So, you have heard about Brazil being the largest country in South America, but what about the city? You have probably heard about the great Iguazu Falls in Brazil as well. But does the name Sao Paulo ring a bell? Sao Paulo, also known as Sampa, is one of the largest cities in Brazil, even the largest city that exists in South America. What is so special about this city anyway?
The city of Sao Paulo is enriched with rich heritage and cultures. A lot of visitors have said that the city has been influenced by the cultures of Spain, Portugal, Germany, Africa, Arabia, Italy, as well as Japan!. That is a lot of cultures in one city if you ask us! The fusion of all these cultures gave birth to mesmerizing artistic artifacts and cuisines that would tantalize your taste buds even if you are not a foodie.
It may be hard for you to understand how far this city spreads out its wings. To get a good look at it, a 46 story tall building called the Italia Building on Avenida Ipiranga will help you see this majestic city. So you already know now how huge the city is, this even makes it harder to choose what attraction to explore first and when. In that case, we are here to guide you. Here are 9 things to do in Sao Paulo upon your visit there.
Museu de Arte
If you looking for art, this is the place for you to be. Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, also locally known as MASP, was established in 1968 showcasing one of the most comprehensive, representative, classical, and modern pieces of western art in Latin America. You can find this museum on Paulista Avenue in the city of São Paulo, Brazil.
The art museum holds around 8000 works of art dating all the way back from the 1940s and 1950s placed on sheer iconic crystal easels. You will find artworks from great masters of art like Van Gogh, Renoir, Matisse, Debret, Miró, and Picasso. Keep a lookout for 73 pieces of incredible bronze sculptures by none other than the great Degas alone. Even though it caters to Renaissance artists, this art museum is the first in this continent that showcases artists from the mid-20th century and onwards. You will even find a contemporary artist from Brazil, like Portinari and Di Cavalcanti, hanging up in the art museum. The outstanding collection of these artifacts puts itself in the league with MoMA, Centre Pompidou, and Tate Modern.
Initially, the building was situated in the Rua 7 de Abril in the downtown district of Sao Paulo but later in 1968 shifted to its current location in Paulista Avenue. The building itself is as mesmerizing as the artwork inside of it. It is designed by Lina Bo Bardi, a Brazilian-Italian architect, who is a pro at classic Modernism. Lina Bo Bardi did justice to her skills by using glass and concrete to create rough textures. From the sound of it seems not-so-luxurious, however, it does show suspension, transparency, and lightness. Just by looking at the building, you would end up being curious about what’s inside. There is a plaza right under the building called ‘the free span’ which is used to serve as the public square. No art freak would want to miss this place!
Parque do Ibirapuera (Ibirapuera Park)
A recreational site that you can not have enough of. Ibirapuera Park is an urban landmark in the city of Sao Paulo. Spreading over 158 hectares of land, this park serves as the main tourist attraction in the city. In 1954, the Ibirapuera Park was open for the public during the 400th anniversary of Sao Paulo. Oscar Niemeyer, an architect who built many buildings in Brasilia, was the genius behind the creation of this park. Ibirapuera Park is ranked as one of the best urban parks in the world and has all the famous athletes training in the lanes, open gym equipment, and soccer courts.
Tourist considers this park as an “oasis” because it is relaxing and a great place to walk or ride a bike all day long. Weekends and sunny days however can end up being crowd-crazy, better watch out for that.
The park holds immense green spaces having museums, playgrounds, monuments, trails, gardens, lakes, and space for various performances within its premises. One of the astounding spots to admire is the Bandeiras Monument. This indeed is a magnificent work of art by Victor Brecheret, a Brazilian sculpturist. The monument is a memorial for the people who died in 1932 in the fight for a new constitution.
Museums and Music Hall
A music-hall constructed by Oscar, Auditório Ibirapuera, is another beauty that adds to this park. A museum, Museu da Aeronáutica e do Folclore or the Aeronautics and Folk Art Museum, has displays of flight equipment and aircraft models and around 20,000 exhibits of traditions and folk art from all over Brazil. Museu Afro-Brasil displays the celebration of the Afro-Brazil contributions by having their cultural and social history inside it.
The park carries around 500 different vegetation species that include Brazilian oaks, courbaril, and some endangered species of plants too.
Don’t forget to watch out for a lovely pond in the middle of the park. If you are traveling with a group or a family a nice picnic in the park would be lovely to start your day with. The entrance into this park is absolutely free, however, if you get to catch an event happening there, you have to get tickets for it.
Shopping in Sao Paulo
While you’re having the time of your life enjoying the multiple tourist attractions of Sao Paulo, it is incumbent upon you to visit the city’s various shopping attractions ranging from the high-end luxury brands to the local and unique markets filled with trendy and traditional items. Whether you’re in search of some expensive branded fashion outlets or jewelry, there is a shopping district which will cater to all your need in the city.
