São Paulo’s top ten

April 27, 2009 | By More

Admittedly, São Paulo is not the easiest of places for the occasional tourist. Gigantic in size, chaotic in nature. However, the city gets a totally undeserved bad rap. To me São Paulo is – more than any other place in the country – the perfect encapsulation of some key Brazilian themes (both positive and negative).

The Top Ten I’m publishing today is a list originally made for our blog de São Paulo (the Spanish-language blog where we make an effort to unravel the city). I’ve made a few adaptations to the list. As this is a list of recommendations for the foreign visitor, I had three basic considerations when I drew up the ranking:

  • easy of access using the public transportation system
  • relevance in the context of what São Paulo is and represents
  • affordable cost


Liberdade, São Paulo
Why? The Japanese/Chinese/Korean quarter of São Paulo is a place like no other that will challenge your preconceived ideas about what is “typically Brazilian”.
How do I get there? There is a subway station (line 3, blue) right in the middle of the Liberdade.
How much? No entrance fees.
How long do I need? Spend a morning or an afternoon.
Other tips Have lunch at a tradicional Japanese restaurant. There are dozens and dozens of them. Among our favourites, Gombe , Isao or Yamaga.

Sao Paulo
Why? Because from the top of the skyscrapper you have a unique and mesmerizing 360-degree view of São Paulo – you’ll begin to understand the true meaning of megalopolis.
How do I get there? Take the subway (line 3, blue) to the São Bento station. It’s a five-minute walk from there.
How much? Access to the top of the tower is free. Bring ID with you.
How long do I need? One hour. The time you are allowed to stay at the top of the building has been drastically reduced in recent months.
Other tips The tower only opens from Monday to Friday – if it’s raining access to the top will be closed.

Mercado Municipal, São Paulo
Why? Because the market offers a unique and fascinating feast of colours and flavours. Wander around the stalls and marvel at the exotic fruits on display. And don’t forget to visit the bars for some classic São Paulo appetizers.
How do I get there? Take the subway (line 1, blue) to the São Bento station. It’s a ten-minute walk from there.
How much? Entrance is free. You will pay whatever you eat at the bars.
How long do I need? A couple of hours.
Other tips You can combine the visit to the market with the visit to the Torre do Banespa (number 2 on your list).

avenida Paulista
Why? Because along its 3 km you will get a taste of São Paulo’s melting pot.
How do I get there? Take the subway (line 2, green) to either the Brigadeiro station or the Consolação station (eastern and western ends of the avenue respectively).
How much? Free.
How long do I need? A couple of hours. Longer if you plan on visiting museums or shops.
Other tips At lunch time and at the end of the day (at around 6 pm) is when the avenue teems with people.


Why? If football (soccer) doesn’t immediately conjure up the idea “Brazil” no other words will do. The soccer museum it’s a state-of-the art interactive museum where terrific fun is guaranteed (even for those not that keen on football).
How do I get there? Take the subway (line 2, green) to Clínicas station and then walk 15 minutes to the museum.
How much? Adults pay R$6.
How long do I need? Between two and four hours.
Tips You can make the visit to the museum an extension of your walk along Avenida Paulista (number 4 on the list). Have a look at this blog’s entry Museu do Futebol (football/soccer museum).

panadería / bakery
Why? Do you want to feel like a true paulista (São Paulo native)? Then have a mammoth buffet breakfast at a bakery.
How do I get there? They are all over town. Ask where your are staying if there is a bakery serving buffet breakfast nearby. Chances are there will be one. If not, take a taxi and head of to a popular bakery like the 24/7 “Casa dos Pães”.
How much? Between R$15 and R$30 for the breakfast buffet. It usually includes an inimaginable amount of food, both savoury and sweet, as well as juices and coffee.
How long do I need? You can have breakfast in one hour or make it last for much longer.
Tips People on a diet, abstain.

pizzería Bendita Hora
Why? Because the pizza is the most traditional of all São Paulo servings. Paulistas simply love pizzas.
How do I get there? There are excellent pizzerias just everywhere.
How much? From R$20 to R$50 a large pizza for two.
How long do I need? A couple of hours at the end of the day (most pizzerias only open for dinner).
Tips You can order different ingredients for each half of the pizza. Try the pizza with sundried tomatoes and rocket salad. Finger-licking good!

