Christ the Redeemer? In Rio de Janeiro. The jungle? At Manaus. The waterfalls? In Iguacu. So when in Brazil, why go to São Paulo?
Why? Because it’s the coolest and most artsy city of Brazil and you will get inspired and have a great time; that’s why.
|Probably Kobra’s most political mural, raising awareness for indigenous people being threatened by a factory being built in the city of Altamira in Belo Monte.|
Talking about cool and artsy: Let one of the most glorious sons of São Paulo guide you through the city to different neighborhoods and iconic buidings – let’s hear it for Mr. Eduardo Kobra!
Eduardo Kobra was born in 1975 in São Paulo and is one of world’s most recognized muralists. His huge, very expressive works are found in the US – and of course in Brazil. I introduced his pentaptych ‘Ethnicities’ that he has painted on the occasion of the Olympics in Rio in 2016.
His kaleidoscope-ish portraits are – well, rather hidden than found – all over São Paulo, and not only do I lead you to the walls, at the same time I point out attractions and points of interests in their surroundings.
Wanna follow my route? I’ve marked all the Kobras on this map – and for your convenience all the other spots mentioned in this post, too.
São Paulo has over 12 millions inhabitants and is not only the most populous city in Brazil, but also the 13th largest city in the world (according to population). It has by gross domestic product the largest economy in South America – and is ironically being called Germany’s largest industrial city since approximately 1000 (!) German companies are operating and producing in São Paulo – Volkswagen being probably the largest and most famous.
Besides its pretty powerful economy, São Paulo can pride itself to have a vast art scene, many excellent museums and exhibition – and very relaxed and friendly people. If you don’t want to rely on people’s English (which is often not so great), you might brush up yours on babbel.
Oh, once we’re on it and talking ’bout cash: In São Paulo – as anywhere else in Brazil – you pay with Reais. The exchange rate is 1 US$ = 3,43 BRL (as per April 2018; check the current rate e. g. on XE.
For an excellent tourist service and loads of really great brochures and maps go to one of the Centrais de Informação Turística (CIT), the tourist centers located at the airport, at the central bus station, at the Paulista and the Praça da República (where you can also meet the guys from the Free Walking Tour). They even had a mobile tourist office a the Parque Ibirapuera where I collected a vast variety of information material right from a truck – and the lady handing them out was a darling and very nice and helpful.
How to get there and where to stay
Let’s start right at the airport:
Like most bigger cities in Brazil, São Paulo has two airports, too: Guarulhos International, located 30 km / 19 mi north east of the city center, and Congonhas which is in the city and can be reached in about 30 minutes by public transport.
|Kobra’s colorful interpretation of Congonhas airport.|
If you are coming to São Paulo by bus, you’ll arrive at the Rodoviária do Tietê from where you get to the center by either bus or subway in about 20 minutes.
There is an excellent system of public transportation consisting of a subway (here’s a map) and different bus types (rapid and conventional).
If you find a reasonably priced hotel around the subway station Consolaꞔão/Paulista, go for it: it’s centrally and conveniently located. I stayed at a really nice apartment-hotel at the Rua Augusta which is the off-scene theater and clubbing district, however, the hotel was very quiet, very comfortable, yet reasonably priced. I can only recommend it.
The Rua Augusta is packed with all sort of restaurants and cafés and bars – just walk around and take your pick, they are all very nice.
Although there is a ‘center’, São Paulo’s lifeline is the Avenida Paulista, stretching from Praꞔa Marechal Cordeiro de Farias all the way to the subway station Paraíso.
So let’s get started at the Paulista’s western end close to the subway station Consolaꞔão where Kobra painted the great Brazilian racing driver Ayrton Senna, who died in 1994 at the age of 34 at the San Marino Grand Prix.
|Honoring the late Ayrton Senna who tragically died at the age of 34. Now his portrait lives on at Rua Dr. Antonino dos Santos Rocha, close to the Consolacão subway station.|
Walking down the Paulista, you’ll pass many tall bank buildings, big stores, and malls: The Paulista is basically São Paulo’s 5th Avenue.
Four blocs down from Rua Augusta, you’ll find one of the best art museums São Paulo has to offer, the Museu de Arte de São Paulo. Besides their own collection of modern art, they organize inspiring exhibitions. For art-lovers, a visiting this venue is a must.
The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. (Thursday to 8 p. m.), entrance fee is 35 R$ (10,50 US$)
Another three blocs down, to your left on
Alameda Joaquim Eugênio de Lima, a nice surprise is waiting for you: a brandnew Kobra – I even saw it in the making beginning of 2018!
|A assume this mural was commissioned by the hospital. I particularly like that the doctor’s name is ‘Bueno’ – which means good.|
Keep walking – whereby if you don’t like to walk, you can hop on one of the buses going down the Paulista or even take the subway. The disadvantage is that in Brazil you pay one price per ticket, i. e. it doesn’t matter if you go just to the next stop or across town – you always pay the same price (which is 3,60 R$ (a bit over 1 US$)).
