Shaded from the intense tropical sunshine in leafy Parque da Luz—incidentally, Park of Light—the Pinacoteca do Estado is just as much a work of art as the works housed within. Opened in 1897 by prolific Brazilian architect Ramos de Azevedo as São Paulo’s first art school, Liceu de Artes e Ofícios, the handsome neoclassical museum underwent a major overhaul in 1997, when the painted stucco exterior was stripped off to expose the gorgeous brick underneath. Inside, classic and contemporary paintings, sculptures, and photographs by Brazilian masters such as Ana Maria Pacheco and Di Cavalcanti adorn the colonnaded passageways of the museum, and admission to the Pinacoteca itself includes entry to the nearby annex Estação Pinacoteca, featuring temporary exhibitions in a political prison operated during Brazil’s military dictatorship, from 1964 to 1985.
Surrounding the Pinacoteca, Parque da Luz offers visitors cool respite from the madness of the city. Across the street from the historic and brightly painted Estação da Luz train depot, the park opened in 1900, featuring European-style fountains and sculptures. The trees in the park, a combination of local Brazilian species and warm-weather varieties from North and Central America, are home to at least 67 native species of birds, including toucans and mockingbirds.