Things to Do in Manaus
The city of Manaus lies at the confluence of two great rivers, the Solimões and the Black. Although borders on water are typically impossible to see, that is not the case in Manaus. Because of the different colors of the two rivers, it's possible to see precisely where they meet - which is what makes the "Meeting of Waters," or Encontro das Aguas, a checklist must-do for visitors to Manaus.
The Black River, or Rio Negro, gets its name from the color of the water. The Solimões River in Manaus is a sandy brownish color. This means you can see exactly where the two rivers come together. Not only that, each river on its own is a different temperature and run at a different speed, so when they come together the water doesn't just mix to create a muddy soup - instead, the rivers essentially run alongside one another.
The image of the art-nouveau cast-iron Adolpho Lisboa Municipal Market building is like a snapshot of the multiculturalism of Manaus as a whole. The building, inspired by Les Halles in Paris and constructed in 1882 during the Rubber Boom, is distinctly European, but when you step through the doors, there’s no mistaking you’re in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon.
As the city’s main market perched on the banks of the Rio Negro, vendors here sell a bit of everything, and for the visiting tourist, it’s a great place to sample exotic fruits, learn about traditional Amazonian medicines or shop for souvenirs, like leather goods and índio handcrafted items.
Located on the main square in Manaus, the Palace of Justice (Palácio de Justiça) was built during the term of Governor Eduardo Ribeiro, the state governor of Manaus during the golden years of the Rubber Boom in the final years of the nineteenth century. The palace, with its grand architecture inspired by the French Second Empire and Neo-classicism, is a testament to just how wealthy the region was during its heyday. In 1987, the palace was converted into a cultural center. Today, the public can visit the building’s offices and court rooms and learn about the important decisions made there throughout the region’s history. One notably interesting feature of the palace is the statue of Themis, the Greek goddess of law and justice, on the roof. A departure from the typical likeness of Themis, this massive statue shows the goddess with her eyes uncovered and her scale tipped, suggesting that maybe justice isn’t so blind after all.
Port of Manaus is right in the downtown area, so once your ship gets in it is as simple as walking into the city center to enjoy the sights. Not all the attractions are downtown, of course, but from central Manaus you can take a bus or taxi to outlying destinations you might want to visit - like some of the river beaches or museums.
Because central Manaus is within walking distance of the port, it is easy to spend a day exploring the city center on your own. You can visit the beautiful Teatro Amazonas opera house, pick up some souvenirs at the Mercado Municipal and learn about the indigenous populations at the city's history museums. Getting to points that are further away, like the Natural Science Museum or the popular river beaches, would be easier with a tour so that you don't need to figure out transportation or worry about getting back to your boat in time if you are visiting from a cruise. If your stop in Manaus is at the end of your cruise.
Learning about the indigenous population of a country like Brazil should be an interesting and engaging part of one's visit. The museum is run by a congregation of Salesian nuns, and it boasts a nice collection of artifacts.
Anyone curious about the history of the indigenous tribes of the Amazonas region would likely enjoy spending some time checking out the variety of everyday objects in the Museu do Índio's collection - including pottery, tools, ritual masks and musical instruments. Descriptions are in English, Portuguese and German, and the museum is open varying hours from Monday-Saturday. Admission is R$5.
More Things to Do in Manaus
Operated by the Salesian Sisters, an order of nuns with missions in the Upper Amazon region, the Indian Museum (Museu do Índio) displays a collection of weapons, musical instruments, ritual masks, ceramics, tools and ceremonial clothing from the indigenous tribes of the Amazon rainforest, mostly from the states of Amazonas and Pará. Apart from touring the collection to learn more about the region’s tribes, the museum also offers visitors the chance to shop for authentic índio handicrafts, like necklaces and baskets made from natural materials, in the small gift shop.