João Pessoa's downtown is the oldest part of the city, near to the Sanhauá river.
There are located the Porto do Capim, Church of São Frei Pedro Gonçalves, Hotel Globo, Casa da Pólvora (Gun Powder House) and Antenor Navarro Square. The architecture is predominantly neoclassic and colonial. Some of the buildings have been restored, some are in ruins.
The Hotel Globo was an important hotel back in the beginning of the 20th century, where politicians and famous people used to overnight when visiting João Pessoa. With a beautiful view to the Sanhauá River, its backyard is a perfect place to watch the sunset.
The Church of São Frei Pedro Gonçalves is a simple church build in 1840. During its restoration in 2000, the technicians discovered the ruins of a fortification from the 16th century buried under the church. These ruins are since then exhibited in its interior.
The Gun Powder House was the arsenal house. It's located strategically at a hilltop with a view to the haven and the river, the main entrance gate to Paraíba at the time.
The Antenor Navarro Square was completely abandoned and its restoration was financed by the Spanish government that seeked to revitalize the old constructions in former colonies. The restoration of this area changed that part of the city completely, attracting more tourists and stimulating the local government and even private investors to also renovate the other buildings around the square.
The square is also the center of the alternative scene in João Pessoa. There are cafés, bars and (mostly underground) events that take place there.
All these buildings are in a generally speaking low-income neighborhood called Varadouro. The community at Porto do Capim, approximately 500 families, has been fighting against the threat of a gentrification process in the area for some years.
Several projects to revitalize the community and transform it into a touristic attraction have already been proposed, but only by removing all these families and relocating them in another neighborhood.
Why a renovation and restoration plan that benefits equally the tourism and the local community can't be done is of course an open question.