Considering its isolation on the Brazilian map, Fortaleza is a surprisingly large and sprawling place. It’s one of Brazil’s biggest cities and an economic magnet for people from Ceará and beyond. It’s also a magnet for tourists from Brazil and overseas, who come for the beaches, the party atmosphere and the spectacular smaller beach spots, rolling dunes and fishing villages places they can get to from here. Some city beaches are reasonably attractive and the nightlife is definitely a lot of fun.
The city stretches 20km along the coast and up to 10km inland. Centro is the oldest part of town and is a lively area to wander round by day, with many busy streets full of small stores, though it lacks any specific attractions of note. The bus station is 4km south of Centro and the airport is 2km further south. The main areas of interest are east of Centro. First is Praia de Iracema, a tightly packed nightlife, restaurant and accommodation zone, with no beach worth mentioning. Then there’s Meireles, the middle-class beach suburb with many upscale places to stay, 2km to 4km east of Centro. South of Meireles, another middle-class suburb, Varjota, is home to many of Fortaleza's best restaurants. East of Meireles is the port area, Mucuripe, beyond which the coast veers southward and leads down to the city's best beach, the 5km-long Praia do Futuro, starting some 8km east of Centro.