Top São Paulo Cultural Centres

17 August 2013

The 20 million residents of Brazil's largest city, São Paulo, which is also colloquially known as Sampa, value their sport, the arts and a fantastic social life - and there are plenty of sporting venues, museums, galleries, cinemas and theatres throughout the metropolis to prove it. To make it easier to experience world-class performing arts, great literary works, exhibitions, film festivals and social sports in one place, São Paulo has several cultural centres, which serve as creative and social hubs for artists, locals and tourists.

 São Paulo

Centro Cultural São Paulo
Since 1982 Centro Cultural Sao Paulo has been considered the city's main cultural space, comprising the municipal Art Gallery, the nightclub Oneyda Alvarenga, libraries, exhibition spaces, studios, theatres and cinemas. An industrial-looking space located on the hill beside the Avenida 23 de Maio thoroughfare, the cultural centre boasts a unique spiral staircase leading to a rooftop garden, offering spectacular views of the city skyline.

SESC Vila Mariana
São Paulo boasts sixteen not-for-profit, funded cultural centres known as SESCs. The SESC Vila Mariana is a popular sporting, performance and exhibition centre, offering a full program of local and touring events. Events are reasonably priced and some are free. Easily accessible to children and anyone with a disability, with its peaceful garden, and some of the best sporting facilities and entertainment spaces in the city, SESC Vila Mariana will keep you busy and happy for hours.

Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil
A landmark building, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil was once the Bank of Brazil and since it was built in 1901 and carefully restored in 1927, it has retained its austere atmosphere and beauty. In the middle of the old city centre, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil is a hive of activity and has on site a café and regular art exhibitions, a theatrical season and educational programs. The top floor features a fascinating permanent exhibition on the Bank of Brasil.

Teatro do SESI
Teatro do SESI, a non-funded nonprofit initiative, is where you'll find the best value for money in terms of its wide variety of entertainment under one roof. Brazilian industry keeps this cultural centre going, and its main function is to promote the social welfare of the masses. Located on Avenida Paulista, Teatro do SESI offers theatre, music and dance, and a diverse cinema program. Visit Teatro do SESI on a weekend, when children can enjoy the kids' activities and jazz aficionados can look at their leisure, at the Brazilian jazz archives on the sixth floor.

Galeria Olido
Galeria Olido features a space devoted to Brazil's rich circus performance history, and a beautiful cinema, Cine Olido, which offers an eclectic season of films. As such, this cultural centre attracts a diverse crowd, welcoming patrons to film festivals throughout the year and hosting special events and exhibitions in celebration of local and international artists.

Xanthe Coward

Xanthe's favourite travel destinations are the Greek Islands, Indonesia, Fiji and Vanuatu. With a background in performing arts, fine food, wine and good times, Xanthe enjoys travel that brings her close to the locals and their leisure activities. Being a theatre reviewer means that Xanthe will always do dinner and a show before checking out the late night city scene and still be up early to find the markets and a decent pot of chai.