Getting to the end of the Paulista means getting to the highlights – of the Kobras as well as of the attractions: concentrated behind the subway station Brigadeiro, you’ll find the Capela Santa Catarina to your left.
|Two Brazilian heroes in one picture:
Star architect Oscar Niemeyer depicted by star muralist Eduardo Kobra
Right behind the Saint Catherine’s Chapel is the wonderful Japan House, a venue showing Japanese art and serving excellent Japanese food.
Avenida Paulista 1578
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 30908900
The Japan House is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a. m. to 10 p. m., Sunday to 6 p. m., entrance to the exhibitions is free.
They also have a very nice restaurant – and don’t feel funny for eating Japanese food in Brazil: São Paulo is famous for Japanese and fusion cuisine!
Now, don’t you miss one of the most important Kobras right behind this building depicting another Brazilian art hero, namely star-architect Oscar Niemeyer!
You might get an even better look from the last attraction, located on the other side of the road, the romantic Casa das Rosas.
|The Casa das Roses – obviously named after the beautiful rose garden.|
The Casa das Rosas – the house of roses – is a culture center organizing exhibitions, concerts and much more. It’s always worth it to drop in and check out what’s on.
The exhibitions are open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a. m. to 10 p. m., Sunday to 6 p. m. Regarding other activities, please check their website.
Once you are close to the Brigadeiro station, let’s visit some more Kobras – and some other fantastic venues. But I have to prepare you: We are going to the Parque Ibirapuera, where especially on weekends many São Paulians are strolling with their families, walking their dogs, or jogging by themselves.
Take any bus going down the Avenida Brigadeiro Luís Antônio and tell the driver you want to get off close to Praça Armando de Sales Oliveira.
Here you can admire the Monumento às Bandeiras, created in 1954 by Victor Brecheret, an Italian-Brazilian sculptor, commemorating the settling expeditions into the inner Brazil in the 17th century.
|A monument honoring great man…|
|…and a great man honoring the monument.
Unfortunately, this mural by Eduardo Kobra, located on the wall below the Igreja do Calvário is strongly damaged.
Now cross the Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral and you’ll find yourself at one of the nicest places in São Paulo, the Parque Ibirapuera.
Ibirapuera is only city’s second largest park (in case you wonder: the largest one is Parque Anhanguera in the northern part of the city), however, it spreads over 2 qkm / 0.8 sq mi and besides its lush meadows, trees, and flowers as well as creeks and lakes, there is much to see even for those who are oblivious to the beauty of nature: three fantastic museums as well as the planetarium are located on or adjacent to the premises:
To be honest, I’m not so crazy about planetariums, but I like the design by Eduardo Corona, Roberto G. Tibau and Antônio Carlos Pitombo, that reminds me of an air saucer – very suitable.
Planetário Ibirapuera Prof. Aristóteles Orsini
Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 55 75 52 06
To tell you the truth, I find the info on their hours a bit confusing, so if you want to visit, you better contact them beforehand; and tell them to improve the info on their site, please.
Just a stone throw away is the very nice Museu Afro Brazil.
While the exhibition on Portuguese colonial art on the ground floor is a bit pointless, the upper floor is an artistic treasury showing Afro-Brazilian art from different Brazilian regions as well as the African and Caribbean influence – like masks from Benin and artefacts from Haiti.
|Whether folkloric naive sculptures….|
|Whether it’s traditional bead embroidery for the tropical carnival….|
|….or contemporary sculptures by Afro-Brazilian artists (here again a piece by Sidney Amaral whose work is so diverse)
Sidney Amaral Os chinelos da Mara (Mara’s flip flops)
I can only recommend visiting this venue.
Museu Afro Brasil
Avenida Pedro Alvares Cabral
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 33 20 89 00
The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m., entrance fee are R$ 6
You think we forgot about Kobra? No way, he will be our next stop. Let’s walk along the facade of the Pavilhão das Culturas Brasileiras and take a look at murals by other also very talented artists.
|One of many great murals decorating the Pavilion|
Once you spot the Marquise Do Ibirapuera, you will immediately recognize Kobra’s style – decorating a public bathroom. I guess once you are a star like him, you get away with painting also restrooms.
|Northern wall of the Marquise (including the entrance to the gents’ bathroom)|
|Western wall of the Marquise.|
|Southern wall of the Marquise – including the entrance to the ladies’ bathroom.|
|Eastern wall of the Marquise – depicting to women kissing: A tribute to the extremely LGBT-friendly attitude found everywhere in Brazil.|
Next door you might want to visit the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo – and maybe have a snack at their very nice cafeteria.
|Museu de Arte Moderna – decorated by a mural created by two other Brazilian graffiti super stars, namely OSGEMEOS.|
|Here she is again, Tarsila do Amaral, and her cubist painting
“Estrada de Ferro Central do Brasil”
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m.
Entrance fee are R$ 7,00 and Saturdays are free.
Next to the MAM seems to have landed another air saucer – but this one has a famous creator: It was Mr. Oscar Niemeyer himself who design the Lucas Nogueira Garcez Pavillion, better known as “Oca”.
|The art has landed: Iconic “Oca” by Oscar Niemeyer
(Photo: Jose Cordeiro/SPTuris)
Since 2017 it’s part of the city museum for being a historic building.
