Jun 19, 2010

São Luis do Maranhão, capital of hand painted tiles.

by Antonella Kann

São Luis, in the far northeast, has less than one million inhabitants and is the only city in Brazil which was founded by the French in 1612. A couple of decades later the Dutch invaded it. But, as far as construction is concerned, the capital of Maranhão was completely built by the Portuguese.

Located on a island, the only place really worth visiting is its old town, where you can stroll for hours among more than 5 thousand colonial sites which date from the 17th and 19th centuries.

Bear in mind that São Luis has the largest collection in the whole of Latin America of ancient hand painted Portuguese tiles , spread along the colonial façades in the old quarter.

You are unlikely to be bored because the narrow streets are lively, people are friendly and there is lots of tourist shops with attractive and colorful artifacts. And on the sidewalks you´ll find stalls selling fruits, coconut water, and local food, like fried fish. A tip: don´t miss the market.

Luckily, it´s quite safe to walk with your camera and just act like a tourist...But just beware late at night and off-bounderies of the old town. Though São Luis is not a foodie destination, try the shrimp pie, a regional specialty.

The city is also framed by beautiful beaches, like Calhau, Olho d´Àgua and Ponta d `Areia. And the temperature is warm year –round. If you have time, book a tour on a catamaran to visit the former capital, Alcantara. It´s a mere half-day trip and you´ll enjoy the sites as well as the sailing.

After a rain shower, the lights are fantastic.

A sundowner to watch the sunset is worthwhile. But the best restaurants will be in the new parts of town.

the sunset in São Luis. No comment.

But try to plan your visit on your way to Lençois Maranhenses, one of the main attractions of the state of Maranhão. But I will write about this magical desert on a later stage.

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