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. With so much on offer within the various sections of the park, it’s hard to decide exactly what you want to do there – jog along one of the two running trails coursing through the trees, rent a bike and ride along the cycle path, take in a free yoga or capoeira session, or just grab a coconut water, sit and enjoy a view of the multitudes, enjoying their own park experience.
Situated in the centre of the city and opened in 1951 as a joint masterpiece of prolific landscaper Roberto Burle Marx and architect extraordinaire Oscar Niemeyer, the heart-shaped park offers food for body and mind, with six strikingly designed museums and exhibition spaces situated amongst the palms and ombú trees, including the glass-walled Museu de Arte Moderna, the brilliant Museu Afro Brasil, and the domed Oca exhibition hall. One of Niemeyer’s most recently finished creations, the Auditório Ibirapuera – fifty years in the making, with a stage wall that opens to offer park-goers glimpses of the show happening inside, and an immense scarlet awning licking up at the sky – opened in 2005, while the Pavilhão Japonês (Japanese Pavilion), a replica of Kyoto’s Katsura Imperial Villa, debuted in 1954. São Paulo Fashion Week happens here, as does the Bienal art explosion, and the city’s annual Christmas tree is lit here.
Hang out in Ibirapuera long enough, and you’ll see the diversity of the entire city pass by: Japanese-Brazilian mothers ambling around with their newborns in baby carriages, elderly couples born in Italy walking hand-in-hand under a shady canopy, spiked-haired teens terrorising the covered sidewalk on skateboards, and gay couples sunning themselves shirtless on the grass – the world in one park.