Sao Luis City Guide
Although its festive attitude feels distinctly Brazilian, Sao Luis is a charming city that has its own unique personality. The pastel-coloured mansions and cobblestone streets have made the city's historic centre a World Heritage site. Walking through these colonial streets, you can admire the painstaking tile work that makes the buildings look more like confectionery than architecture. Founded by the French and occupied by the Dutch, the city looks distinctly Portuguese. ¶ There's a certain rhythm that is mentioned in any Sao Luis city guide. Known as Brazil's Reggae Capital, you'll find massive sound systems not only in the bars and clubs of the city's vibrant nightlife scene, but also on the beaches. You can explore this musical culture at beaches like Ponta d'Areia, with its multiple reggae clubs, or take a break from the museums and art galleries of the historic district by visiting the relaxed Praia Grande beach.
Things to do in Sao Luis
One of the most pleasurable things to do in Sao Luis is simply wander through the historic Old Town and admiring the architecture. There is also a dense concentration of monuments and museums here to visit. Don't miss the Centro do Cultura Popular Domingos Vieira Filho, which showcases exhibits about Sao Luis's various festivals and Afro-Brazilian folklore. The Palacio dos Leoes is the palace of the state governor, lavishly furnished with antique furnishings and colonial French art. You can also visit the Museu Historico e Artistico to catch a glimpse into colonial life, in a perfectly restored mansion. The Casa das Tulhas is another 19th century building, but this market now holds a variety of artisanal food and craft stalls, along with several lively bars.
Things to see in Sao Luis
Learn more about the region's Maranhao indigenous heritage at the Centro de Historia Natural e Arqueologia do Maranhao. Just as memorable as many of the things to see in Sao Luis is the nearby town of Alcantara, a colonial town in romantic ruins. It's accessible with an hour long boat ride from Sao Luis, making it a charming day trip. Staying in Sao Luis provides access to numerous pristine beaches. Calhau is known for its golden sand dunes, while Sao Marcos is the beach to visit if you want to try your hand at surfing. If you want to see locally produced souvenirs as well as typical Sao Luis shops, you can stroll down the main pedestrian mall, Rua Grande to shop or people watch.
Sao Luis Transport
Sao Luis's central bus station provides Sao Luis transport and links to major cities throughout Brazil. There are several lines that will take you straight to the Old Town. A train runs three times a week to Parauapebas, which you can catch at the train station in the southwest of the city. Domestic and international flights also serve Sao Luis and arrive at Marechal Cunha Machado International Airport outside of the city. If you're staying near the Old Town, the city is best explored on foot. However, there's also an extensive bus system based around the seaside Praia Grande terminal.
Sao Luis Events
Live reggae performances and the Brazilian Carnival are typical Sao Luis events, but the main event that the city's known for its Bumba Meu Boi. This Iberian folk festival involves colourful costumes, live music, dance, and theatrical performances. The festival takes over July with even more processions, dancing, and theatre. If you're in town before then, the Convento das Merces holds its own Bumbo Meu Boi festival. Rehearsals are open to the public starting as early as Easter, giving you a taste of the larger festival to come. Marafolia is another Carnival festival that takes place in October.
Restaurants in Sao Luis
There's a heavy African influence on the local culinary traditions. You must try the famous arroz de cuxa, a dish made from shrimp, vegetables, and spicy seasonings. This fragrant stew is served over rice. Wash it down with "Guarana Jesus," a sweet pink soda made from guarana extract and perfumed with cinnamon and cloves. ¶ Most restaurants in Sao Luis can be found in the historic Old Town. You'll also find pizzerias, posh French bistros, and informal sandwich shops. Seaside areas like Praia Grande are also well situated to try freshly grilled seafood or the ubiquitous fish and shrimp pie.