The bustling Brazilian city of Sao Paulo is famous for its urban sprawl. The ultimate “concrete jungle,” this city of grey concrete and skyscrapers is hardly know for its ecological appeal. Such a stereotype, however popular, is a misconception. Despite Sao Paulo’s reputation as a bleak, colorless city, the city has far more green than grey to offer. After all, the Atlantic rainforest still carpets much of the city, and in recent years, municipal efforts to maximize Sao Paulo’s green spaces have resulted in a transformation from “concrete jungle” to real-life rainforest. Many of Sao Paulo’s most beautiful natural landscapes have come under government protection, and are now designated public parks. These range widely, from the manicured Parque do Ibirapuera, ideal for romantic strollers and families, to the untrammeled wilderness of Parque Estadual da Cantareira: a virtual rainforest located a short drive from the city center. While the options here are so numerous as to feel overwhelming, we here at Never Fly Coach Again have identified the best Sao Paulo parks for a leisurely stroll or a more involved hike.
First inaugurated in 1954, just in time for the 400th anniversary of Sao Paulo’s founding, Ibirapuera park is the 2nd biggest park in the city, covering almost two full square kilometers. A social as well as geographic hub, Ibirapuera Park is popular with walkers, joggers, and families alike. Its green spaces are well-manicured and attractive, but no less compelling are its various buildings: here, you can find the picturesque Grande Marquise, home of Sao Paulo’s Modern Art Museum, as well as the Civilio Matarazzo Pavilion, home not only to the Museum of Contemporary Art, but aso tho the Sao Paulo university and a number of other exposition and event spaces. Other museums located in the park include the local Planetarium and the former city hall, Manoel da Nobrega Pavillion, now home of the Afro Brazil Museum. Visit one or all of these, or spend the day sunbathing on the wide swaths of grass by the tranquil city lake.
Estadual da Cantareira Park
If you’re looking to get far from the madding crowd, head into the virgin expanses of Estadual da Cantareira Park, where a few meters from the park gate, you find yourself in the depths of the rainforest itself. Indeed, the Serra de Cantareira, located within the park grounds, is one of the world’s largest virgin forests: a perfect location for you to hike up the park’s steep hills in search of its overwhelming, panoramic views of city and country alike, or to swim in one of the park’s many lakes. Keep an eye out: wildlife are in abundance here, from brightly-colored birds to playful monkeys. Hire a guide to explain the flora and fauna – or head on your own into the great unknown.
Estadual do Jaragua Park
One of the biggest parks in Sao Paulo, this vast expanse of land encompasses a full five million square metres. Most famous here is the Pico do Jaragua, the highest peak in the city at a staggering 1,135 meters. The best way to get to the heights is, of course, to hike: the walk up to the mountaintop passes astounding rainforest scenery as well as the ruins of a historic fortress once used by explorers in their search for gold. More leisurely travelers, however, may wish to take a car up to the fortress heights.
Parque Burle Marx
Designed by Roberto Burle Marx, one of the world’s most celebrated landscape artists, this park blends natural and man-made beauty. From the dazzling concrete sculptures to the checkered lawn in two shades of green to the majestic palm trees, the grounds of the park’s abandoned mansion – a nineteenth-century estate that was once the home of entrepreneur Francisco Matarazzo Pignatari – is a study in faded grandeur. It’s a perfect place for tranquility: livelier distractions like pets, bicycles, and balls are banned.
A compact gem in this otherwise overwhelmingly large city, the Park Trianon is a perfect place to get away from the summer heat: this park is charcaterized by intense shade and dense vegetation, making it a virtual jungle in the heart of the city itself. Located just near the city’s main art museum, the Trianon Park is a perfect temporary relief from the city’s hurly-burly: ideal for a picnic or a twenty-minute doze.