My Favorite Museums in São Paulo, Brazil

I love to go to museums, and I have often been surprised at the variety of museums in unexpected places, like the unforgettable Asian art exhibit I saw in Munich, Germany. One of the highlights is the excellent selection of museums in São Paulo, Brazil, so whenever I go there, which is pretty often, I make it a point to check out another one.

São Paulo is one of the largest cities in the world, a megalopolis of about 18 million people. Though it doesn’t have the striking natural beauty of Rio or the colonial architecture of many Brazilian cities, it has these 5 great museums:


1.        MASP (Museu de Arte de São Paulo)

MASP is considered the best art museum in Latin America because of its rich permanent collection. It includes work by masters from the Renaissance to the 20th century, including Rubens, Titian, Velasquez, Manet, Van Gogh, Renoir, and Modigliani. Two of my favorites were the stunning self-portrait by Rembrandt and the colorful Japanese bridge by Monet.

A few things about this museum stand out. First, there are English translations which, even though not perfectly done, are very helpful. Second, the art is displayed in an interesting way—by theme instead of chronologically. For instance, there is a room devoted to myths, one to Romanticism, and another to portraits. The building itself is a work of art, a controversial example of modern Brazilian architecture. Finally, the museum hosts excellent temporary exhibits which, because of the museum’s renown, are worth a look even if you are not familiar with the artists. Also worth noting is the museum’s location, right on Avenida Paulista, the main avenue of São Paulo.

Open Tues-Sun. The museum is free on Tuesdays. If you go on a Sunday, be sure to visit the antiques market below the museum and the handicrafts market across the street. Parking is available in lots or on streets near the museum. Accessible by metro as well (Trianon/MASP station).


The lovely interior of the Pinacoteca

2.       Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo

Located in the center of the city near the Praça da Luz, this is the oldest museum in São Paulo. Its collection is mostly paintings that reveal many interesting pieces of the history of Brazil, but there is a nice collection of 19th century French sculpture as well. The building itself makes a very pleasant place to view the art.

There are two things you should be sure to do if you visit this museum. One is to stop in the gorgeous café downstairs for a cappuccino and a sweet treat and a look at the current photography exhibit on the café walls. The other is to walk around the adjacent park, Parque da Luz, accessible through the café. The area of the park closest to the museum is filled with sculpture and provides nice views of the colored glass windows of the museum; the part farther away is an old, nicely-designed European-style park, but is also frequented by some odd people and prostitutes. Open Tues.-Sun. The museum is free on Saturdays; on other days, the $3 entrance fee includes entrance to the Estação Pinacoteca across the street (an old station which is now the Museum of Portuguese Language). Accessible by metro at the Tiradentes station, which is in front of the museum.

Museu Afro Brasil

3.        Museu Afro-Brasil

This new museum is one of many in the huge Ibirapuera Park and is housed in a building designed by renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.  As Brazil brought more slaves from Africa than any other country, and almost half of its population claim to be of mixed race, the museum examines an important component of Brazilian history and culture. Its collection shows the history of Afro-Brazilian culture and slavery in Brazil, the connection between African cultures and Brazilian culture, and exhibits of other African cultures in Latin America. Some highlights are the collection of photographs and artifacts of slave life, the artifacts of Candomblé and other African-influenced religions in Brazil, the collection of Afro-Brazilian handicrafts, and contemporary art by Afro-Brazilian artists.  Unfortunately, there are no English translations, but on the plus side, the museum is always free. When you finish, stroll over to the lake and take a walk through the park and see some incredible trees. Open Wed.-Sun. Closest metro station is Ana Rosa.


Ipiranga, image from Wikipedia

4.        Ipiranga Museum

This large museum was created in 1895 to preserve Brazilian history since 1500 and houses old maps, photographs, paintings, and furniture. It is housed inside a beautiful Neo-Classical palace with European-style gardens. Admission is $1 and the museum is open Tues.-Sun. although the gardens tend to be crowded on weekends. Unfortunately, the museum is located away from the center but is accessible by bus and metro.

Soccer museum Brazil

5.        Museu de Futebol

This soccer museum is housed in Estadio Pacaembu, one of the largest stadiums in the city. The modern museum spans 3 floors and includes many old posters and photographs and interactive exhibits, most of which focus on the World Cup and Brazilian soccer stars. Visitors can also get a nice view of the inside of the stadium. I would recommend the museum for hard-core soccer fans. As you exit, there is a nice gift shop and a café with good live music on most weekends. Admission is $3 and the museum is open Tues.-Sun.

Soccer stadium Brazil

Have you been to São Paulo? What would you recommend doing there?

What are some of your favorite museums?

If you love art, try more of my posts about art around the world here.

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  • Nice list of museums. I’d love to see these places if I get to Sao Paulo, especially Museu de Arte de São Paulo. Their permanent collection sounds wonderful.

    • JennaFrancisco says:

      Thanks for your comment! Yes, MASP is really worth a visit, not just for its permanent collection but also for its great temporary exhibits. Sounds like you and I have a love for museums and art in common. 🙂

  • Angela says:

    Wow, what a great selection! One of the things I haven’t done in Brazil is visiting museums, I spent more time outdoor, and I loved it. Next time I go I’ll stay longer for sure and I hope I’ll have the opportunity to visit some exhibition, they look very well organized.

    • JennaFrancisco says:

      It certainly makes sense that you spent more time outdoors in Brazil. I went to an interesting museum in Rio but can’t remember the name. I’m sure the city has many more good museums.

  • I hadn’t really associated museums with Sao Paulo – looks like a great day of museums! XOL

    • JennaFrancisco says:

      Thanks for stopping by! Sao Paulo is surprising in many ways, and the number of good museums was just one way in which I was pleasantly surprised by this city.

  • Jade says:

    I’m a sucker for a good museum- I love getting lost in them. I actually really like exploring them alone, something about just me and the artwork.

    • JennaFrancisco says:

      I agree with you, and your comment was a good reminder. I used to love exploring museums alone but haven’t done it in a while. The last few times I visited a museum, I was with family members and didn’t feel completely free to take my time.

  • Ferry says:

    Even I love visiting museums. It gives us a clear picture of the country and its history.

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