Do you know those cities where you feel an instant connection? I’m not sure how to explain such a passionate attachment to a place, but I can tell you that Florianópolis was one of those places for me. This was only the second time in my life to experience the sensation (the first was Cádiz, Spain). Florianópolis (or Floripa for short, as Brazilians love to shorten words) has the exact charm that you would expect from a city known as Ilha da magia (Magic Island) and frequently praised for its numerous beaches. Floripa has so much to explore that one month was not enough for me to see everything; however, I do feel confident in telling you my favorite things from what I was able to experience.
1. Check out Praça XV de Novembro
Within this quaint plaza in downtown Floripa, you can find quite a few tourist activities. Firstly, I recommend checking out the beautiful trees that provide shade in the square. The main tree was initially planted in a church garden in 1871 and later moved to the center of the square, where it has resided since 1891!
2. Peruse the Museu Histórico de Santa Catarina Palácio Cruz e Sousa
This museum, constructed initially as a seat of government and later nicknamed the Pink Palace, provides not only exciting tidbits of history concerning the State of Santa Catarina, but also provides a beautiful backdrop for photos. I enjoyed playing around with a mixture of fantastic architecture and bright colors. You can enter the gardens behind the museum for free, but the entrance to the museum itself costs R$5.
3. Learn to surf at Barra da Lagoa
Looking for surfing classes and other tourist fun? Barra da Lagoa is the place for you. If you’re in Floripa to take advantage of the waves and learn to surf, I recommend staying in “Barra”. While the beach is beautiful, it tends to fill to the brim with tourists during January and February (mostly from Argentina). If you’re staying in a different area of Floripa, Barra is easily reachable by going to the Lagoa de Conceição/ TILAG bus station and then taking the Barra da Lagoa bus. However, during the week of Carnaval, I would recommend a different beach as there is only one road leading to this beach, and traffic becomes unbearable.
4. Chill out at Lagoa da Conceição
I like to call Lagoa, “Hipster’s paradise”, as the neighborhood is filled with a mix of eclectic people and activities. The actual lagoon itself provides activities such as swimming, stand up paddleboarding, sail boating, and kayaking. While it doesn’t have much of a “beach” area, I enjoyed spending a few hours at the lagoon and later walking around Lagoa.
5. Grab a meal at the food trucks
Funnily enough, in Portuguese, you can actually use the word “food truck”. The food trucks are one of my favorite parts of Lagoa and help you to get a feel for the neighborhood. Open from 6 pm-midnight, these trucks offer a selection of various types of foods ranging from tacos to gourmet churros. The vibe at this place is excellent, including the music, the decorations, and the people who frequent it. Oh, and it also has a skate park.
5. See the view from Morro da Cruz
A 10-minute quick taxi ride from the center of the city takes you to the top of Morro da Cruz, a great viewing point of Florianópolis. I recommend going to watch the sunset on a day that isn’t too rainy.
7. Grab lunch at Santo Antônio de Lisboa
While Santo Antônio doesn’t have a big beach, it is a beautiful and calm area. Here you can also find plenty of seafood restaurants. Want a cheaper option? Go for the carne a kilo restaurants, where you can eat for around R$20-30.
Praia Joaquina is where the experienced surfers go to do their thing. I don’t recommend trying to surf here unless you’ve had quite a few lessons as the waves are a lot rougher than the waves you find in Barra da Lagoa, for example. My favorite thing to do at this beach? Climb the rocks and watch the sunset.
9. Learn Portuguese at Step 1 Language School
I spent a month in Floripa because I was determined to focus on improving my speaking skills in Portuguese. I was lucky enough to find a language school that helped me do just that as well as supported me with amazing teachers who genuinely wanted to see their students succeed in the Portuguese language. If you have any interest in studying Portuguese in Brazil, I thoroughly recommend doing so at Step 1 Language School (https://www.step1.com.br/portuguese/).