This Underrated Bayside City Is One Of Brazil's Most Beautiful With A Thriving Nightlife

Brazil is a huge country, the fifth largest in the world, and it has many thrilling adventures to experience beyond the nation's pulsating heartbeat and top tourist destination, Rio de Janeiro. The big challenge is trying to fit as much as possible into your travel itinerary. One underrated and very picturesque destination that you shouldn't sleep on is a short road trip from the world-famous sights, beaches, and carnivals of Rio. This is Paraty, one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in the country.

Around a four-hour drive from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Paraty has a fascinating history dating back to the Portuguese colonization of Brazil. This is reflected by many of the buildings in its compact and highly Instagrammable old town, harking back to the city's days as a prosperous port and trading hub. Over the past few centuries, Paraty's importance has long since been eclipsed by the big cities but still thrives as a popular tourist destination. 

Its charming low-rise waterfront looks out over a bay dotted with 365 islands, and fun-loving crowds are drawn from all over for its trapped-in-time vibe and lively nightlife scene. With its mix of history, beaches, and stunning natural surroundings, Paraty is a great place to stop for a few days and get a real taste of both modern and old Brazil, away from the hustle of its more illustrious neighbors.

Things to see and do in Paraty

The highlight of a trip to Paraty is exploring the historic center, where horse-drawn carts and carriages still jostle on the heavy cobbled streets. The city and surrounding area are designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its culture and biodiversity. The town is best enjoyed by taking a stroll and absorbing the atmosphere and architecture, typified by brightly whitewashed buildings with vibrantly painted doors and windows. 

With its grand old colonial-era buildings, Matriz Square is a natural focal point for the old town and a great place for outdoor concerts and people-watching opportunities. A short walk to the south is the church of Santa Rita, the oldest in the city. Built in 1722 as a place of worship for enslaved people who had earned their freedom, it is perhaps Paraty's most identifiable landmark. It looks out over a small harbor lined with colorful boats.

The city has a few beaches ideal for a relaxing day by the sea, and there are even more gorgeous stretches of sand a little further afield at Barra do Corumbê and Trindade. The latter is a popular and lively spot with plenty of beachfront restaurants and bars. Paraty also makes an excellent base for exploring the diverse nature around it, from kayaking in the Jabaquara Mangroves to the many idyllic rivers and waterfalls in the heavily forested hills surrounding the city.

Eating, drinking, and places to stay

With its growing reputation as a must-see destination, Paraty has upped its accommodation game with many great places to stay. There are several luxurious boutique hotels to choose from if you fancy a splurge. Conversely, more modest budgets are also catered to with guesthouses and hostels that offer a friendly welcome without breaking the bank.

Foodies will find plenty to enjoy in Paraty, and a good place to start is in the buzzy restaurants and bars that line Matriz Square and its surrounding side streets. For a slap-up meal in the historic center, try the seafood or Brazilian delicacies at Restaurante Caminho do Ouro, or get cheaper street-style eats and cakes at Manuê. You're not limited to Brazilian food here, with other cuisines such as Thai (Thai Brasil), Mongolian (Zen Mongolian's Hall), and French (Oui Paraty) also represented.

Once the sun goes down, Paraty is known as a lively town that attracts revelers from all over the country. There are plenty of bars to check out, and many have live music adding to the party atmosphere, such as Sarau Bar e Restaurante. Chilling outside with a cold beer or two is a popular option, but it's also worth sampling the region's signature cocktail. Named Jorge Amado after the famous Brazilian author, the drink blends local Gabriela cachaça with lemon and passion fruit for a sweet, refreshing mix. A visit to Paraty isn't the same without one!