Rua Oscar Freire
If you’re looking for the best of the best, then Sao Paulo has one of the most expensive high-end brands you can think of. If you explore the Jardins suburb area, you will find many top-of-the-line brands that are not available in other Brazilian cities. Their product quality speaks for itself! Rua Oscar Freire is one such example. It is famed for being one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world. Many of the country’s high-end brands are crawling on this street along with some of the exceptional cafes present in between them. This is a must place to visit during your stay in Sao Paulo as walking along this fashion street is definitely worth it!
Praca Benedito Calixto
Those of you who are religious followers of a budget-friendly trip yet wish to buy something from Sao Paulo, this next place will intrigue you! You will be surprised by the fact that there are several markets available here to choose from. The handicraft market in the streets of Praca da Liberdade operates on Saturdays and Sundays. Praca Benedito Calixto is a famous place in Sao Paulo. You can find art shows and flea markets at this place. The atmosphere is informal so you don’t have to wear anything fancy, just blend in with the locals. The place is full of the young crowd hanging around and the atmosphere here is lively. If you wish to buy some traditional or hand-craft souvenirs then this is the place to go.
Protip: try and save a few bucks if you can bargain on the prices.
One of the most famous markets in Sao Paulo is the Mercado Municipal. It was constructed in the 1930s and is famous for being the city’s first market for grocery items. It has a distinct look as the building is adorned with multi-color stained-glass windows depicting the various aspects of food production within the region. This makes it stand out from other markets.
This market has the freshest produce ranging from fruits and vegetables to multiple varieties of spices, cheese, meat, seafood, and sweets. We highly recommend you to stroll through this market during your visit to Sao Paulo. The vendors even give away free food samples and the market generally has great prices. To gain a better experience, as a traveler, the best time to visit this market is on a weekday because weekends end up being noisy.
When in this city, leaving without shopping is just out of question, who doesn’t travel for shopping right?
Zoológico de Sao Paulo (Sao Paulo Zoo)
When in Brazil, missing out on visiting some of the vicious and tremendous creatures on planet Earth is a must-do activity for the day. Zoológico de Sao Paulo is the largest zoo in Brazil and is even recognized by the Guinness Book since 1994. The zoo stretches on a land of about 900,000 square meters in the Parque do Estado district of Sao Paulo, a massive native Atlantic rainforest reserve. Tourists consider this place as a lesser-known oasis of the jungle in Brazil and you can find it in the outskirts of the busy streets of Sao Paulo city.
What is so special about this zoo is that everything looks and feels all-natural. The landscape includes various lakes coming from the Ipiranga River and the lush evergreen rainforest. It’s like walking into an actual jungle! This zoo is a home for all the Brazilian animals and even helps play a part in preserving the endangered native species like neotropical cats, the lion monkey, and the Lear’s macaw. Just so you know, the Lear’s macaw is a parrot with markings of bright yellow and blue over it. Currently, there are over 3,200 animals residing in the zoo. This includes the following species:
- 200 species of birds
- 98 species of reptiles
- 100 species of mammals
- Various amphibians and invertebrates
The zoo has been burning the midnight oil to help keep the endangered animals alive. Heard of the white rhinoceros? That’s where you will find them, sadly they are on a brink of extinction as well. The Sao Paulo Zoo has made many major contributions to scientific researches especially on matters of saving Brazilian animals from extinction. It is also falling under the Category ‘E’, the highest rank given by the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA). It was allotted this category for its efforts towards its environmental management and preservation.
The Sao Paulo Zoo attracts approximately 90 million visitors every year, you can imagine the reason why is it so popular. Besides, it’s a fun learning experience for all ages. However, you need to dedicate at least half a day just to this zoo.
These are some of the animals you can find while you are at it:
- Lion tamarin
- Hyacinth macaw
- Small neotropical
- Lear’s macaws
- Bush dog
- European bison
- Spectacled bear
- Spectacled bear
- Snow leopard ( the only one left in Brazil)
Jardim Botanico (Botanical Gardens of Sao Paulo)
In a city that is full of concrete buildings and skyscrapers, gardens like the Botanical Gardens of Sao Paulo add more sophistication and soft imagery to the city. The Botanic gardens are made more like a larger state park that surrounds the city. The gardens bed on approximately 36 hectares of land and are home to about 380 species of Brazilian trees, all preserved and protected for animal habitats and research.
