Nature and Parks in São Paulo
For such a massive city, São Paulo has a surprising amount of places to enjoy nature, including one of the largest urban green spaces in Latin America. Amidst a sea of buildings, São Paulo’s parks offer room to exercise, play sports, or just read a book and relax. A few of its parks also showcase the rich biodiversity of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. Here are the best of São Paulo’s parks, including what to see and do in each one.
Parque Ibirapuera — Parque Ibirapuera is one of the largest urban parks in Latin America. Amidst a sea of skyscrapers, it’s a green oasis with plenty of options to take a break from the city for a few hours. Ibirapuera is immensely popular with fitness enthusiasts. The park has several outdoor fitness areas, an extensive bicycle path, 13 courts on which you can play a number of sports including basketball and football, and plenty of space for running and walking. It’s a beautiful setting to exercise in, and the facilities are well maintained. You can also rent bikes near Gate 3 (Portão 3).
The park also houses several museums, monuments, and galleries, all of which are worth a visit in their own right. The names and opening hours of these are as follows (although double-check before you go, in case of holidays or other time changes):
- Museu Afro Brasil — Tuesday-Sunday, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Closed on Mondays.
- Pavilhão da Bienal — Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Thursdays and Saturdays, 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM. Closed on Mondays. Check the website for programming details.
- Oca do Ibirapuera — Tuesday-Sunday, 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Closed on Mondays.
- Pavilhão Japonês — Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM, 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Closed Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday.
- Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo (MAM) — Tuesday-Sunday, 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Closed on Mondays.
- Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo (MAC USP) — Tuesday-Sunday, 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM. Closed on Mondays.
- Auditório Ibirapuera— The ticket office is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 1:00 PM to 10:00 PM and on Sundays from 1:00 PM to 8:00 PM. Check the website for programming details.
- Planetário Ibirapuera — Check the website to see what times sessions are running, as this is subject to change.
For prices, check out their websites, as these often change. More information about some of these attractions can be found in the Art and Culture section of this guide.
Ibirapuera has many other stunning features, including a lake, around which vendors sell things like fresh coconut water and ice cream, and fountains. Several sections of the park are allotted to different groups, like the Parque dos Cachorros (Park of the Dogs) and the Bosque da Leitura (Forest of Reading). You can find more information on these on the park’s website. At the Viveiro Manequinho Lopes plant nursery, you can learn more about the park’s different trees and plants, and the efforts being made to conserve this beautiful green space. It’s open from Monday to Friday, from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
The park itself is open from 5:00 AM to midnight, Monday to Friday, and 24 hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays. After dark, the park is quite empty, so be sensible, always staying in a group when possible. Some gates close earlier than others, so be sure you know how to get to an open gate.
Jardim Botânico — Just a half an hour drive from São Paulo’s Pinheiros neighborhood lies the Botanical Garden. Opening hours here are Tuesday to Sunday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM; the gardens are closed on Mondays. There’s a small entrance fee of 10 Brazilian reais (US$2.50) for adults or 5 reais (US$1.25) for students with a valid student card. Children under four, people over the age of 60, and those with disabilities can enter free of charge.
The Botanical Garden is home to thousands of species of tropical plants and animals, from turtles to monkeys. The greenhouses are bursting with exotic plants, and howler monkeys jump around in the trees above your head as you walk along the numerous trails available throughout the gardens. The lake provides a lovely view for a picnic, and there are catering facilities available if you would rather buy your lunch when you arrive. There’s even a gift shop for visitors to pick up some souvenirs.
Parque Trianon — Parque Trianon is a small park off the bustling Avenida Paulista. It contains many plants native to the Mata Atlântica rainforest, an ecosystem which stretches along the Atlantic coast of Brazil. The park is the perfect place for a short break from the nonstop city life. Bring a book and spend a couple of hours here, hidden beneath the green canopy. The park is open every day, from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM. As the park is in one of the busiest areas of the city, be sure to keep a close eye on your belongings.
Parque Villa-Lobos — Parque Villa-Lobos, located in the Alto de Pinheiros neighborhood, receives around 8,000 visitors a day during the week, with up to 60,000 visitors passing through the park on weekends. Villa-Lobos has a forest with species from the Mata Atlântica rainforest; numerous sports facilities, including football pitches and outdoor gym equipment; and various food outlets scattered around the park. A park highlight is the Circuito das Árvores (Circuit of the Trees), where visitors can walk along a nearly 400-foot-long, 12-foot-high pathway. You can identify dozens of tree and bird species along the way. The Orquidário Ruth Cardoso is an orchidarium where you can see the park’s beautiful collection of orchids. The park is open every day from 5:30 AM to 7:00 PM.
Praça Pôr do Sol — Literally meaning Sunset Square, this is a small grassy area on a hill in Alto de Pinheiros where people come to watch the sun dip below the horizon. Many visitors arrive about an hour before sunset and enjoy a picnic while waiting for the day-ending moment, which is a good idea in order to secure a good sunset-viewing spot. You’ll often hear live music being played, and street vendors sell drinks and snacks.
Parque da Independência — It was on these grounds in 1822 that King Pedro I declared Brazil’s independence from Portugal, hence the green space’s name, which translates to “Independence Park.” Situated outside the Ipiranga Museum, which is closed for renovation, this beautiful park remains open to visitors. The gardens of the park are well kept, despite the work going on in the museum, and people flock here daily to exercise, have a picnic, and simply enjoy the natural beauty of the park and its gardens. The park currently measures 40 acres, with plans for expansion in the future. It’s open every day from 5:00 AM to 8:00 PM.