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Sao Paulo is one of those cities that will surprise you with how much it offers. It’s a city that’s thriving with culture; from its diverse neighborhoods to its dynamic art scene, you’ll find a multitude of different ways of life scattered around every corner.
It’s the largest city in Brazil by population, so it’s unsurprising there are a lot of exciting things to do in Sao Paulo.
Whether you’re a foodie, a nightlife lover, a family, or a couple – there’s a Sao Paulo attraction for every type of traveller.
In this guide, we’ve listed our favourite attractions in Sao Paulo as well as a few hidden gems, plus some ideas for where to stay, so you can make planning for your Sao Paulo itinerary easy.
- Is Sao Paulo Worth Visiting?
- Things to Do in Sao Paulo
- 1. Relax in Ibirapuera Park
- 2. Take a Free Old Town Walking Tour
- 3. Check Out The Street Art on Batman Alley
- 4. See the iconic São Paulo Cathedral
- 5. Check Out The Art Museums
- 6. Explore Avenida Paulista
- 7. Have A Classy Cocktail In Olivio Bar
- 8. Learn About Football Culture at Museu do Futebol (Football Museum)
- 9. Marvel At The Beautiful Parque da Independància and Museu do Ipiranga
- 10. Eat Japanese Food
- 11. Gorge on a Mortadella Sandwich
- 12. Watch the Brazilian Grand Prix, São Paulo
- 13. Meet the Guarani Tribe
- Where to Stay in Sao Paulo
- Popular tours and attractions in Sao Paulo
- More South American Travel Tips
Is Sao Paulo Worth Visiting?
Before I get into the top attractions in Sao Paulo, you might be on the fence about whether or not to visit Sao Paulo.
While it’s not as vibrant as Rio de Janeiro and it doesn’t have beaches, it does have something special and unique about it.
Sao Paulo is the most populated city in the country, and with that, comes a diverse culture and various communities that bring their own flavours and vibe to the city.
Its gastronomy culture is second to none; whether you enjoy street food, world-class michelin-star dining, or street food – you had better bring your elasticated waistband pants to Sao Paulo!
There’s also a huge art community. You’ll find plenty of art museums, neighborhoods with street art, and performances happening every day in Sao Paulo.
Sao Paulo is definitely worth visiting on your trip to Brazil because of its varied culture and host of attractions.
Things to Do in Sao Paulo
Now you know a little bit about why Sao Paulo is an awesome city, it’s time to take a look at the top attractions in the city. Go take a look…
1. Relax in Ibirapuera Park
- Hours: 5.00am – 12.00am
- Address: Av. Pedro Álvares Cabral – Vila Mariana, São Paulo – SP, 04094-050,
Sao Paulo is not near the coast, and the nature parks are located a long way out of the city, but the city centre is still known for its greenery. Why? It’s all thanks to Ibirapuera Park.
This is a 158 hectare urban park in the center of the city, and in 2017, it was recorded as the most visited park in South America – yes, the whole continent.
This hugely popular park captivates visitors with its endless activities. You can rent bikes and cycle around the bike paths, take a boat out on the lake, or just sit back and relax under the shady trees.
You can even find yoga and capoeira lessons that locals and visitors can enjoy together. Ibirapuera Park offers the perfect escape from the stresses of the busy city.
2. Take a Free Old Town Walking Tour
- Hours: This tour leaves every day at 11.00am
- Address: The meeting point is at Republica Square, opposite the Tourist Information Centre
I always think the best way to get to know a city and learn about its culture and history is on a walking tour, and best of all – it’s free! Although if you’ve never done a free walking tour before, you should note that it’s polite to tip the guide at the end. But this still remains one of our favourite free things to do in Sao Paulo.
If you only have time for one walking tour, I recommend the Old Downtown Walking Tour. This takes you around the historic part of Sao Paulo, to the Sé Cathedral, past the Municipal Theater, Matarazzo building, Farol Santander, São Bento Monastery and much more.
You’ll learn all about how the city was founded and what the locals do for fun. Afterwards, you can ask your guide for recommendations for places to eat, drink and explore.
This tour takes around 3.5 hours so wear walking shoes.
