Natal, the capital of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, is a city on the Atlantic coast. Natal has some great beaches, historical sites, and nature areas, and it is a frequently used base for exploring the paradisiac beaches and nature of the Rio Grande do Norte state.
- South: The most affluent area of the city and also where most tourists stay. Contains the Ponta Negra beach and most upscale hotels, shopping malls and restaurants
- East: Contains the city’s Historical Center, impotant sights such as Forte dos Reis Magos and Ponte de Todos, and beaches that mix visitors and locals such as Praia do Meio and Praia dos Artistas. Also contains the entrance to Parque das Dunas
- North: An industrial/working class area which is now the most populous of Natal. Contains the Redinha beach, which provides some nice views of the city and with very local feel
- West: A mostly poor and in some parts run-down area, it contains the intercity bus terminal that can be used to reach other cities, like Tibau do Sul
Natal was founded on 25 December 1599, hence its name (Natal means Christmas in Portuguese). Unlike other Northeastern capitals, it did not quite benefit from the economic boom resulting from the region’s sugar cane production. Instead it grew moderately and more organizedly, burgeoning on the state’s cattle-raising activities and salt and oil extraction.
Nowadays Natal is one of the 8 most visited cities of Brazil. Unlike other large cities of the Northeast of Brazil, like Recife or Salvador, Natal does not have a fascinating Historical Center or a vivid nightlife. In contrast, it is regarded as being significantly calmer and safer than other large cities in the region, and as having a superior quality of life. Many rich Brazilians and foreigners alike have summer houses in the city.
One of the primary reasons to visit Natal is to use it as a base to explore the wonderful state of Rio Grande do Norte, including beaches like Pipa, Baía Formosa, Barra do Cunhaú and Genipabu, and lakes like Carcará and Coca-Cola (See #Go next). The city has many lodging options and a couple of good and reasonably priced restaurants.