5 Culture Places In São Paulo That You Can Visit For Free Or Paying Very Little

São Paulo is known for being the economic heartland of Brazil. But the city’s not limited to suit-and-tied businessmen always in a hurry, as it has so much more to offer, such as a variety of cultural spaces, which can go from religious art museums to open air concerts.

Here, I’m going to list some places that you can visit paying very little, or even for free, and that are worth the visit if you want to break your routine for a while and breath at least a small part of the fascinating culture São Paulo invites us to experience.

1. Centro de Memória do Circo

Largo do Paissandu, a place that during the late 19th century and early 1930’s was the stage for some of the most important circus companies in the country, today hosts the Centro de Memória do Circo, the first and only place in Latin America totally dedicated to the preservation of the circus culture.

The museum, which was inaugurated in 2009, presents us to the traditional circus families that disseminated this art in Brazil and their main performers, along with some of the props they used during the presentations, like costumes, puppets and swords.

There, you can also find a long timeline that shows all the important events for circus in Brazil and around the world, inside the social and political context of the time, and a model of different aspects that involve the circus world, from the transport, through the architecture of the tents, to the different styles of performance.

Image Source: Website

Besides the exhibition, the Centro de Memória do Circo promotes many cultural events to conserve the memory of this beautiful art, with guided visitations, shows and workshops.

Tip: If you’re going there by subway, get off at República and go take a look at Museu da Diversidade Sexual, which is inside the station, behind the ticket office. The museum exhibits itinerary expositions about LGBT+ culture, giving visibility to this theme in the art world. It’s a pretty quick visit, and for free!

Centro de Memória do Circo

  • São João Avenue, 473 (Centro Cultural Olido)
  • Monday-Friday, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, Sunday and holidays, from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Closed on Tuesdays
  • Free admission

2. Museu de Arte Sacra

If you’re more into some erudite art, you can visit Museu de Arte Sacra. The museum is composed of a vast collection of religious pieces, especially related to Catholicism. The exposition is filled with beautifully detailed and extremely well-conserved artwork, such as paintings, sculptures and  objects used in sacred ceremonies, many of them dated from the 16th century. There is also the Presépio Napolitano, a stunning work with 1600 pieces that simulates a village from the 1700s, but it’s only open during a specific time frame.

The architecture of the museum is also something that makes the visit worth it, since it’s placed in a building from the 18th century with a charming central patio, only adding to the atmosphere and taking us even deeper in this experience. Moreover, the Museu de Arte Sacra has a space inside the Tiradentes subway station, with temporary exhibitions, which are not necessarily related to religious art.

This is a place that doesn’t have the recognition it deserves, but you should definitely visit it, no matter your religion or beliefs.

Image Source: Personal file

Museu de Arte Sacra

  • Tiradentes Avenue, 676
  • Tuesday-Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Presépio Napolitano: from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. | from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Closed on Mondays
  • Admission fee:
    • R$ 6,00
    • R$ 3,00 half entrance
  • Free admission on Saturdays

3. Museu da Casa Brasileira

Museu da Casa Brasileira is in a mansion that used to be the residence of São Paulo’s former mayor Fábio Prado and the first lady Renata Crespi. History is always taught us through the big events that happened in Brazil and the world, but never through people’s everyday life. The museum is dedicated to design and architecture and preserves our memory by showing us objects that were part of the daily life of Brazilian population when it comes to housing.

Besides having temporary expositions, there are also two long-lasting exhibits: A Casa e a Cidade – Coleção Crespi Prado and  Remanescentes da Mata Atlântica & Acervo MCB. The first tells the story of the house in the time it was home for Fábio Prado and Renata Crespi and the transformations that occurred in the region during the period, as well as pieces from the couple’s personal collection, revealing their customs. The second displays the infiltration of the urban space over the Mata Atlântica and some furniture pieces made with native wood from this forest.

Image source: Instagram/@mcb_org

In addition, there is a huge garden in the back of the museum and a space for shows, receiving concerts every Sunday at 11 a.m., from March to December.

Tip: If you go there by car, don’t park there. The admission may be cheap, but the parking lot isn’t.

Museu da Casa Brasileira

  • Brigadeiro Faria Lima Avenue, 2705
  • Tuesday-Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Closed on Mondays
  • Admission fee:
    • R$ 10,00
    • R$ 5,00 half entrance
  • Free admission on weekends and holidays

4. Museu dos Transportes Públicos

Even though the museum is pretty simple when it comes to infrastructure, it takes us on a time travel and we get to know part of the city’s History through a perspective that isn’t analyzed very often: public transports. There, we can follow the development of São Paulo during the 20th century, in a context of prosperity of the coffee economy and the establishment of industries in the city.

Image source: Personal file

The museum shows original vehicles that used to be around São Paulo, such as trolleys and even the London-inspired double-decker bus that Jânio Quadros tried to implement in the 80s, when he was mayor, as well as other objects related to the daily life of the city, like typewriters, money from different periods and clocks. There, we can also find a photo gallery with pictures that reveal the dynamics of São Paulo and the relation between people and urban mobility.

This is a nice place to visit with the family. While the kids will be presented to a new world that they weren’t able to experience, the adults will be filled with nostalgia and remember the old times.

Museu dos Transportes Públicos

  • Cruzeiro do Sul Avenue, 780
  • Tuesday-Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Closed on Mondays
  • Free admission

5. Paulista Avenue (especially on Sundays)

This is a 6 in 1 visit. Paulista Avenue is the most iconic avenue of São Paulo, so it couldn’t be out of this list. If you go there on Sundays, the area is closed for cars, and you can walk freely around Paulista, where you can find many artistic manifestations of every genre. The avenue itself is already a huge festival of joy and diversity, but there are also lots of cultural places throughout the whole pathway that are worth the visit.

The circuit starts at Japan House, an initiative that was conceived by the Japanese government with the intention of spreading its country’s culture, from their ancient civilization to their contemporary art. Next, you can visit Casa das Rosas, a beautiful house from the beginning of the 20th century, which focuses on exhibitions and activities related to literature and poetry. A few steps ahead, there is Sesc and Itaú Cultural. Both places promote a wide array of cultural events, such as concerts, workshops, debate circles and expositions for all ages.

Itaú Cultural | Image Source: PhotoPin​​

If you walk to Trianon, you’ll find a building in a pyramidal shape. That’s Centro Cultural Fiesp, a cultural complex that consists of a theater, art and photography galleries and an exhibition space, and you can visit all these sections for free. By Consolação, at the finish line of this cultural circuit, there is Instituto Moreira Salles, a location mostly dedicated to photography, with exposition rooms and a photo library.

Japan House

  • Paulista Avenue, 52
  • Tuesday-Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Sundays and holidays, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Closed on Mondays
  • Free admission

Casa das Rosas

  • Paulista Avenue, 37
  • Tuesday-Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Sundays and holidays, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Closed on Mondays
  • Free admission

Sesc

  • Paulista Avenue, 119
  • Tuesday-Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Domingos e feriados, 10h às 19h
  • Closed on Mondays
  • Free admission, but some shows are paid. Check their website for more information

Itaú Cultural

  • Paulista Avenue, 149
  • Tuesday-Friday, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Weekend and holidays, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Closed on Mondays
  • Free admission

Centro Cultural Fiesp

  • Paulista Avenue, 1313
  • Tuesday-Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Closed on Mondays
  • Free admission

Instituto Moreira Salles

  • Paulista Avenua, 2424
  • Tuesday-Sunday and holidays, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Closed on Mondays
  • Free admission
Tagged: