Graças is a ‘noble’ neighborhood in Recife’s North Zone. Its population is made up of around 17k residents and due to the fact that it’s located among the capital city’s wealthiest neighborhoods, it has one of the highest quality-of-life ratings. This has made it important to the real estate sector, giving rise to further verticalization of the city, and thus the raizing of a lot of the old mansions that once dominated the neighborhood. Green areas can still be found there, though, such as the Praça do Entroncamento (below).
“A breath of air in the heart of Recife”. That’s how yoga teacher Maristela Lupe defines the charming neighborhood of Graças. Having lived there for 8 years, she’s someone who would know. One of the highest in quality of life, the pleasant neighborhood still preserves countryside-like customs, at the same time, it’s noted for its health, educative and gastronomic services.
Bordered by the waters of the Capibaribe River, the bairro is pure poetry. From the street names to the tranquility with which the children play in front of the church, it all seems to work to its own rhythm. The parents walk slowly, leaving their children at school, going to the open air market, arranging fairs and chat unpretentiously on the sidewalks with the neighbors.
“There are two Graças in one. On one side, you have the calm that one only finds in the country, on the other, the modernity and all the facilities of a large urban center. Both live in harmony, perhaps that serenity is what makes it a unique place”, says Maristela.
Even with its vertical growth, the neighborhood still preserves some postcard images of the time when tall buildings were just 4 stories. Rua Joaquim Nabuco with its colored houses and their art studios, cafes and offices; the Capunga Bridge, connecting Graças to Madalena; the century-old baobá tree which is a reference point, on Rua Madre Loyola; the old train station and the Museu do Estado, on Avenida Rui Barbosa, and the mansion where Manoel Bandeira was born, which today is a restaurant.
Another fairly well-known symbol is the the Graças Church, on a street of the same name.
Opposite most Recife neighborhoods, Graças didn’t come about from sugarcane estates, but rather from the division of land plots in the 19th century. They belonged to the Recife Sisterhood of São Pedro dos Clérigos and were situated in the area that today makes up the Rua das Pernambucanas and the Av. Rui Barbosa.
Capunga Velha and Capunga Nova, as they were known, were residences of some of the best families of the era, so much so for the temperate climate as for the possibility to bathe in the river. In 1872, the parish of Graças was registered, with 4,500 residents.  (click for a few more photos)