"São Luís" São Luís by mircaskirca

São Luís Travel Guide: 37 reviews and 226 photos

A City with Rich Afro-Brazilian Culture

São Luís is the capital of Brazilian state of Maranhao and it's located on São Luís island, known as Island of Love. Originally it was a large village of the Tupinamba tribe. Since being established, São Luís (Saint-Louis) has had a long multicultural history. Founded in 1612 by a Frenchman Daniel de la Touche, and proclaimed capital of Western France under Louis XIV, the city was quickly conquered by the Dutch, before falling under the dominion of the Portuguese.

Throught the centuries, successive mixing of African, Native Indian and European populations give São Luís a contemporary feel and a most important historical and cultural heritage. Although founded by the French rather then Portuguese, it is the most Portuguese of all cities in the region. In 1997 the city's historical centre was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Starting in 1989 there has been an extensive program to restore and renovate the colonial era buildings of the city's historical centre, called Projeto Reviver by locals.

The main tourist attractions of São Luís is the historical centre with over 3.500 buildings from 17th to 19th centuries. The Centro Historico is a type of open-air museum filled with uncountable architectural elements and details, such as azulejos (which most of the houses are covered in), picturesque windows, doors and balconies, cobblestone, narrow streets, inviting the visitor to wonder about the rich past of this one time prestigious and promising Brazilian city. Every street has story to tell, either about an important individual or a mythical character. The project of rehabilitation by the state government encouraged private investment in the area and resulted in the opening of stores, movie theatres, museums, bars, restaurants and small hotels.

An old slaving port, São Luís has a large black population and has preserved much African culture - popular traditions and festivals, such as Tambor de Crioula and Bumba-meu-boi and lively reggae parties that make the culture of São Luís stand out among Brazilian cities.

You can do some lovely side trips while you are in São Luís. Worth exploring are Alcantara, São José de Ribamar and Raposa.

  • Last visit to São Luís: Jan 2008
  • Intro Updated Jul 4, 2009
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Reviews (25)

Comments (22)

  • toonsarah's Profile Photo
    Aug 26, 2010 at 11:49 AM

    Love that opening photo - so full of life and colour! Sounds a wonderful place to visit - the Centro Historico, the azulejos, the Tambor. The side trips seem interesting too, but it's your local custom & general tips that really make this page a stand-out

  • budapest8's Profile Photo
    Jun 20, 2010 at 5:13 PM

    WOW!....The dance picture on your intro page to MSL is incredible...some really great tips..Thanx for sharing...:-)

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Apr 16, 2010 at 2:51 PM

    You have done an excellent job of describing the area and its sties. YO surely do like Brazil, and am sure you are to return again, and again. Thank you for the tour.

  • SLLiew's Profile Photo
    Mar 13, 2010 at 10:12 AM

    Mira, wow... what a colorful and happening place. Great details on local customs and culture. Sao Luis (SL) has same initials with me :)

  • icunme's Profile Photo
    Oct 24, 2009 at 1:29 PM

    Ahhh, the music! I understand very well your passion for it - mine is the Afro-Cuban and the rhythms of the Santos. How great that you connected again with your friend. Enjoyed all this tour. Ciao, Carol

  • pure1942's Profile Photo
    Jun 25, 2009 at 3:11 PM

    Another great Brazilian page Mira. I am amazed at the difference between the music, food and culture of Maranhao and its neighbour Piaui. Would love to visit Maranhao. Have only seen it from across the Rio Parnaiba ;) Maybe this year. Obrigado. Brian

  • jumpingnorman's Profile Photo
    Feb 13, 2009 at 8:51 PM

    L love the beautiful smiles of the kids on this intro page...and your beaches pictures are just surreal and spectacular...good job, Mira! Norman :) P.S. I love guarana!

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Sep 12, 2008 at 12:03 PM

    I always enjoy reading your informative and enthusiastic tips about these beautiful places in Brazil. Strange to learn that many of the older tiles used for those lovely houses arrived in Sao Luis by accident, as ballast in cargo ships.

  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo
    Jun 25, 2008 at 7:27 PM

    I'm so glad I found this Brazil page of yours that I had not yet seen! I love how the influence of Portugese culture (and its azulejos) has remained alive and those T'logue scenes of the Tambor de Crioula were amazing too!

  • Redang's Profile Photo
    Mar 25, 2008 at 1:50 PM

    Great pics!

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