Brazil doesn't have only natural wonders such as the Amazon, the Iguassu Falls, or the magnificent unspoiled beaches of the northeast. Brazil also has also excellent exotic food, good shopping opportunities, good entertainment and an animated nightlife, all at reasonable or low prices.
For nightlife and entertainment, one of the best options is, undoubtedly, Rio de Janeiro. But there are other options. Near Rio, if you want a more selective and conventional animation, with lots of restaurants, good food and excellent bars or discos, places like Buzios and Angra are excellent options.
And so is Sao Paulo. Though mainly a business capital, Sao Paulo may easily satisfy most demands on entertainment.
And the same applies to great destinations like Fortaleza, Sao Salvador da Bahia or Recife. Their nightlife doesn't have the glamour, the intensity and the diversity of Rio's, but it has a charm of its own.
Brazilian food is essentially a set of regional dishes. There is a Bahian cuisine, an Amazon cuisine, a Southern cuisine, but not exactly what we could call a true national cuisine. The closest to national dishes are the feijoada and the churrasco.
The feijoada consists of black beans simmered with a wide variety of meats; the dish is completed with a treated bean sauce, kale, white rice, sliced oranges and manioc root, or these ingredients (it is not necessary for all ingredients to be present). In Rio, feijoada is an obligatory dish on Saturday nights.
The churrasco is a barbecue with selected meats. The most popular ones are usually originated from the south. Rodisios are famous: they are churrascos involving different varieties of meats (pig, chicken, beef, sausage).
Also very common along the Brazilian coast is the Peixe Brazileiro (it means "Fish in a Brazilian way"), a fish stew served with a dough based on manioc root, or simply grilled fish or other seafood dishes including excellent fishes like badejo and also crabs, lobsters and shrimps.
The most exotic food
Anyway, the most exotic dishes are usually found at Bahia, in the northeast, or at the Amazon.
For books about Brazilian cuisine, see:
Books about Brazilian cuisine
Hot climates invite drinking, and cold beer is an excellent choice. Beer - the Brazilian one is very good and cheap - is perhaps the most consumed drink in Brazil, though there may be more popular drinks depending on the region.
Agua de coco
At the northeast the beer is largely replaced by agua de coco (coconut juice, drunk directly from a perforation on the top of the fruit). There are street vendors offering it everywhere.
Fruit juices are very popular. There are snack bars specialized in juices (they sell dozens of types, and mixtures, all of them prepared when ordered). Hotels and restaurants normally have at least three or four qualities of juices. They are a real treat, particularly in zones like the northeast and the Amazon, where the variety of tropical fruits - some of them absent from the great global markets - make the juices simply delicious.
Guarana ia also a peculiar Brazilian drink, the favourite of children, often compared with ginseng in its tonic properties. Guarana is a soft drink whose particularity comes from an Amazonian fruit with the same name.
Cachaça, a strong variety of rum, distilled from sugar cane, is considered a Brazilian national drink. It stands at the top of alcoholic beverages. Cachaça is also very used in batidos, a concoction of cachaça and fruit juice. Batido de coco (cachaça and coconut juice) and batido de maracuja (cachaça and passion fruit) are the favourites.
Also very popular and also considered a national drink is caipirinha: in its simplest preparation, a concoction of crushed lime and sugar, with plenty of ice, sometimes with a bit of cachaça or vodka.
Wines aren't very common in Brazil, except in the South states, where there are excellent wines, some of them imported from neighbouring countries (Argentina, Uruguay).
Here are some suggestions, if you want to buy some products as gifts (or for yourself).
Brazil is a great producer of gold and diamonds. And almost two thirds of the world's coloured gemstones are produced in Brazil. So, if you are interested in rubies, emeralds, sapphires, opals, amethysts, aquamarines, topazes, or gold jewellery or diamonds, consider buying them in Brazil. The prices are very inviting and leading world jewellers as H. Stern or Roditi operate all over Brazil (at airports and some hotels)
Another good shopping option is leather articles - shoes, bags, belts, and so on - mainly in south Brazil . The quality is high and the price inviting.
Kangas and T-shirts
T-shirts are sold everywhere, with colourful designs, at low prices. They are a good option for a cheap article to offer or to use. The kanga, a big coloured cotton piece that can be wrapped around the body in many ways, is also a popular choice for the ladies.
Cotton hammocks are a typical brazilian product, sold everywhere at low pricesas they are mass-produced (they replace the common bed, for many Brazilians, in the north).
In the bigger cities, you will encounter - mainly in galleries, but also in craft fairs - a great offer of nice paintings, mainly with primitive or naive themes.
Ceramics, in the Northeast and North. Indian handicrafts, in Northern Amazon. Religious articles, in Salvador and Bahia.