Alcântara in Maranhão has a wealth of architecture, alternating between ruins and houses that document the heyday and decline of the city, whose birth dates back to the early 17th century.

A good day trip from São Luís do Maranhão, Alcântara was once one of the richest cities in Maranhão between the 18th and 19th centuries, but much of its historical heritage has been lost. Traces of the past can be seen in colonial townhouses covered in Portuguese tiles, the ruins of the Palácio Negro slave market and the town hall building, which housed a public jail in the 18th century. In front of the Praça do Pelourinho are the ruins of the Igreja Matriz de São Matias and the interesting Museu Histórico, a fine example of period architecture.

Next to the church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo are the remains of two palaces built by rival aristocratic families to receive Emperor Dom Pedro II. A fortune was poured into the works of the Barons of Pindaré and Mearim, but the monarch never passed through Alcântara and they were subsequently abandoned, symbolising the city’s decline. Part of this history of decay is remarkably narrated in the work Noite Sobre Alcântara, by the immortal Josué Montello.

In addition to the tour of the churches and buildings of the Centre, the tour is complemented by the surrounding beaches. They are not spectacular, but they balance the tour between culture and nature.