Located 60 miles upriver from the Atlantic ocean and home to the largest port in the region, Belém, like Manaus, is also an important economic hub, where colourful fishing boats and canoes moored at the quay unload a variety of products from indigenous ceramics to aromatic herbs and acai.
Belém's old town, the 'cidade velha', is full of charming mango tree-filled squares, churches and old colonial mansions covered with Portuguese azulejos (tiles), reflecting Lisbon architecture of the 17th century, which inspired many housing projects of the time.
Later buildings echo French architecture at the end of the 19th and early 20th century, when Belém became an important market place and entrepot.
During this period many important buildings were constructed, such as Palácio Lauro Sodré, Colégio Gentil Bitencourt, Teatro da Paz, Palácio Antônio Lemos and the Ver-o-Peso market (Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi 1866 was renovated during this period).
Despite the notorious excesses of the rubber barons of Manaus, Belém was actually much richer and its buildings are frequently even more ornate.
Its equatorial climate means that Belém is hot and humid and you can expect a sharp tropical shower (or heavy downpour) most afternoons.