You can walk through the fresh forest trails and marvel over the floral displays as you enjoy the beauty of nature. The gardens also hold the very last examples of an Atlantic rainforest on Earth and also protects and preserves the environment of Brazil’s western coast. Go towards downtown southeast Sao Paulo via train or car to get there. The botanic gardens are open every day except for Mondays. However, you will have to pay a nominal fee to get in, but we assure you that you won’t regret it.
You can walk through the boardwalk of Alameda Fernando Costa which will give you a sheer view of Pirarungáua Creek. The creek itself is another beauty to applaud as it feeds into the Nymphs Lake surrounded by colorful flowers and sculptures.
The Garden of Senses, created in 2003, is another divine place to be. Upon entering this garden, you will experience a multisensory insight into all the fragrances and textures of nature. You can find various edible herbs that you can smell and taste.
Small mammals, colorful birds, pretty butterflies, and many other critters nest in gardens like these. If you are lucky enough, you may even spot a monkey playing silly or a sloth just laying lazy. Keep your cameras on standby if you don’t want to miss them.
What you might notice about Sao Paulo is that they like to have a lot of museums as they consider it as a great learning experience for all the locals. Just like others, a museum called Botanical Museum of João Barbosa Rodrigues is also on the premises of Botanic Gardens. Here, you can learn all about the gardens and different species of plants. What a colorful and fun learning sight!
When it comes to food, Sao Paulo has endless varieties of cuisines you can think of. There are more pizzerias in Sao Paulo than any city in Italy! You will find 50 different national and local cuisines and more than 12,000 restaurants alone in this city making sure taste buds of every kind are being catered to. Although the Brazilian staple food is beans and rice, all the immigrants in the area have contributed their share of recipes from all over the globe. You can find the finest of Japanese restaurants, Middle Eastern cuisines and multiple Italian eatables, and much more.
Chefs are becoming quite creative with their traditional Brazilian dishes and trying to adapt the European and Asian cuisines in order to appeal to the locals and tourists. Whether you are looking to try out some of the world-class restaurants or simply craving to try out local food hawkers, Sao Paulo will not disappoint you!
As far as fine dining is concerned, it is ever increasing within the city with high-end restaurants and eateries popping up all the time. The famous chef, Alex Atala has brought a creative twist to the local Brazilian cuisine by combing traditional foods with various untried cooking techniques to excite your taste buds. Atala combines various Amazonian herbs and nuts in his dishes to create unique flavors of food in his well-known restaurant name D.O.M.
So if you happen to crave a mixture of everything, this is your go-to restaurant.
When it comes to Japanese culinary skills, chef Tsuyoshi Murakami is an expert in the Kappo cuisine following a 30-year old tradition. The Kappo philosophy combines the freshest high-quality ingredients and makes its focus on giving it a polished and exceptional presentation. You can experience 7 and 9-course meals that offer various combinations of culinary creations.
If you don’t wish to spend a huge amount of money and still want to experience fine dining then there are other options for you. Bistro Charlo is another fusion cuisine that combines Brazilian local food with a touch of French Cuisine. You can enjoy a 3-course meal without breaking the bank.
Oba is another restaurant that serves multiple cuisines without costing an arm and a leg with its prices. Apart from the local food, it specializes in international cuisines like Thai, Italian, and Mexican. Whether you crave penne pasta, a spicy salad, or a Brazilian seafood stew, Chef Hugo Delgado’s restaurant will surely satisfy your taste buds!
If local street foods along with a budget trip are your thing, you might want to check out Boardwalk Urbanoide. This is an open-air food truck with international and Brazilian specialties. Another great option is to visit the Bella Paulista Bakery/Restaurant. It’s a local spot where you can find traditional Brazilian snacks, burgers, and desserts along with a cup of coffee that is spot on.
Just when things couldn’t get crazier! What better way to enjoy your visit to Sao Paulo than enjoying it in a theme park? Whether you are coming with your family or friends, there are quite a few water and theme parks for you to enjoy your stay.
Gravidade Park is one of those places where everybody especially the children are going to have a wonderful time. It is an indoor trampoline park where kids and even adults can get entertained by literally jumping for hours! The trampolines are spread across a big arena where people can jump their way across to different sides. They can jump high; do flips and various other stunts once they get used to the trampolines. They have a dedicated zone for playing basketball and dodge ball within the trampoline arena which makes these sports all the more fun and challenging. Whether you’re looking for a quick fun activity or planning to burn some calories, this is the right place to go.
If you are with friends or have kids along with you on your trip, then ParqueMarisa is a fun place to explore. It is an outdoor theme park targeted for both adults and kids. Parents can take their little ones and enjoy many rides and have food at the eateries in the park. This is a great place to visit if you wish to spend quality time with your children. There is something for every age group ranging from Ferris wheel and bumper cars to drop tower and disk’. You will definitely enjoy spending your day at this amusement park.