Hot Tip: Some areas in this tour are a little unsafe and pickpocketing is common, so if you carry an expensive camera, it’s probably a good idea to leave it in the hotel. Listen to your guide for safety tips. When they say “don’t flash your phone” they mean it from experience.
3. Check Out The Street Art on Batman Alley
- Hours: 24 hours (though we don’t recommend going at night)
- Address: R. Medeiros de Albuquerque, 82-154 – Jardim das Bandeiras, São Paulo – SP, 05436-060
I mentioned earlier that Sao Paulo has a thriving art scene, and it’s not just in its many art museums (which I will tell you about later). There is also a huge street art scene, particularly in the Vila Madalena area.
One street that has become the most famous for its street art is Batman Alley, which was given its nickname because of the DC Comic graffiti that was added to the wall in 1980.
This alley stretches from the Rua Gonçalo Afonso and Rua Medeiros de Albuquerque area in the Vila Madalena and is lined on both sides with incredible graffiti.
Most of the artwork was created by art students who take inspiration from psychedelic and cubist art and it’s cared for by the local community.
4. See the iconic São Paulo Cathedral
- Hours: 8.00am – 6.00pm
- Address: Praça da Sé – Sé, São Paulo – SP, 01001-000
One of the most beautiful pieces of architecture in the city is the Sao Paulo Cathedral. It has a troubled history. The first cathedral was built in 1616 but was demolished and rebuilt in 1764, and then demolished and rebuilt again in 1911.
So even though it looks old, the building you see standing today is the one that was built in 1911, and was refurbished in 2000 and 2002.
Despite being teared up and teared down a lot, the building is still the largest Catholic church in São Paulo. Its style is a Neo-Gothic style, except for the dome, which has been inspired by the Renaissance architecture seen in Florence, Italy.
The inside has been decorated with around 800 tons of rare marble, with sculptures of Brazilian produce such as coffee branches, pineapples, and native animals such as armadillos.
Sadly, the area outside the Sao Paulo Cathedral is full of homeless people, and while most of them mean no harm, a few of them will pickpocket you if you give them an opportunity. Take your photos here, and then don’t hang around.
5. Check Out The Art Museums
Sao Paulo’s art culture is one of the biggest reasons to visit the city. There are 110 museums in the city, the largest number of museums in the whole of Latin America.
Of course, it would be a challenge to see them all, but if you only have time for a few, we recommend you visit the following:
São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP)
- Hours: 10.00am – 6.00pm (closed Monday, open until 8.00pm on Tuesday)
- Address: Av. Paulista, 1578 – Bela Vista, São Paulo – SP, 01310-200
Located on Avenue Paulista, the Sao Paulo Museum of Art is one of the most famous art museums in the city.
The architecture alone is what makes this museum an iconic landmark, as it showcases some of the most impressive Brazilian modern architecture.
Inside, you will find works of art from not just Brazilian but International artists, including Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, and several pieces by Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
Pinacoteca de São Paulo
- Hours: 10.00am – 6.00pm (closed Tuesdays)
- Address: Praça da Luz, 2 – Luz, São Paulo – SP, 01120-010
Another important art museum in Sao Paulo is the Pinacoteca de São Paulo, which is nestled in a beautiful 1900 building in Jardim da Luz. It was originally built as the headquarters of the Lyceum of Arts and Crafts and is the oldest art museum in the city.
It contains a wide collection of Brazilian art from the 19th-century, mostly paintings and sculptures.
It became more famous in 2008 when a heist took place, and the museum lost two paintings by Pablo Picasso as well as the Women at the Window painting by Emiliano Di Cavalcanti and Couple by Lasar Segall.
Two paintings were recovered, but the others are still missing.
6. Explore Avenida Paulista
- Hours: 24 hours
- Address: from Marechal Cordeiro de Farias Square in Consolação to Oswaldo Cruz Square in Vila Mariana
Paulista Avenue is the most famous street in Sao Paulo. It stretches for 2.8 kilometres and is lined with museums, financial and cultural institutions, and major shopping complexes.
It’s the main hub of the city and where everyone goes to do their shopping or to dine at the best restaurants.
It’s where some of the most interesting modern architecture in the city lies as well as Sao Paulo’s top attractions the Sao Paulo Museum of Art and Shopping Cidade São Paulo.