If you are interested in visiting, you have to inquire when it’s possible.
Before you continue to the best and biggest of the art museums, the Museu de Arte Contemporânea, you shouldn’t miss to take a look at the sculptures in this part of the park – some of them are really outstanding.
|Young people hanging out on Angelo Venosa’s sculpture of bones made of aluminium.|
Talking ’bout outstanding: if you want to visit only one single exhibition while in São Paulo, it should definitely be the Museu de Arte Contemporânea.
|Wild creatures welcome the visitors at the entrance hall:
Nina Pandolfo “Um Amor Sem Igual” (left) and one of Marino Marini’s horses.
It’s the place where the São Paulo Bienal is taking place – and obviously after every bienal is over, they leave some great art behind. Actually you could spend an entire day here and awing at great pieces from all over the world.
|Rafael Canogar “Os Revolucionários”|
|Cybèle Varela “De tudo aquilo que pode ser I, II e III”|
Not to be missed!
Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo
Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral 1301
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 26 48 02 54
Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. (Tuesday to 9 p. m.), entrance is free.
Another beautiful park full of lush plants and great art is the Jardim da Luz behind the art museum Pinacoteca.
|Facade of the museum with matching sculptures.|
The Jardim has an area of 82,000 square meters, with two reflection pools and two ponds; it was declared a historic landmark by Condephaat in 1981.
|What a great service: A mobile ophthalmologist at the park. You see that the name for the eye doctor is very similar in English and Portuguese – so you have that covered…|
|There is enough art to be admired even on Tuesdays when the Pinacoteca is closed.
Vlavianos “Homem Pássaro”
|Various sculptures made of aluminium by Odette Haidar Eid between 1983and 2002|
|Lasar Segall Três Jovens against the backdrop of the Pinacoteca|
As part of the downtown revitalization project, it resumed dialogue with Pinacoteca, and was renovated in 1999. In 2000, the State Government earmarked funds for the purchase of Brazilian sculptures for its lawns. Even today, the exhibit is free of charge, for those who want to stroll through its green areas and also visit an open air exhibit. The Pinacoteca houses a vast collection of modern Brazilian art and is another mecca for the art aficionados. Founded in 1905, it is the city’s oldest art museum.
The Pinacoteca is open from Wednesday to Monday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m.
Entrance fee are R$ 6, Saturday is free
His mural is to be found at the corner Avenida Tiradentes and Rua Dr. Rodrigo de Barros. On the way there you might want to see some sacred art – you can do so at the Museu de Arte Sacra de São Paulo.
|A perfect painting in a perfect location.|
To explore São Paulo’s historic center, I recommend you join a ‘free’ walking tour (remember: the guides work for tips, so please don’t make it a free ‘free’ tour).
|The happy wanderers – and now it’s your turn: Find W….no, Renata.
(Photo: Sao Paulo Free Walking Tour)
For the ‘Old Downtown’-tour, they meet at the tourist information booth at Praꞔa República (they also offer a tour along the Avenida Paulista and to the bohemian quarter Vila Madalena).
|Well, this is what sadly happens when art is exposed to weather and pollution – it’s getting demolished.|
Anyway, the downtown-tour takes you i. a. to the Biblioteca Mário de Andrade, to the grand Teatro Municipal, the Monument to Carlos Gomes – a copy of the Fontana di Trevi at the Praça Ramos de Azevedo, the Prefeitura – which is the townhall with a botanic garden and a pond on the roof; you cannot visit the building on this tour, but of course on another occasion.
Without a doubt there are many options where to grab a bite at the Centro. If you are opting for a healthier meal, give “Apfel” a try; that it means apple in German gives you a hint that they serve vegetarian food:
Rua Dom José de Barros 99
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 32 56 79 09
Open Monday to Saturday 11 a. m. to 3 p. m.
|The beautiful fountain behind the Teatro Municipal.|
If you don’t mind walking, you can stroll from downtown up towards the Paulista along Rua da Consolação.
While you admire the Nossa Senhora da Consolação church at the first big junction, don’t miss the great murals all around you; although they are not by Kobra – one of his best murals is to be seen at the corner of Rua Maria Antônia.
|Although the paintings are large, they are not always easy to spot. I kept my eyes open for you.|
Once you are here, you might want to get a drink – and a break – at the bar next to the mural, that is called ‘Esquina do Índio’, the Indian’s corner.
Esquina do Índio
Rua da Consolação/Rua Maria Antônia 49
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 31 20 24 18
Open from Monday to Saturday from 7 a. m. to 2 a. m.
|Esquina do Índio – the Indian’s corner: A nice bar named after Kobra’s most political mural.|
|While these gentlemen are taking a short rest, the people in the family grave are resting for
ever; hopefully in peace.
Either keep walking or get on a bus and get off at the Cemitério da Consolação, a small, Brazilian version of the legendary Parisian Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. This cemetery is much smaller and the people buried here are not as world famous as those in Paris, still it’s a beautiful and interesting place.
São Paulo was only a three day stop on my trip to Southern Brazil. To read about the other – likewise fascinating destinations – check out my BRAZIL travel guide.