Sao Paulo is number 9 on the list of biggest cities in the world. I didn’t know if I would like to visit such a big city and wondered if Rio hadn’t been a better choice.
To my surprise we really enjoyed this big city and have spent 3 wonderful days.
Some facts about Sao Paulo & Brazil in general:
- Safety: as in any big city you need to be careful and don’t go into more dangerous neighborhoods without a guide. Apparently, Sao Paulo is safer than Rio and we never felt unsafe. Some recommendations: don’t use your phone or camera holding it in your hands all the time, take pictures after checking the area around you. Don’t wear jewels or expensive watches. If you want to visit downtown Sao Paulo, do this with a guide. We took the free walking tour and felt safe surrounded by two guides. You can book a tour in English or Portuguese and as it’s a free tour and you can give the guide what you think the tour was worth. Usually, these tours are great because they depend on what you give the guide.
- There are no billboards allowed inside the city.
- Sao Paulo is one of the gayest cities in the world and has the biggest pride parade every year in June.
- Brazil is the only South American country where they don’t speak Spanish but Portuguese. Most of the people in bars, hotels and restaurants can speak and understand English, especially in the big cities.
- Brazil is the biggest country in South America and the 5th largest country in the world, with about 211 million people living there.
- About 60% of the Amazon rainforest is in Brazil
What to visit in Sao Paulo?
Arriving in Sao Paulo on a Sunday turned out to be a good choice. Our hotel was situated on Paulista Avenue, one of the better neighborhoods in Sao Paulo. Every Sunday afternoon this avenue becomes free of traffic and only pedestrians and bikers are allowed. People come out on the street to walk, dance (yes you can join some street dance classes on this avenue completely free). We immediately felt the vibrant and happy way of life of the Brazilian people.
Sao Paulo is known for good food and excellent restaurants. The national cocktail is a caipirinha. As Sao Paulo is the city with the most immigrants in South America you can find excellent Italian & Japanese restaurants there. The best pizza can be found in the Vila Madalena district and Liberdade is known for the sushi bars.
We had great Italian food in downtown Sao Paulo @terraco in the 2nd largest skyscraper of Sao Paulo: Edificio Italia (built in 1965 and 165 m high) The restaurant is located on the rooftop, so the view was amazing.
1. Visiting the area around Paulista Avenue.
We did this visit with freewalkingtours on our first day, but you can walk alone in this area as well as it’s very safe.
Around this famous avenue there are still some old villas to see as this was the place where the high society was living before it became a business district with a lot of skyscrapers. One of these is Casa das Rosas (the house of roses).
A must visit in this area is the MASP museum (museum of art) created by a female architect. It’s one of the cities most controversial architectural landmarks. The way the art is exhibited is very original. The museum is open between 10am-5pm, every day except Monday.
TIP! On Tuesday your visit is completely free, opening hours from 10am-8pm. You need to make a reservation online and please come at least 30 minutes in advance as it can be really busy at the entrance.
The small native forest park, right across the street, Parque Siqueira Campos, better known as Trianon, is worth a visit.
In the streets close to Paulista Avenue you can find some nice shops. Did you know you can find the Havaianas concept store there just a few blocks away?
If you like rooftop bars, the one on top of Unique Hotel is a great location.
2. Ibirapuera Park
For a completely free rooftop view you can head to Ibirapuera park where you have free access to the rooftop of the museum of Contemporary art. (MAC) A visit to the Museu Afro Brasil is also recommended. Both museums were designed by master Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.
Inside the park you can rent bikes for a day to visit this park.
3. Downtown Sao Paulo
As this area is a more dangerous part of Sao Paulo, we visited here with freewalkingtours as well. We were guided by two people, one in front of the group and another at the end. There are a lot of people living on the street here, sometimes in small tents near the parks. Some of these people were friendly and well known to our guide.
One of the most impressive buildings is The Copan Building (Edificio Copan), designed by Oscar Niemeyer. The construction started in 1957 and was completed in 1966. It’s one of the largest buildings in Brazil and has the largest floor area of any residential building in the world. The building has 1160 apartments and around 5000 residents, due to this large number, the building got its own postal code.
Besides admiring the beautiful old buildings in this area, we also visited the oldest bakery ‘Panificadora Santa Tereza’ (since 1872) It's very well located near Sé Square, behind Sé Cathedral. You should go upstairs because it's more antique and charming and there is a nice view of the cathedral tower from the windows. If there is one thing you have to order, it's their coxinhas. Usually, bakeries take shredded chicken and mold it into the shape of a drumstick, cover it in dough and either back or fry it. At Santa Tereza, they use an actual chicken drumstick! It's not easy to find coxinha like that in Brazil at all.
The tallest building in Sao Paulo, ‘The Mirante do Vale’ is another building to visit as it recently opened a glass-bottom viewing deck on the 42nd floor. (not recommended for people scared of heights)
As we only spent three days in Sao Paulo, we didn’t visit all interesting places in the city.
If you have any more questions about visiting Sao Paulo, let me know in the comments.