Natal means "Christmas". The first Portuguese expedition by Amerigo Vespucci landed in 1501 on Cape São Roque, 20 kilometres outside the current Natal. At the end of the 16th century many French pirates established themselves here. They were trading with the Indians in this area. The Portuguese Governor reacted to this and decided to confiscate the area on 25 december 1598 (Christmas) and built a fort, forte dos Reis Magos.
A year later he builded outside the fort a settlement, called Natal. Between 1633 and 1654, the area was conquered and occupied by the Dutch. In 1654 the Portuguese retook the area again.
By the climate and sandy soil could the sugar cane cultivation not develop here, therefore, until the end of the 19th century, the main source of income was stock.
Then came the trade in salt and oil products and developed Natal itself as the centre for this
During the Second World War the Americans built a large airport in Natal as a base to Africa and Europe. A new airport is currently being built. This airport is going to be the largest in South America and the eighth of the world. This will allow the city to develop and going to take a huge jump into the future, as being not only Brazil’s biggest airport, but for the whole continent of South America.
By the presence of the Dutch and the Portuguese in the past Natal has a rich cultural background. The first thing you should notice is usually the Forte dos Reis Magos. This fort is located at the mouth of the Pontengi River, which runs through Natal. You can visit this fort daily and it's a wonderful place for a panorama view of the city.
You can still find many ancient buildings in Natal such as the Town Hall, the theatre and a building which is certainly worth visiting, the Tourist Centre on Rua Aderbal de Figueiredo, Capoeirawhich is located in an old prison. The building is a UNESCO World Heritagesite and is already set up as a tourist information centre since 1988. It is situated on a hill in the city, giving you again a nice view of Natal.
There are all kinds of shops located in the old cells and you can also get a lot of information about the whole region. Every Thursday night there is a folkloric dance evening organised for the tourists at the
square inside the building.
A well-known theatre is the ‘Teatro Alberto Maranhão'. It is a beautiful building with French influences on the outside and Belgian influences on the inside. Please take a look at the entrance and the hall. In the port you can find the ‘Capitania das Artes’. The building is built in neoclassical style and serves as a cultural venue for many exhibitions in the field of art. There are also concerts, events and congresses.
By the fact that Brazil is one of the first multicultural societies in the world, it has received many influences in the field of culture. This mix has led to a new and mixed development on different ways. Religion and music with influences from mainly Europe andAfrica has given this country her own soul. In many parts in the city you can find places where, capoeira is demonstrated or where you can see an exciting show with the swirling Brazilian rhythms and folklore.