Culture Out On the Streets of São Paulo!

Culture is an essential resource in daily life of São Paulo, a city as dynamic as it is crowded (20 million people in the metropolitan area). The stunning supply of cultural events includes many theatres, concert venues, cultural centres  and museums — and the city’s energy is on display in events for the masses, such as the Virada Cultural and its extensive program of free shows.

Join the ride

The Virada Cultural programme begins in the early days of Summer in neighbouring cities, and reaches São Paulo in June. There are performances and events everywhere, in streets and parks, and auditoriums and cultural venues open their doors to the city’s crowds. During a whole weekend, paulistas can freely attend concerts, theatre and dance performances, take their family to a circus show or dance down the street to the sound of samba and choro bands.

With a non-stop, 24-hours-a-day programme, the Virada is a great calling card for São Paulo — local audiences as well tourists and visitors are able to absorb the best that the city’s cultural scene has to offer.

As far as culture is concerned, São Paulo is truly stimulating and surprising. Some of its neighbourhoods have a feverish activity — a simple walk through the city may reveal an anonymous work of art painted on a wall, the sounds of a talented street musician, or an alternative theatre house inside a discreet building.


Exhibitions and theatres

A cultural tour can begin in a conventional and effective fashion: the city centre is teeming with museums and venues. Avenida Paulista, the main street, is home to Itaú Cultural (exhibitions, cultural promotion and events centre) and MASP — Museu de Arte de São Paulo, with a collection that includes works by Brazilian and international artists, from Antiquity to the contemporary era. In other venues, the functions of museum and gallery intertwine with those of library and education centre: São Paulo Cultural Centre and Pinacoteca.
There are also other themes and approaches. Near the Parque da Luz garden, we can enter the old Júlio Prestes train station and visit the Portuguese Language Museum, a great interactive and multimedia installation exploring the History of the Portuguese language. Old buildings such as  Hospital Matarazzo are occupied by exhibitions and art galleries. São Paulo is also home to large scale events such as the São Paulo Bienalle, the International Art Fair and the International Film Festival (Brazil's biggest). 
Theatre and dance fans can also enjoy performances in venues like Teatro Alfa, Teatro Municipal and Teatro Fábrica. But the stage tour is not complete without a visit to SESC (Serviço Social do Comércio) — a network of cultural centres spread all around the city, this institution plays an important role in the city’s life with its extensive programme of exhibitions, cultural and educational events.


“Sampa” is a non-stop show!

Quite naturally, Brazil’s biggest city is a great place for music lovers! The local music scene developed around the many auditoriums, open air stages, concert venues and live music clubs. SESC centres are particularly relevant in this dynamic, with programmes including performances by major national and international artists. 

The Júlio Prestes train station also houses Sala São Paulo, the base of operations for the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra. Fans of opera and classical music may also satisfy their needs at the Theatro São Pedro. Further south, at the great Ibirapuera Park, other sounds can be heard in the Ibirapuera Auditorium —  designed by the great Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, this venue is home for events like Brasiljazzfest, the country’s main international jazz festival.
Other popular music styles also have their place — or actually, many places. Pop, rock and indie fans congregate around the massive Lollapalooza Brasil festival (at the Interlagos motorsport circuit), while the heavy metal tribe gathers at events like Monsters of Rock (which usually takes place at Arena Anhembi). In other parts of town, rock, hip-hop, alternative and experimental music are alive and well in many clubs and venues located in Vila Madalena and Rua Augusta.

Finally, São Paulo is obviously a great place to listen and dance to MPB, chorinho and samba. All you need to do is explore the clubs and bars (“botecos”) that pop up in neighbourhoods like Campinas, Vila Madalena e Pinheiros.

Art comes alive on the streets

By this time, you’ve realised that in this place it is important to get out of the galleries, clubs and auditoriums and hit the streets, where you can easily get into the cultural dynamic that fuels events like the Virada. On sundays, Avenida Paulista is partially closed to car traffic and the sidewalks are filled with art and antique markets. It is also on these days that the “Minhocão” (the local popular name for the Presidente Costa e Silva overpass) becomes a pedestrian street and a stage for artistic interventions (the place is decorated with murals from local artists and you may find yourself watching an open air theatre performance).
To feel the energy of the paulista streets up close, you absolutely must visit Vila Madalena: this neighbourhood where popular entertainment rubs shoulders with cultural vanguard movements is overflowing with street artists, live music bars, shops and art galleries. It is a magnet for artists, night owls and the generally curious. When you get there, make sure you walk down “Beco do Batman” (“Batman’s Alley”) - in this long pedestrian street teeming with the city’s younger population, most houses and buildings are decorated with murals, paintings and graffitis of all kinds and you can feel the pulse of the city’s cultural melting pot.

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