Beyond Praia Grande ’s frontiers lie a couple of other interesting museums. Occupying a gracious early-19th-century mansion, the Museu Artístico e Histórico do Maranhão (Rua do Sol 302, Centro, tel. 098/3218-9920, 9 a.m.–7 p.m. Tues.–Fri., 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Sat.–Sun., R$1) conjures up the lifestyles of the rich and powerful in São Luís ’s economic heyday. Furnished as if people were still living in them, rooms are replete with lots of dark, gleaming wooden furniture, crystal chandeliers, and delicate English and French porcelain, most of which was donated by descendants of the former proprietors.
Just around the corner, another grand mansion houses the Museu de Arte Sacra (Rua 13 de Maio 500, Centro, tel. 98/3218-4537, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Tues.–Fri., 2–6 p.m. Sat.–Sun., free), which possesses an excellent collection of 17th- to 19th-century religious art rescued from churches throughout Maranhão .
On the same street as the Museu Artístico e Histórico, you can’t help but notice the coral-colored neoclassical facade of the Teatro Arthur Azevedo (Rua do Sol 180, Centro, tel. 98/3218-9900, Visits at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Tues.–Fri., R$3). Built in the early 19th century with money from local cotton barons, the second biggest theater in Brazil  is a grand imitation of European theaters of the time. Recently restored and reopened, it’s worthwhile taking a guided tour to observe the opulence of its interior.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, São Luís had many public fountains that supplied water to the populace. Two that are still in existence are the Fonte das Pedras (Rua São João) and Fonte do Ribeirão (Largo do Ribeiro). The latter is truly splendid, with water pouring out of bronze spigots that are set into the mouths of a quintet of fierce-looking heads. The heads are set into a bright blue wall, behind which a series of subterranean tunnels lead to underwater wells. According to local legend, these tunnels are inhabited by a giant serpent that, one day, will rise up with its tail and smash the city, causing it to sink to the bottom of the sea.