Sao Luis has many beaches along its 32 km of coastline. They lie beyond the Sao Francisco district so you must cross the bridge to reach them. There are frequent buses from the Terminal de Integracao (Praia Grande) which run along the waterfront. The beaches become extremely crowded on sunny weekends. Swimmers should also remember that currents here are strong and the surf can be dangerous.
Only 4 km from the city centre, Ponta d'Areia is the closest and the busiest beach in Sao Luis. Although it is too polluted for swimming, it is known for seafood that is served in straw huts and restaurants and for its reggae evenings, particularly on Thursdays. At the beginning of the Avenida Litoranea is Sao Marcos, a very popular site among younger groups from Sao Luis and the surfers. It has many bars and an exciting nightlife and it preserves the ruins of the Sao Marcos Fort from the 18th century. Some 8km out of town is the dune beach Calhau which is larger and more scenic. It is actually one of the most beautiful beaches in the city. After Calhau comes Olho d'Agua which is equally fine. It's perfect for sailing and wind surfing because of the strong winds, especially between July and December. The beach is well developed with houses and beach kiosks. The hard-packed sand here is perfect for football games, as is on most of the local beaches.
Because of the beautiful houses in the city's historical centre and its azulejos-tiled houses, with balconies and terraces in the finest Portuguese style, Sao Luis has been made one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
During the late 1980s state authorities finally agreed to restore the historical district which had been neglected and decaying for many decades. The initial restoration project (Projeto Reviver) was completed in 1990 and the city's Unesco World Heritage designation has kept the work going. More than 200 buildings have already been restored.
To appreciate the superb colonial mansions and many designs and colours of their tiled facades, just wander around the district and enjoy the old streets, shady squares, staircases, fountains, monuments, churches, and the buildings' architecture and their uncountable details: tiles, towers, door frames and balconies.
Sao Luis is known for its azulejos (decorative ceramic tiles, often blue or blue-and-white) which most buildings in the historical centre are covered in. They are the city's signature. Because of it the city is also known as cidade de azulejos (the tiles city).
In Sao Luis azulejos came into fashion in about 1830, when covering the facades of large residences with ceramic tiles imported from Portugal was seen as a mark of sophistication. Azulejos were not, however, merely decorative: as they kept houses cool by reflecting heat and sunlight, they were an ideal barrier against the city's equatorial climate.
Salvador has finer individual examples of azulejos, but taken as a whole, the azulejos of colonial Sao Luis are unmatched for the scale of their use and their abstract beauty. Most are early 19th century; some, with characteristic mustard-coloured shapes in the glazing, date back to the 1750s. Remarkably, many of the older tiles arrived in Sao Luis by accident, as ballast in cargo ships.
The cultural symbol of Sao Luis is Teatro Arthur Azevedo, one of the oldest, most traditional and beautiful in the country. It was inaugurated in 1817 and has since been an integral part of the local history. Theatro Arthur Azevedo is Brazil's second-oldest theatre, surpassed only by a 1770 opera house in Ouro Preto. At the beginning it was called Teatro Uniao. The present name was a homage paid to the playwright from Maranhao, Arthur Azevedo (1855-1908). In one of its dressing rooms was born the great local actress Apolonia Pinto.
The theatre displays a neoclassical facade with three floors and a triangular pediment, containing Apollo's lyre in high relief. Across the entire width, Corinthian pilasters flank apertures with depressed arches. The French windows of the second floor have iron grilles with roses and lion masks; immediately above are the bull's eyes, decorated with swags of flowers.
After facing many crises theatre was restored between 1991 and 1993. It became an adequate space for opera shows, ballets and drama performances, comparable with the most important theatres in the world. The house is now open to the public for guided tours but if you can, see also the show.
Markets! I just love them! Wherever I go I always try to find one. For me it's a nice place to meet local people and find authentic local products. There is also an opportunity to try some local food, especially sweets, and that is always nice :)
In Mercado Central you find variety of fresh fish and shellfish, fruit, vegetable, cereals and leguems, distilled spirits, honey, jams and other delicacies from the region.
It's also a place to look for the local crafts.
The is also in the distrito historico. Notice the windows are too narrow for the slaves to escape before being sold. I like how Brasil does not hide its past of slavery. It puts it out there for everyone to see - to learn from. It is much healthier than the approach taken in the US of treating the subject as 'Taboo'.
This is a shot of food from Bar'e Criola Restaurante - the best food in the Northeast IMHO. It is in the center of town near one of the hostels. Ask about it by name. Best to go for lunch.
Going clockwise from the Suco de Loranja (Orange Juice): Pimenta (spicy sauce), Farinha, Sururu (leite de coco), Cuna, Arroz de Cuna, and Vatapa - mmmmmmmmm!
This old colonial town is located around 20km far from Sao Luis by boat.
It was founded by portuguese on the 16th century and conquered by french after and reoccupied by portuguese. Interesting history and traditions...
You need to take the boat in the morning from Sao Luis, spend the whole day in Alcantara on tour by its colonial streets history and return before 17h.After that tides make navigation almost impossible.