A Breath of Fresh Air: The Best Open Spaces In São Paulo

If you’re someone who likes the outdoors but doesn’t know where to get some fresh air in this concrete jungle, look no further! Here are the best open spaces in São Paulo, from the popular to the lesser known:  


Parque do Povo

Located in Itaim Bibi next to Shopping JK, this park has large lawns perfect for a picnic or your morning exercise routine. Although not very big, it contains sports courts, gymnastics equipment, playgrounds, botanical routes, and drinking fountains. Parque do Povo also has a nice bike path around its perimeter which is shaded by trees and connects to the bike lanes outside the park, as well as an Itaú bike station right outside its entrance (something I’ve taken advantage of many times). This park is not crowded with trees, provides a nice view of the glass-paneled buildings around it, and the fact that it’s in a neighborhood with great restaurants is definitely a plus. It didn’t take long for me to become familiar with the park and consider it a favorite.


Hours: Open daily 6:00-22:00


Parque Ibirapuera

Not only is it the most popular park in South America, but Parque do Ibirapuera is also the biggest one in São Paulo, comprising of 158 hectares (390 acres) in Vila Mariana. Opened in 1954 for the fourth centennial of the city, this was the first metropolitan park in São Paulo and was created by the renowned Roberto Burle Marx, Oscar Niemeyer, and Otávio A. Teixeira Mendes. Because of its size, this park is filled with things to do and see; it is complete with fitness areas, bicycle paths, playgrounds, courts, a lake, a dog park, flower gardens, greenhouses, sculptures/monuments, small museums, a planetarium and more. Not to mention that its Biennial Pavilion hosts a variety of events like São Paulo Fashion week and Bienal das Artes. Personally, my most memorable trips to the park were to see the fireworks after the lighting of the Christmas tree on the lake. Even if you’ve been here before, Ibirapuera is a park that will always have something new to see each time you visit.


Hours: 5:00-00:00 Mon-Fri, open 24 hrs on weekends


Parque Burle Marx

Two of Graded’s Cancer Runs happened here, so you may be familiar with it. This park, named after the famous Brazilian landscape architect who designed it, is great for anyone living near the school, specifically in the Panamby area. Much of it is covered by a dense canopy of trees, blocking out the surrounding buildings and making you feel like you’re no longer in the city. It has vegetable gardens, ponds, hiking trails, food trucks on the weekends and private parking(!) However since the goal of the park is to provide a peaceful environment to appreciate nature, bikes, and pets are not allowed. Still, Parque Burle Marx is a great outing if you enjoy a forest-like atmosphere.


Hours: Open daily 7:00-19:00


Jardim Botânico de São Paulo

While not strictly a park, the botanical garden, situated near Jabaquara, is a tranquil place that exemplifies the fauna and flora of the state. It was opened in 1938 inside the Fontes do Ipiranga state park, and since then has strived to preserve the biodiversity of the Mata Atlântica biome. The garden is a great spot to take pictures; there you will see beautiful plants and flowers, and you may spot turtles, birds, monkeys, and large lizards. The garden contains the Botanical Museum, two large greenhouses, a historical gate and a set of steps. If you’ve ever wondered what São Paulo looked like before it was fully urbanized, this is the place to go.


Hours: Open Tue-Sun 9:00-17:00, open until 18:00 during DST

Ticket Prices: R$5 for students, R$10 general entry


Zu Lai temple

Although a bit farther away (around a 40-minute drive from Graded), this Buddhist temple in the municipality of Cotia is definitely worth the trip on a weekend. It’s the largest Buddhist temple in South America, and its palatial buildings are surrounded by equally picturesque gardens containing a carp lake, cherry trees, and many statues. I went with my family, and it was something new for all of us. When visiting, you can have a vegetarian lunch at the cafeteria and take part in meditation along with official ceremonies. Regardless of religious beliefs, this place is good for anyone who wishes to relax in an atmosphere of spirituality and positive energy or simply take photos of the striking architecture.


Hours: Tue-Fri 12:00-17:00, weekends and holidays 9:30-17:00