Sao Paulo is best known for being the most populous city of Brazil & among the most populated in the world. It has more population than Mumbai, although a tad bit less than Delhi. River Pinheiros runs through the city.
Now, If you plan to visit Brazil, you will find no shortage of incredible places to explore. From Rio de Janeiro to the Iguazu falls, Brazil boasts incredible, world-famous attractions. But Brazil’s biggest city – Sao Paulo remains an often-unexplored tourist destination. It is seen more as a financial hub.
Things to do in Sao Paulo
However, once you get here, you’ll find so many things to do in the city that you might just want to stay for weeks! To help you narrow down your options we put together our favorite list of things to do in the city. Incidentally, most of these things can be done free of cost, if you plan well.
1. Discover Priceless Works of Art at MASP – Museum of Art of Sao Paulo
The entire city is a great place for the art lover to explore, but its crowning jewel is no doubt the MASP art museum, situated in the center of downtown.
On the first floor of MASP, you will find several rotating collections. The temporary exhibits here tend to focus on Brazilian art and artists, especially modern art. After you visit the first floor, work your way up to the second.
On the top floor of MASP, you’ll walk into a large open space – and hundreds of years of artwork on display. Situated in unique plexiglass installations, it almost looks as though the art is floating in midair. As you walk through the exhibit, you’ll be passing literally in the midst of this priceless, floating art. The exhibit starts with the oldest pieces in the front of the room. As you walk towards the back the art gets more modern.
The MASP museum is free all-days. Tuesdays are its busiest day. If you wish to come on Tuesday, you might need to wait in line before you can enter.
2. Check Out Superheroes and Other Murals at Beco do Batman
Of all the beautiful streets in the world, Beco Do Batman might be the most unique. “The Avenue of Batman”, can be found in a neighborhood also called “Beco Do Batman.” The living art project you’ll find here is created – and re-created – by dozens of artists every year. Densely decorated with murals, (many superhero-themed) Beco Do Batman is the next incredible stop on the list of things to do in Sao Paulo.
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It all started in the 1980s when just one image of Batman appeared on a wall, overnight. Soon, local art students showed up, and within just a few weeks every inch of the alley’s walls was covered with murals. The neighborhood that surrounds the street is now a tourist focal point. After you stroll the Beco do Batman Avenue, be sure to check out the many boutiques, coffee shops, and restaurants located on adjoining streets.
3. Taste Incredible Fruit at Mercado Municipal de Sao Paulo
The large municipal market housed in a historically important building is an essential stop on your list of things to do in the city. Originally constructed in 1933, the interior feels more like a museum than a market. When you glance up, it’s hard not to be impressed by the enormous windows and detailed ceiling. However, there, is more to do here than just gawk at the architecture.
First, stroll over to the fruit stands. Here you’ll see many fruits you won’t recognize – and for good reasons. Some of them only grow in Brazil and some are so rare that many Brazilians have never seen them either. If you love fruit this is a great place to experience the different varieties. The sellers will be happy to offer you samples – but only if you commit to buying something. And be wary, the prices they charge are very high. For just four pieces of fruit, you might pay $35. However, the fruit you can taste here is so unique that the experience is worth it.
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After you finish shopping in the market, proceed upstairs. Here you’ll find a variety of great restaurants. Many offer traditional Brazilian dishes – with plenty of delicious vegan options. And since the supplies are delivered every morning, everything is fresh. Just be aware – the prices are still set up for tourists, so you’ll likely pay more for the same meal than you do outside the market.
4. Delight at a Flower Market
One of the city’s most original attractions is the CEAGESP flower market. Located on the outskirts of the city, few outsiders come here. But at this large outdoor warehouse, every Tuesday and Friday morning starting at about 5 am (and finishing by 8) you will discover the largest flower market in the world. At CEAGESP endless stalls of orchids, roses, and tulips, as well and exotic flowers only found in Brazil, create incredible smells and sights.
