Parque da Aclimação
A huge lake forms the centrepiece of this park, just south of Liberdade. Open since 1939, it's surrounded on all sides by residential buildings. The playground and the tree-lined track that circles the lake draw families and locals out for a Sunday stroll, plus joggers and walkers. Round off a visit to the park with sushi or a bowl of noodles in one of Liberdade's nearby eateries. Rua Muniz de Souza 1119, Liberdade.
Parque Burle Marx
Concrete sculptures, fountains, imported imperial palms, and a two-tone checkered lawn characterise the beautiful gardens of this abandoned mansion. Designed by the world-renowned landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, the park's trails lead away from the garden into denser Atlantic forest, making it a great spot for joggers and a place to contemplate nature rather than hang out – bikes, balls and dogs are not allowed. Avenida Dona Helena Pereira de Morais 200, Panamby.
Parque da Cantareira
A huge expanse of defiant green, rising up like a barrier to the urban sprawl on the city's north side, the Serra da Cantareira is one of the biggest urban forests in the world, with 8,000 hectares of virgin Atlantic forest.
Set aside a full day to really explore the park, where you can swim in lakes and waterfalls, or hike one of the many trails that lead through the shaded forest teeming with birds, monkeys, giant ferns and an extraordinary variety of native trees. Rua do Horto 1799, Mandaqui, Zona Norte.
Parque do Carmo
Named after a Carmelite order, this park is a former farm and one of the biggest parks in town. Don’t miss the planetarium – or for something wilder, there’s a cycle track that’s best tackled on mountain bikes. Avenida Afonso de Sampaio e Souza 951, Itaquera.
Parque do Ibirapuera
An immense city deserves an immense park, and Parque do Ibirapuera is an oasis of calm in an ocean of chaos. No matter where you are within its two square km, you’re enveloped in a verdant haze, punctuated by the songs of 120 bird species, the laughter of playing children, and the rolling pop of skateboard wheels on concrete.
The heart-shaped park offers food for body and mind, with six strikingly designed museums and exhibition spaces set amongst the palms and ombú trees, including the glass-walled Museu de Arte Moderna, the Museu Afro Brasil, and the Auditório Ibirapuera, its immense scarlet awning licking up at the sky. Bordered by Rua Pedro Álvares Cabral, Avenida República do Líbano and Avenida Quarto Centenário.
Parque da Independência
‘Independence or death!’ cried the Portuguese prince Dom Pedro IV, who became Brazilian emperor Dom Pedro I, breaking free from Portuguese rule on this very spot in 1822. To commemorate the occasion, the ornate Museu do Ipiranga was built in 1890. Its gardens were completed in 1975, and feature topiaries of azalea and boxwood, shaded by royal palms and cypresses. Avenida Nazaré, Ipiranga.
Dense and lush and deliciously shady, no matter how often you wind your way along Parque Trianon's paths, it’s the same surprise to find this scrap of Atlantic forest set here, in the midst of Avenida Paulista’s business-like hurly burly.
Just the right side of too small, the park – officially known as Parque Tenente Siqueira Campos – spills down over Alameda Santos to nicely double its size. The curved footbridge that carries you over is mirrored deep underground by the Nove de Julho tunnel, which drives straight through the ridge topped by Avenida Paulista, passes under part of Trianon and then speeds on downtown. Rua Peixoto Gomide 949, Jardim Paulista.
A relative newcomer to the city, Parque Villa-Lobos has been in existence for just 17 years, so that although its oldest trees are fully grown, swathes of unshaded grass still dominate the vista. Still, it's beloved by paulistanos, who come or the bike and jogging tracks, the football pitches, ball courts and gymnastic equipment. Take it all in on wheels by renting a bike, roller skates or even a skateboard. Avenida Professor Fonseca Rodrigues 1655, Alto de Pinheiros.