Brazil off the Beaten Path: Historic Sao Luis Center

Growing up in Brazil, I spent many summers at my grandparent's house in the northeastern city of Sao Luis, Maranhao. I always looked forward to all the family fun, endless beach days, and delicious food. But going back to visit as a grown up, I added one more to the list of Sao Luis favorites, which I didn't quite appreciate as a kid: the city's historic center, which just so happens to be a UNESCO world heritage site. #nbd

The streets of downtown Sao Luis are dripping with history, which I love! The city was founded by the French in 1612, then occupied by the Dutch before finally coming under Portuguese rule until the country's independence. The Portuguese were the ones who gave Sao Luis its trademark colonial architecture, which include the iconic "azulejo" tiles - they were used both as insulation against the scorching heat and decoration. There are more than three thousand lofts and manors throughout the historical heritage site, making it one of the largest in Brazil. Although a large number of them have been restored and revitelized, much of if still needs attention.

We walked around for few hours on a Sunday afternoon, people-watching and browsing adorable handmade craft stores and markets filled with super exotic food, spices, natural remediesand liquor. The whole time there was music coming from either a capoeira workshop, an impromptu samba jam, or a concert Jazz band we walked by. Sao Luis is such a vibrant town, with so much personality! Many of its sounds, flavors, and craftwork can't be found anywhere else in Brazil, which makes it a special little island (nicknamed The Love Island). There are plenty of festivals throughout the year, and I highly recommend visiting!

I told them to forget I had a camera and act natural.


1) Wear comfy shoes, since most of the streets are cobblestoned;
2) The weather is ALWAYS hot and humid, so wear appropriate clothes and drink plenty of water. Or better yet, coconut water.
3) Go in groups and/or with people who know their way around. Though it is a generally safe area, there can still be questionable characters lurking around. 
4) Dog lovers, be emotionally prepared for all the stray dogs around. I wanted to bring them all home.

Have you ever visited a UNESCO world heritage site?

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About the Writer

I'm Louise, a Tampa Bay based Brazilian-American travel blogger. Join us as we learn and share the ins-and-outs of traveling with a toddler and our sweet rescue pup Oreo, while promoting local nonprofits and wellness along the way.