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The Top Ten I’m publishing today is a list originally made for our blog de São Paulo (the Spanish-language blog where we make an effort to unravel the city).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
SÃO PAULO’s TOP 10
1. VISIT THE LIBERDADE NEIGHBOURHOOD
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.
2. GET TO THE TOP OF THE TORRE DO BANESPA BUILDING
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.
3. VISIT THE MERCADO MUNICIPAL (CENTRAL MARKET)
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).
4. WALK ALONG THE 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.
5. HAVE FUN AT THE MUSEU DO FUTEBOL (SOCCER MUSEUM)
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).
6. HAVE BREAKFAST IN SYTLE AT AT 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.
7. PIZZA FOR DINNER
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!
8. A STROLL AT THE PARQUE DO IBIRAPUERA
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.
9. GO SHOPPING – AT POPULAR PRICES!
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.
10. GO WINDOW-SHOPPING – AT OUTRAGEOUS PRICES!
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