The capital of Rio Grande do Sul, lies on the eastern bank of the Rio Guaíba at the point where the water flows into the enormous Lagoa dos Patos. This lake gives Porto Alegre a fresh water port. The city has a population of 1,3 million people, and this makes Porto Alegre the sixth city of Brazil. The city was founded in 1755 by the Portuguese to keep the Spanish out, but is was never a colonial city. The city just started to grow in 20th century when a lot of German and Italian immigrants settled down in this area.
The city is very industrialized and that makes it the biggest commercial center south of São Paulo. Although it is a business center, it is still a pleasant city to visit. There are some interesting museums, such as the Museu Histórico Júlio de Castilhos with interesting objects concerning the history of the state, the Museu de Arte do Rio Grande do Sul with an exposition of artwork made by gaúcho artist. To see gaúchos at play you have to go to the Parque Farroupilha, the big central park.
But maybe the biggest attraction lies outside of the city, after a beautiful ride through the mountains you will get to the mountain towns of Gramado and Canela. The cities were founded by German immigrants in 1824, around 1870 also Italians settled down in this area. These towns look a lot like villages you can find in the Alps. The region is also known as the Região das Hortênsias (Hydrangea Region). The two towns are very popular places for people who want to escape the city of Porto Alegre.