It’s the avenue that holds the Gay Pride Parade each year, and the Saint Silvester Road Race every New Year’s Eve.
Every Sunday, the street is closed off from traffic and is pedestrianized, so if you’re looking for things to do in Sao Paulo at the weekend, be sure to add this to your Sunday itinerary.
7. Have A Classy Cocktail In Olivio Bar
- Hours: 5.00pm – 12.00am Monday and Wednesday, 4.00pm – 1.00am Tuesday, 12.00pm – 1.00am Thursday – Sunday
- Address: R. Delfina, 196 – Vila Madalena, São Paulo – SP, 05443-010
Looking for things to do in Sao Paulo at night? How about drinking a cocktail out of a shark’s head? Well, not a real head, but it is one of the few novelty cocktail glasses you can have your drink served in at the classy Olivio Bar.
Have your shots served in a test tube or drink a “Forbidden Fruit” cocktail served on a platter with a plant and a fake snake – if you’re a fan of bars that combine art with ambiance, this is the place for you.
Sure, it’s a bit pricey, and maybe a little gimmicky, but it’s also very fun and a popular place to drink, so you’ll find the atmosphere is as electrifying as the drinks. It’s certainly one of the more unique attractions in Sao Paulo.
8. Learn About Football Culture at Museu do Futebol (Football Museum)
- Hours: 9.00am – 5.00pm (closed Mondays)
- Address: Praça Charles Miller, s/n – Pacaembu, São Paulo – SP, 01234-010
Football to Brazilians is like a religion, so you cannot take a trip to Sao Paulo and not visit the Football Museum as you know it’s going to be good.
The museum showcases exhibits of the greatest football achievements, from women in football to the greatest footballers of all time.
You can also see some exciting memoirs and reactions to Brazil’s four FIFA World Cup wins in 1958, 1970, 1994 and 2002.
There are fifteen rooms covering a space of 6,000 square feet. Who knew there was so much football history in Brazil?
9. Marvel At The Beautiful Parque da Independància and Museu do Ipiranga
- Hours: 5.00am – 8.00pm
- Address: Av. Nazaré, s/n – Ipiranga, São Paulo – SP, 04263-200
Another stunning park in Sao Paulo is the Parque da Independencia, which you will find off the iconic Avenue Paulista. It was inaugurated in 1989 and was dedicated to Pedro I.
The park contains a Monument to Independence and the Casa do Grito and has a lovely forest and manicured lawn that visitors can walk down. There’s also a French Garden.
The most famous monument in the park is the Museu Paulista (or Museu do Ipiranga as it’s sometimes called), which belongs to the University of São Paulo. It’s a Brazilian history museum that has been built on the place where Emperor Pedro I first proclaimed Brazil’s independence.
The museum has a huge collection of furniture, documents, and artifacts relating to the Brazilian Empire era in 1822–1889.
The highlight is the 1888 painting Independência ou Morte (Independence or Death) by Pedro Américo.
The museum was refurbished in 2013 and finally reopened in 2022.
10. Eat Japanese Food
Yes, you read this right. If you didn’t know already, Sao Paulo is home to the largest community of Japanese people outside of Japan, in the world!
This means you can find some really fantastic and authentic Japanese food in Sao Paulo.
The Liberdade district has the highest population of Japanese immigrants, but you will find amazing Japanese restaurants all over the city.
Some highly rated restaurants are Shin-Zushi near Avenue Paulista, JAM Jardins just a few blocks away from Shin-Zushi, and Jun Sakamoto, which is a Michelin-starred restaurant specialising in sushi (note, you need to book an appointment for this restaurant).
11. Gorge on a Mortadella Sandwich
- Hours: 5.30am – 5.00pm (6.00am – 3.00pm Sunday)
- Address: Rua da Cantareira, Rua E, 306 – Box 14 – Centro Histórico de São Paulo, São Paulo
If you don’t have the budget for Michelin-starred sushi, then don’t worry, you can still ignite your culinary senses by tucking into some Brazilian street food.
All over the city, you’ll find places serving empanadas, bolinhos, or my personal favourite, a simple pão de queijo (dough balls filled with cheese).
But when in Sao Paulo, the street food you mustn’t miss is a hearty sandwich called a Mortadella Sandwich, which is so big you can share it with four people and all be full.
