Sprawling along the Tietê River in central São Paulo, Bom Retiro is a busy commercial and industrial hub. It flourished as one of São Paulo’s richest neighbourhoods during Brazil’s coffee boom years, with a scattering of historical landmarks and a vibrant Koreatown.
The historic Luz Railway Station lies in the south-east corner of Bom Retiro, built in the late 19th century as the headquarters of the São Paulo Railway. The building was designed by English architect Henry Driver and assembled in Glasgow, before being shipped to São Paulo and reassembled with its distinctive clock tower. It was here that coffee was shipped to the Santos Port and imported goods arrived in the city, and today it houses the interactive Museum of the Portuguese Language which delves into its influence across not only Brazil but also Portugal’s African colonies. The station lies on the edge of Jardim da Luz, one of the oldest green spaces in São Paulo and home to the city’s oldest museum, the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo art museum which is housed in an early 20th century mansion. The Sacred Art Museum of São Paulo is also found in the district, renowned for its Brazilian Baroque Art collection and giant Nativity scene, together with the Tom Jobim Escola de Música, dedicated to this renowned Brazilian composer and musician. Bom Retiro has officially been recognised as a Korean cultural neighbourhood, with many of the retail shops, bargain fashion outlets and eateries along Rua José Paulino and Rua 25 de Março occupied by Koreans. The district now has the second largest Asian community in the city, as well as being home to many Bolivian immigrants.
Luz Station is still a major transport hub in the area with its own subway station, while the Tiradentes metro station provides easy access to Bom Retiro along its eastern edge. Public buses access all corners of the district and guided city tours are a safe and convenient way to explore its historic landmarks.
The area that is now Bom Retiro served as the entrance point for many immigrants arriving from Santos Port to Luz Station, ready to continue their journey to the coffee plantations of Minas Gerais. The industrial factories established here gradually gave way to small retail shops in the 1960s, many of which were originally owned by European Jews, Levantine Arabs and Italians.