São Paulo for Culture Buffs

São Paulo is a cultural jewel of Brazil, though it may lack the sunshine and sand of its sexy sister, Rio. But for lovers of the arts, this vast city is the place in which to immerse yourself. There are edgy artistic hubs springing up, but also plenty of classic museums and galleries. Take your pick from top Brazilian art at Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo (MAM), one of architect Oscar Niemeyer's many creations, and religious baroque pieces at Museu de Arte Sacra. If you want to get your fill of famous European artists, head to the vast Museu de Arte de São Paulo, its walls filled with European old masters and early Modernist paintings. Fans of classical music and performance can choose from the elaborate, century-old Theatro Municipal, and the contemporary, neo-gothic Sala São Paulo, both with a full calendar staging top orchestras, opera or ballet.  


Pinacoteca do Estado

Founded in 1905 and renovated in 1990, this is Brazil’s oldest art museum, specializing in Brazilian art from the 19th century to the present day.

Museu da Casa Brasileira

This small museum, housed in a 1940s neoclassical mansion, was the first in Brazil dedicated to art and design. The collection specialises in Brazilian furniture and household objects from the 17th century to present day, and hosts the prestigious, annual MCB Design Award.

Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo (MAM)

This small gallery museum showcases the best Brazilian contemporary art in its temporary exhibitions of art, photography and design. Take a stroll in the sculpture garden, with pieces from the permanent collection, plus an excellent buffet restaurant and gift shop. Open Tue-Sun 10am-6pm. Admission free.

Theatro Municipal

Used by visiting theatrical and operatic groups, plus the City Ballet Company and the Municipal Symphony Orchestra, who give regular performances. The theater was fully refurbished in 2012 to celebrate its centenary.

Museu de Arte Sacra

This superb little museum is one of the finest of its kind in the Americas. The collection is housed in a large wing of one of the city’s most distinguished colonial buildings, the early 19th-century Mosteiro da Luz. Parts of the monastery are still home to Conceptionists sisters.

Museu Afro Brasil

Lying inside Niemeyer’s spectacular stilted Pavilhão Manoel da Nobrega building, this museum devotes a huge space to a celebration of black Brazilian culture and history, with thousands of exhibits.

Sala São Paulo

Formerly the Sorocaban Railway station, this magnificent neo-gothic hall with excellent acoustics is the city’s premier classical music venue. They have a busy schedule of performances, with concerts usually on Thu, Fri and Sat, plus a restaurant.

Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP)

This is the most important gallery in the southern hemisphere, preserving some of Europe’s greatest paintings. There’s a huge number of works by French artists including Renoir, Degas and Monet.

Pátio do Colégio

This historic courtyard is where the Jesuit church, Basilica Jose de Anchieta, was founded in 1598, and this is considered where the city was first founded. What you see today is the replica, built in 1954 by the Jesuits. It’s mainly occupied now by the Museu Padre Anchieta.

Choque Cultural

This quirky gallery pays homage to the city’s street art, showcasing graffiti artists, print and even skateboard designs. Open Tues-Sun 1pm-8pm.