Auditorio do Ibirapuera, São Paulo
Why? When in Rome… when a paulista needs some fresh air, they take a stroll at the Park, right in the middle of the city.
How do I get there? Take a taxi or walk down from the avenida Paulista (1/2 hour).
How much? Entrance is free.
How long do I need? Half a day.
Tips The park is quiet during the week, crowded during the weekends. There is a restaurant in the park where you can have lunch.

ladeira do Porto Geral, São Paulo
Why? See with your very own eyes the 25 de Março street or the Bom Retiro quarter, the mecca for shoppers from all over Brazil.
How do I get there? For the 25 de Março, take the subway (line 1, blue) to the São Bento station. It’s two minutes from there. For the Bom Retiro quarter, take the same subway line but leave at the Luz station. It’s 5 minutes from there.
How much? Whatever you want to spend.
How long do I need? Difficult to stand longer than half a day.
Tips Saturday is the busiest day. Avoid it if you are intent on doing some serious shopping. Go on a Saturday if the anthropological experience is what you are after. Pay extraordinary attention to your personal belongings when walking around the center of town. If you are carrying a rucksack or bag, do as the locals, hold it in front of you with your arms around it.

shopping Cidade Jardim
Why? You will understand better basic Brazilian concepts like unequal income distribution and filthy rich. If you can’t visit a favela, you can do the opposite, do your own ‘the rich and the powerful’ tour.
How do I get there? You can walk to the Oscar Freire street from the avenida Paulista. To go to the Shopping Cidade Jardim, take a taxi.
How much? Window-shopping is free.
How long do I need? A couple of hours of ostentatius display of wealth is just about enough.
Tips Saturday is the best day if you want to see the rich driving around and showing off their imported cars.

You can find the location of all the places mentioned on the list at the following Google Maps mash-up:

See São Paulo’s top ten on a full page

five reasons to love São Paulo
five reasons to hate São Paulo
youth hostels in São Paulo
Museu do Futebol (football/soccer museum)
Morumbi stadium (São Paulo FC)
Octavio Café, São Paulo
terminal Tietê bus station in São Paulo
the São Paulo subway system
Tanabata Matsuri 2008 in São Paulo
Praça Benedito Calixto, São Paulo
Toyo Matsuri in São Paulo
São Paulo traffic images live on the Internet

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Category: Destination: São Paulo, Top 10

Comments (6)

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  1. Lalaverim says:

    Sao Paulo was nice when I visited it last month. I had a few rainy days but overall I loved it.

  2. chelsea says:

    These are great tips, as I am stumped as to what I would have liked to see to get a taste of Sao Paulo life.
    What is the best time of year to visit Sao Paulo?

  3. Tony says:

    Thanks, Chelsea. Unlike other Brazilian tourist destinations, when it comes to São Paulo there is no time of the year with a distinctive vantage over the rest. Summertime is downpour time in the city which means you are likely to see awesome tropical storms during your stay. Winter can get quite chilly and is generally dry (but then, this year it rained a lot in July!). I like January because it’s when Brazilians take their holidays and the city is slightly less chaotic than usual. July is ok for the same reason (school holidays). But there isn’t a single month I would single out as a don’t come here month. All the best.

  4. Susan Longo says:

    Visited September 2009 . Everything listed spot on .However as an American proceed with caution with the shops at 25 de Marco Street area . I am a New Yorker and the frenzy on a weekday morning was outrageous . Definitely do not stay past noon as it gets more crowded and PUSHY . I was quite worried about the theft aspect of this area. I had no problems but I was extremely cautious .

    If you can afford it or have a business dinner go to D.O.M. Well worth the experience .

  5. Tony says:

    Susan, thanks for your comments. Living in SP as I do I’m always overcautious when walking around town. But your observation is absolutely relevant and I’ve added a couple of sentences at the end of point 9 (theft is rampant around the 25 de Março area).

  6. Sharon says:

    can you help how to get to Punta del Diablo Uruguay
    from Porto Alegre in Brazil.