São Luís - MA

Basic information

  • Population: 1.037.775 of people
  • GDP per capita: R$ 29.823,95
  • Human Development Index (IDHM): 0.768
  • Source: IBGE

São Luís is a Brazilian municipality and the capital of Maranhão, located in the Northeast Region. Those born in Maranhão are Maranhense. Those born in São Luís are São-luisense. The city stands out economically for its port and industries. But it is tourism that reveals its cultural wealth. With its preserved historic center, festivals and unique gastronomy, the city attracts visitors, boosting the local economy and promoting artistic diversity. São Luís will host the G20 meetings in Brazil in 2024.

The Mercado das Tulhas, also known as Casa das Tulhas, Feira da Praia Grande or Mercado da Praia Grande, specializes in products from Maranhão and is located in the Historic Centre of São Luís. (Photo: Douglas Junior/MTur)


São Luís do Maranhão has a territorial area of 583.063 km2. The capital of Maranhão is the cradle of a rich history and the scene of a vibrant culture. The city blends tradition and modernity. Founded in 1612 by the French, it developed as an important strategic point during Portuguese colonization, preserving the architecture and traditions that make it unique.

The historic center of the capital has been classified as a World Heritage Site since 1997 and offers visitors an open-air museum experience. The architecture tells the story of the city's history and culture. The beaches, with warm waters all year round and more than 30 kilometers long, are ideal for swimming and have an excellent infrastructure of bars and restaurants. For the adventurous, there are options such as kitesurfing, kayaking, stand up paddle and surfing, as well as boat trips along the local rivers and mangroves.

Cultural festivals such as Carnival and São João transform the city into a spectacle of color, music and dance. Growing tourism has boosted investment in infrastructure. Boutique hotels, sophisticated restaurants and craft stores enrich the visitor experience. Maranhão's hospitality, known for its warm welcome, helps the capital's welcoming reputation.

São Luís breathes culture around every corner. Bumba Meu Boi, a folkloric event that celebrates the fertility of cattle, is a unique expression that attracts tourists during the famous São João festival. Cultural manifestations such as tambor de crioula and reggae are also part of local traditions, enchanting visitors and inviting them to explore even more of the island's cultural wealth.

The Porto de Itaqui (Port of Itaqui), one of the largest and busiest in Brazil, highlights São Luís as a strategic center for trade and logistics. The city is a vital connection point for exporting products, especially minerals and grains. This boosts the local and national economy.

More than just a city, São Luís do Maranhão is a link between past and present, between tradition and modernity. Its economic importance, cultural wealth, development and tourist appeal make it an enchanting capital.

Main tourist attractions

• Historic center of São Luís

• Palácio dos Leões (Palace of the Lions)

• Mercado Central de São Luís (São Luís Central Market)

• Teatro Arthur Azevedo (Arthur Azevedo Theater)

• São Marcos Beach

• Calhau Beach

• Museu Histórico e Artístico do Maranhão (Historical and Artistic Museum of Maranhão)

• Feira da Praia Grande (Praia Grande Fair)

• Metropolitan Cathedral of São Luís



Start your day with a tour that tells the story of important personalities in Maranhão, such as Maria Firmina dos Reis, Catarina Mina and Tibira. The Maria Firmina dos Reis Ancestral Path offers an afro-referenced itinerary and essentially deals with the stories and memories of black people, building partnership networks with afro-entrepreneurs in São Luís.

Another suggestion is the Quilombo Cultural Urbano tour, which runs along Rua Gregório de Matos, past the Mercado Municipal da Liberdade (Liberty Municipal Market), the headquarters of Bloco Netos de Nanã and culminates at reggae producer Novo Quilombo.


The gastronomy of São Luís captivates lovers of good cuisine with a tasty and diverse menu, highlighting seafood in dishes such as peixada, torta de camarão, caldeirada, vatapá and arroz de cuxá.

Maranhão cuisine is a fusion of various cultural influences, such as indigenous, Portuguese and French. The French one presents techniques that should be explored from the preparation of the food to the final presentation of the dish.


Explore the Historic Center of São Luís, where you'll find colonial mansions, churches and museums that tell the story of the city and Maranhão.

The Palácio dos Leões, the seat of the state government, is a beautiful 17th century building that houses works of art and historic furniture. The guided tour allows you to learn about the history of the place and appreciate the architecture.

Built in the 17th century, São Luís Cathedral, also known as Igreja da Sé (Sé Church), is a landmark of the city's religious architecture, with a beautiful Baroque-style altar and stained glass windows depicting the life of São Luís, the city's patron saint.

Inaugurated in 1817, Arthur Azevedo Theater, one of the oldest in Brazil, offers a rich cultural program, including plays, concerts and dance shows.


Enjoy the sunset at Espigão Costeiro, one of the city's main tourist attractions. The espigão is an ideal place for families, children and couples to enjoy the evening with a walk and a bite to eat. The view is beautiful. In addition to the sea, you can see the city center in the background. NIGHT

Did you know that São Luís is the only city in the world, outside of Jamaica, to host a museum dedicated exclusively to reggae? Visit the Reggae Museum (@museudoreggae), opened in 2009, and see an impressive collection of the memory of this genre, from instruments to rare records and photographs of iconic artists. It is an unmissable destination for anyone visiting the capital of Maranhão and is open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 9am to 6pm. On Sundays, from 9am to 1pm.

After visiting the museum, how about enjoying Maranhão's reggae music? In and around the Historic Center, there are reggae houses with regular programs, such as those in Praça dos Catraieiros, in the Praia Grande district. In Madre Deus, located two kilometers from the Historic Center, there are also many reggae houses with parties on weekends.


If you have a little more time on your hands, why not visit the Lençóis Maranhenses? It's a region made up of dunes, mangroves, rivers and lagoons formed by rainwater. Combined, they give visitors a unique look.

Located in the northwest of Maranhão, 250 km from the capital São Luís, it covers an area of 155,000 hectares. Within this wonderful piece of land is the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, home to the region's most beautiful lagoons and famous dunes. From São Luís, you need to take ground transportation, which can be a car, an intercity bus or a chartered van to Barreirinhas or Santo Amaro do Maranhão. (


In Brazil, June is marked by festivals celebrating some of the country's main June saints, such as (Santo Antônio) St. Anthony, São Pedro (St. Peter), São João (St. John) and São Paulo(St. Paul). For those who want to experience a typical June festival, there is a program of festivities in the main cities of the Northeast that take place in the second half of the month. The event has characteristic decorations, delicious food and lively quadrilhas, a tradition of the June festivities.

You can also dance a lot of forró, a popular northeastern dance, and eat various dishes made from corn, such as pamonha and canjica.


São Luís - Marechal Cunha Machado International Airport is the gateway to the capital of Maranhão, which is among the main tourist destinations in the Northeast, including the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, the largest dune field in Brazil.


São Luís City Hall

Government of the State of Maranhão

G20 events in São Luís

Click here to see the full calendar