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Entry is free but getting here is a trip. Although the inside of the market is very safe, the area around can be a little sketchy, so you probably want to avoid public transportation (especially in the early hours of the morning). The best way to get to CEAGESP is by Uber and leave yourself extra time to allow for morning traffic. However, the incredible sights and views of the flower market are worth the early wake-up call.
5. Observe the City from Above at SESC Sao Paulo
Completed less than two years ago, this is no doubt the newest addition to our list of things to do in the city. You won’t find the SESC building on many tourist guides but if you know where to go you can find an incredible – and totally free attraction of the city here.
SESC is located in the downtown area of Avenida Paulista. Once you’ll get to the building you won’t notice anything special – just a new, very large office building. But walk inside (entry is free) and take either the elevator or the stairs to the top floor. Here, you’ll find a rooftop open to visitors and locals alike – and one of the best views of the city. Especially beautiful in the late afternoon be sure to bring your camera for a few great snaps.
Afterward, enjoy a delicious cup of fresh juice or tea in the roof café – very reasonably priced even for Brazil. If you need to relax, the lounge on the second floor is open to everyone and provides free Wi-Fi.
6. Get a Taste of Japanese-Brazilian Culture in Liberdade
Sao Paulo is often called a city of immigrants, and one of the largest immigrant populations here is the Japanese Brazilians. Many of them still live in the historic neighborhood of Liberdade, which is our next item on this list of things to do in the city.
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Liberdade is the largest Japanese neighborhood outside of Japan. The beautiful area is lined with authentic Japanese restaurants, shops, and even a Japanese garden. Although many residents here are fourth-generation Japanese, they continue to maintain many traditions and their native language. Liberdade is also a great place to find unique souvenirs of your trip to the city.
7. Explore Ibirapuera Park
Named one of the best 10 urban parks in the world, Ibirapuera Park spans over 390 acres. There are plenty of things to do inside the park, but most people just stroll the manicured grounds. However, once you are here be sure not to miss a few important attractions.
First, stop by the Afro museum where you will get to explore Brazil’s Afro culture and history. Next, make your way over to Ibirapuera Park Footbridge. From here look out towards the city’s skyline, an especially impressive sight during the sunset.
And finally, make your way to Oca do Ibirapuera. Here you’ll find an exhibit by Chinese artist and activist Wei Wei. Inside, knowledgeable guides offer fascinating tours of the exhibit. The building – designed by world-famous Brazilian Architect Oscar Niemeyer is also a work of art that stands on its own.
8. Stroll the Tony District of Vila Madalena
Another great neighborhood of the city to check out is Vila Madalena. San Francisco like hills, unique murals, tiny boutiques, and restaurants, all conspires to create an upscale area worth exploring. This safe neighborhood is located close to downtown but offers an almost suburban feel. Much greener than downtown, Vila Madalena is a great area to explore in the early afternoon, when downtown gets unbearably hot.
Here you can stroll the streets and look for murals, and later have a cup of something iced in one of the tiny restaurants lining the streets.
Getting around the city is very easy with the use of public transportation and uber. Metro is safe and reliable. Uber is even safer and is very inexpensive. If you are pressed for time, Uber will probably be your best bet.
Many major attractions are closed on Mondays.
Traditional Brazilian cuisine does contain lots of meat but if you are a vegan you can certainly find many great food options. In the city you’ll find an amazing variety of fresh fruit, much of it not available anywhere else in the world. Acai bowls are popular and healthy – and will keep you full. In addition, the trendier areas such as Vila Maddalena and Vila Mariana offer several high-quality vegan restaurants.
This is a guest post by Viktoria Altman.
Bio: Viktoria Altman is a travel writer, blogger, and photographer. Her website http://www.gotraveltipster.com focuses on family, luxury, and adventure travel. She is based in Brooklyn and travels every month to places as close as upstate New York and as far as Antarctica. She is sponsored by Vero Social Network. Before becoming a travel writer Viktoria was a director of a Montessori preschool. You can follow her on Vero and Instagram at @Traveltipster.