Brasil: touristing in São Paulo

I have the opportunity to go to São Paulo with my dear spouse on a business trip this September. We won’t have a ton of time to explore, so I’ll mostly focus on areas near our hotel, which is near downtown. Below is my what to do, where to go research for São Paulo. See this post for Rio ideas.

São Paulo


Wander around downtown

Follow this architecture walk around Centro, which includes the Teatro Municipal, and nearby Copan building–“Choose your pick-me-up at the ground floor shopping center: a creamy espresso at the old-school, standing-room-only Café Floresta, or a creative caipirinha cocktail at the classy and ballyhooed two-year-old Bar da Dona Onça (55-11-3257-2016;”

Or try this historic city center walking tour, which has some overlap with the architecture tour, and also includes the city’s most beautiful art museum, the Pinacoteca (Praça da Luz, 2; 55-11-3324-1000;, housed in a former high school. “Don’t miss the adjacent sculpture garden.”

Be on the lookout for some murals while walking around downtown.

The Historic Center area and Avenida Paulista are definitely places to be explored on foot.

Stroll the pedestrian-only streets near the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (Rua Álvares Penteado, 112; 55-11-3113-3600;

For those, like me, who have enjoyed learning a bit of Portuguese, the Museum of Lingua Portuguesa has interesting interactive exhibits.

Go running

The best running in the city is in Parque Ibirapuera.


Sunset views

  • Banespa Tower – São Paulo’s “Empire State Building” “On the rooftop of the Banespa Tower it is possible to see a view of Sao Paulo that goes from Serra da Cantareira to Pico do Jaragua.”
  • Restaurant Skye, Hotel Unique
  • São Paulo Jockey Club
  • The View Bar: “…that view doesn’t come cheap: there’s a cover charge and only a few wines are less than R$100 a bottle. The better bets are the well-made cocktails, with the kir royales and margaritas particularly recommended.”
  • Have a drink at the piano bar at Terraco Italia for a 360 degree view

Late night


“In Vila Olímpia, high-end nightclubs come and go, but the conspicuously consuming playboys and the surgically enhanced women they buy Champagne for are, alas, forever.”

“The Vila Madalena district is the main point for those who love to mix with a young, hipster and intellectual group.”

Where to eat

Mercado Municipal

“This covered market is a belle époque confection of stained glass and a series of vast domes. Inside is a delightful market specializing in fresh produce and dried goods. It’s also a great place to sample a couple of classic Sampa delights: mortadella sandwiches and pasteis, pockets of dough stuffed with meat, cheese or fish and then fried.”


Maní will astound you. This rustic-chic restaurant run impeccably by a Brazilian-Spanish couple is often touted as Sampa’s best Brazilian restaurant, and rightly so.”

Brasil a Gosto

At once cozy and modern, this Jardins staple is one of the city’s finest for homegrown cuisine, specializing in innovative takes on iconic ingredients and regional dishes from around Brazil.

Getting around

São Paulo has good public transportation via metro and buses. Taxis are a must at night. Neighborhoods are easily explored on foot.

General information


“So aside from not walking alone at night and taking other appropriate precautions, simply don’t go out with anything you couldn’t stand losing. I take a bit of cash, one credit card and a copy of my passport.”

“During the day the city is quite safe; in the evening the safest neighborhoods are Jardins, Higienópolis, and the residential areas of the city. Best avoided are the quiet side streets of Centro, particularly the empty shopping streets around Praça Sé, Bexiga, and around Luz station.”


“Look for PFs, or pratos feitos, homey set plates of a main course, rice, beans and juice for under 12 reais”

Drink caipirinhas: a rum-relative liquor, sugar, and lime

Light Brazilian lager on draft called chope or chopp (said cho-pea). If you order a cerveja, you’ll get bottled beer.

Useful phrases

(Portuguese pronunciation is tricky if you’re coming from a Spanish background!)

  • Hello – Alô
  • Hi – Oi
  • Goodbye – Tchau / Adeus
  • Excuse me (getting attention) – Com licença
  • Excuse me (beg your pardon) – Desculpe
  • Sorry, I don’t speak Portuguese – Desculpe, eu não falo português
  • Do you speak English? – Você fala inglês?
  • Please – Por favor
  • Thank you – Obrigado (said by a man) / Obrigada (said by a woman)
  • Where is the bathroom? – Onde está o banho?
  • How’s it going? – Tudo bem? (The response is also “tudo bem.”) Or, “tudo bom”
  • Please, can you help me? – Por favor, você pode me ajudar?
  • I don’t understand – Não compreendo
  • Good morning – Bom dia
  • Good afternoon – Boa tarde
  • Good night – Boa noite
  • Beer – cerveja
  • Cool – legal
  • Cheers! – Saúde!


In Rio and Sao Paulo, go north

For a Brazilian vacation, 7 rules to save by

3 Experts, and Many Tips for Visiting Brazil

36 Hours in Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo

Time Out Sao Paulo

Brazil Important Phrases

20 Essential Portuguese Phrases

Brazilian Portuguese Phrasebook

Sao Paulo Walks

30 Things to Do in Sao Paulo

Lonely Planet: Top things to do in Sao Paulo

Frommers: Getting around Sao Paulo


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