The best place to try this sandwich is at Bar do Mané in a food market in the historic centre. It’s usually very busy so be prepared to wait a while.
But it’s definitely worth waiting for, these sandwiches are HUGE and delicious.
12. Watch the Brazilian Grand Prix, São Paulo
One of the biggest events in Brazil (aside from Carnival in Rio de Janeiro that is) is the Brazilian Grand Prix. It began in 1972 and has had four Brazilian winners since it began.
Each year, it’s one of the biggest sporting events in the city.
If you happen to be visiting in November, then you’re in luck, as watching the Brazilian Grand Prix is one of the top things to do in Sao Paulo in the Autumn.
13. Meet the Guarani Tribe
Want to get out of the city and see how people live in the countryside? Then you might enjoy this tour to meet the Guarani Tribe.
The Guarani people live in a simple and natural way, and are one of the few indigenous tribes to still live in this way near Sao Paulo.
The tribes live in the Capivari Monos Environmental Protection Area and Jaraguá State Park, and visitors coming to their village will be introduced to their plantations, learn about the ancestral history and culture, see how they grow food and live their daily life.
Each visit to the village supports the Guarani people and their community projects.
Where to Stay in Sao Paulo
Since Sao Paulo is a huge city and has thousands of accommodation options, it can be overwhelming knowing where to stay in Sao Paulo.
To help you out, I’ve listed some of my favourite options below. But first, a little more seriously, I need to tell you…
Where to Avoid in Sao Paulo
I mentioned earlier that there are some areas to avoid in Sao Paulo, and I should expand on this point a little further.
Sao Paulo is an incredible city that offers so much and for the most part, it is safe to visit, and I don’t want to be a scare mongerer…
However, I would be lying to you if I didn’t tell you there are some neighborhoods that are unsafe for tourists to visit.
These neighborhoods are in the Old Town around the cathedral, where there is a huge homeless community. It’s usually fine to travel there in small groups on a walking tour, but you do not want to linger there nor stay there.
Some other dangerous neighborhoods are Pari, Perdizes, Lapa, Campo Limpo, Vila Clementino and Capão Redondo. Generally speaking, if you stay out of the favelas and away from these notorious neighborhoods.
Likewise, when taking the metro, be careful on the red line and the blue line, especially at night, since these trains stop at Carandiru, Parada Inglesa, Carrão, Corinthians-Itaquera, Sé, Barra Funda, Tatuapé and República which are in the neighborhoods mentioned above.
If you’re going out at night, it’s best to take an Uber back to your accommodation.
Accommodation in Sao Paulo
Fortunately, there are plenty of safe neighborhoods in Sao Paulo for tourists. Most tourists choose to stay in Vila Madalena which is considered one of the safest neighborhoods.
It has some lively bars and some top-class restaurants, plus it’s on the Green Line on the metro so you can get to attractions easily. The nearby Jardins and Pinheiros neighborhoods are also considered quite safe to stay in.
Here are some great places to stay in Sao Paulo:
Selina Hostels have appeared to take over South America as they are in every major city, and they have one thing in common; they’re always super nice.
They are hostels, which means you have dorm rooms and some private rooms, but they don’t aim at the backpacker crowd. You’ll find more solo travellers and digital nomads opting for a Selina, which means you can meet like-minded travellers, be social, and still get a good night’s rest.
The Selina in Sao Paulo has a gorgeous rooftop restaurant and bar, a shared lounge, a kitchen (god bless) and some evening entertainment.
Renaissance São Paulo Hotel
For a little more luxury, you might like the Renaissance Sao Paulo Hotel in the Jardin district. It’s a five-star hotel that has resort-like amenities, including a gorgeous outdoor swimming pool and a whole floor dedicated to wellness called the ZenZone.
It also has an onsite restaurant serving up Brazilian cuisine using freshly-sourced ingredients.
On top of this, it has its own THEATRE. That’s right, up to 500 guests can enjoy performances at the onsite theatre on weekends.
And I haven’t even told you about the rooms yet; they are all state-of-the-art, modern, and spacious.
And the best part is you are within walking distance of some of the top attractions in Sao Paulo such as Paulista Avenue, Oscar Freire Street, the Museu de Arte de São Paulo, and Conjunto Nacional.