SelvaSP Adventure Park
If you are one of those people who are nature lovers and adventure seekers, then SelvaSP Adventure Park is the place you need to be at. This park offers a beautiful environment of the forest and lake combined with extreme sports like rafting for adults. This is a wonderful place to enjoy your day in Sao Paulo as the thrill of rafting and swimming in the lake will be quite memorable. There is a hiking track with a spectacular view. Getting wet in the stream of water will calm your nerves and get you all relaxed during the day!
Museu do Futebol
Soccer is a sport that is embedded in the hearts of Brazilians. Sao Paulo is the home to 3 of Brazil’s biggest football clubs. For all the diehard fans of football/soccer, there is a dedicated football museum found in the city. This museum, valued at about USD 12 million, is located inside the Estadio Municipal Paulo Machado de Carvalho which is a soccer stadium situated in the Pacaembu neighborhood of Sao Paulo. It is spread across 6,900 square meters and preserves the history and importance of football/soccer within the Brazilian culture.
The museum came into being in around 2009 and has 16 rooms that host both permanent and temporary exhibitions. These exhibits’ are a great way to learn the history and importance of football within the Brazilian community. Most of the content inside the museum is based on multimedia and is interactive as well. Written contents and audio guides are available in English, Portuguese, and Spanish languages as well. Accessibility for people with disabilities is also provided inside.
The museum explains all the details from the beginning of football till the present day and how it is impacting the lives of people. The museum also has a Football Reference Center which is basically the first public library that specializes in books, documentaries, catalogs, DVDs, etc. all specifically related to football.
The highlight of the museum is the Sala das, Copas do Mundo. It is a large multimedia exhibition with many small individual sections for each of the football World Cups starting from 1930 all the way to 2014. All of these displays show information, videos, photographs, and facts about those tournaments. It also sheds light on their background and history.
Just before you step inside the museum, just looking at the Pacaembu Stadium is itself worth it on its own. It was built in 1940 and is one of the oldest stadiums in Brazil which is still in strong condition. If you plan on visiting Sao Paulo, then it is a must-visit place for you!
Beco do Batman (The Batman Alley)
Beco do Batman or the Batman Alley was a hidden gem in Sao Paulo for many years. From the sound of it, it seems like an alley where they made the movie Batman. However, it gets its name from one of the very first graffiti wall art in the alley. The artist drew an image of a ‘titular vigilante’ in that alley. That’s right, you are looking at the one-of-a-kind open-air graffiti art museum. Since it was discovered, thousands of tourists are curious to pass through the most colorful artsy neighborhood in the entire Sao Paulo.
As you stroll through this alley, you will find every wall that exists in this alley filled with graffiti art masterpieces. Street artists, not just from Brazil, but all over the world fall in love with this sanctuary of graffiti and visit to make their mark.
In case you didn’t know, the concept of street art began when the DC Comic Book superhero, Batman was introduced. With the passage of time, the artist even fine art students began to cover up walls with their masterpieces. Thus, Beco do Batman then came into being with bright colors of spray paints. Ever since this alley exists with old artworks disappearing as a new layer of an art piece is covers on top of them, with the permission of the former artist of course. Every time you visit, you will find before you a new masterpiece.
If you are still wondering why is this added to the things to do in the Sao Paulo guide, the only thing we can say is you have to see it to believe it. The alley is so hip and fun. You can have a nice walk in the alley on a bright and sunny day. Capture rad images while you are at it, you can pose as if you are a piece of in it. Do it for the Gram!
You can go to this alley by catching a train or even a taxi. Avoid opting for personal transport because of the intense traffic, you will not even have a chance to click a picture. You can find this alley in the Via Madalena district in case you plan to visit it.
What is there to do in Sao Paulo at night?
The nights in Sao Paulo are colorful where you get to experience it all by hitting at any of the clubs or bars. Consider having a good laugh at the stand-up comedy club downtown or just disco the night away in one of the many clubs in the city. You can even test out your samba moves with the locals in the restaurants. For a less loud and sound experience, take a walk along Paulista Avenue, the longest street in Sao Paulo.
How do I spend a day in Sao Paulo?
To spend a day in Sao Paulo you can start your day early by visiting the local heritage of Sao Paulo and then go on to explore the great natures of the city like the park or the zoo. Get a chance to educate yourself on what the city holds in terms of history or scenic beauty. And top the day off by exploring through the local markets or eateries.
How many days do you need in Sao Paulo?
Spending just 4 days is an ideal time frame for you to explore Sao Paulo. You will have enough time to visit all the main attractions like the historical museums and parks. After you are done exploring, you can even spend your time shopping for some souvenirs to remind you of your trip back home.