A brief look at São Luís

Think of Brazil and you’re probably thinking Sugarloaf Mountain, carnival, the favela and the World Cup but there is far more to Brazil than you think.  Occupying almost 48% of South America and bordering every other South American country but for Ecuador and Chile, Brazil gives you a lot of ground to cover and varying experiences along the way.

São Luís is the capital and largest city of the Brazilian state of Maranhão.  It sits in the North East of Brazil on an island surround by pretty beaches (although avoid the sea) and has two main areas, the old town and the new town.  In 1997, the historical centre was granted UNESCO World Heritage Status and brings together approximately three and a half thousand buildings dating from the 17th to 19th centuries.  With a number of diverse cultural events such as the Bumba-Meu-Boi, Tambor-De-Crioula and Divine Holy Spirit festivals, as well as the famous carnival, it’s certainly a place of history and culture you will want to explore.

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        Igreja da Sé. Photo by renataaraujoo.

A selection of things to see and do

Arthur Azevedo Teatro

Opened in 1817, this is the oldest working theatre in the country and the most famous in São Luís.  First time visitors are struck by the beauty of the well-preserved interior architecture, which displayed neoclassical trait

Igreja da Sé

Built in 1762, the Igreja da Sé is dedicated to our Lady of Victory and stands out with its High Altar carved in gold, in the national Portuguese style

Palácio dos Leões

The official residence and headquarters of the Maranhão Government, it is almost 400 years old, housing artistic treasures and relics that deserve to be seen and appreciated; it is named for the bronze lions that guard the entrance.

Where to stay

Hotel Luzeiros São Luis is located in a nice area, overlooks the beach and is very comfortable for a few days whilst you explore the surrounding area.

For a quaint guest house try Casa Lavinia which is very centrally located and is in a colonial style so you can feel part of São Luís whilst you explore its history.

If there is a large group visiting, the Old Colonial Townhouse is perfect.  Sleeping 20, it’s located in the centre and comes with a pool.

What to eat and drink

Try the traditional dish of arroz-de-cuxá which is a rice based dish served with cuxá, a dish made from a slightly bitter vegetable called vinagreira, shrimp and various seasonings.  Wash this down with Guaraná Jesus (a sweet pink soda with some guaraná extract and a clover and cinnamon flavour).

How to get here

São Luís is 3 hours from Brasilia and 4 hours from São Paulo (by plane).  The closest point of international arrival is the city of Fortaleza in Ceará.

When to visit

The rainy season falls mainly from January to June and temperatures throughout the year are mild averaging 26 degrees.

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