office blocks. But there are still a few quiet squares where an inordinate number of impressive churches lie cheek by jowl with the uglier urban sprawl of the past thirty years. North of the centre are some pleasant leafy suburbs, dotted with museums and parks, and to the south is the modern beachside district of Boa Viagem. Other beaches lie within easy reach, and there’s also all the nightlife you’d expect from a city of nearly two million Brazilians.