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São Paulo Travel Guide

Brazil

Best Things To Do in São Paulo

São Paulo has no shortage of amazing cultural sites, city vistas and green outdoor spaces. Art lovers may find themselves pulled in many different directions (there are multiple art museums throughout the city); culture hounds should definitely plan to stop in the Museu de Arte de São PauloPinacoteca do Estado and Museu Afro Brasil to get a true feel for Brazil's art scene. Walking will likely be a big part of anyone's visit to Sampa (São Paulo's nickname) and visitors should take a leisurely stroll along Avenida Paulista, browse the goods and food at Mercado Municipal and enjoy Ibirapuera Park's walking paths. Don't forget to save some time to marvel at the city from a bird's-eye view (at Edifício Italia) and to immerse yourself in Brazil's favorite pastime at the Museu do Futebol.

How we rank Things to Do.

#1

#1 in São Paulo

Free
If you get tired of the concrete jungle, make your way to the Parque do Ibirapuera, which offers a spacious, green respite from São Paulo's towering skyscrapers. The land was selected to be a public park in the 1950s to celebrate the city's 400th anniversary and spans around 400 acres; many people liken it to New York's Central Park and London's Hyde Park because of its size and the amount of visitors it sees. Walking and biking paths snake through the lawns, and you can rent a bicycle from a number of vendors nearby. Music fills the air on Sunday mornings, when visitors can enjoy free concerts in the park's Praça da Paz. Many cultural institutions can be found in the park as well, including the Museu Afro Brasil, Museu de Arte Contemporânea and Museu de Arte Moderna.
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Parks and Gardens Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Parque do Ibirapuera (Ibirapuera Park)
If you get tired of the concrete jungle, make your way to the Parque do Ibirapuera, which offers a spacious, green respite from São Paulo's towering skyscrapers. The land was selected to be a public park in the 1950s to celebrate the city's 400th anniversary and spans around 400 acres; many people liken it to New York's Central Park and London's Hyde Park because of its size and the amount of visitors it sees. Walking and biking paths snake through the lawns, and you can rent a bicycle from a number of vendors nearby. Music fills the air on Sunday mornings, when visitors can enjoy free concerts in the park's Praça da Paz. Many cultural institutions can be found in the park as well, including the Museu Afro Brasil, Museu de Arte Contemporânea and Museu de Arte Moderna.
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#2

#2 in São Paulo

This art museum is the oldest in São Paulo and houses an extensive collection of Brazilian art from the 19th century through today. Established in 1905, Pinacoteca do Estado (the Art Gallery of the State of São Paulo) showcases nearly 10,000 pieces of art ranging from paintings and sketches to the on-site sculpture garden (adjacent to Jardim da Luz). Made up of apricot-tinted bricks, the historic building is a picturesque work of art in its own right.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Pinacoteca do Estado
This art museum is the oldest in São Paulo and houses an extensive collection of Brazilian art from the 19th century through today. Established in 1905, Pinacoteca do Estado (the Art Gallery of the State of São Paulo) showcases nearly 10,000 pieces of art ranging from paintings and sketches to the on-site sculpture garden (adjacent to Jardim da Luz). Made up of apricot-tinted bricks, the historic building is a picturesque work of art in its own right.
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#3

#3 in São Paulo

Modeled after the elegant Palais Garnier in Paris, São Paulo's Theatro Municipal is a work of art. This grand theater was built between 1903 and 1911, and the design of its detailed facade incorporates Renaissance, Baroque, neoclassical and art nouveau styles. Inside, visitors are greeted with gilded balconies and rich red seats and curtains. The theater is a cultural icon, thought to have sparked the city's vivid interest in the arts (and specifically modern art) after it hosted the Week of Modern Art in 1922. Today, the Theatro Municipal hosts a variety of performances, including operas, plays, symphony orchestras and ballets. If you're unable to make a performance, free guided tours of the venue (in English) are also available.
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Entertainment and Nightlife Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Theatro Municipal de São Paulo
Modeled after the elegant Palais Garnier in Paris, São Paulo's Theatro Municipal is a work of art. This grand theater was built between 1903 and 1911, and the design of its detailed facade incorporates Renaissance, Baroque, neoclassical and art nouveau styles. Inside, visitors are greeted with gilded balconies and rich red seats and curtains. The theater is a cultural icon, thought to have sparked the city's vivid interest in the arts (and specifically modern art) after it hosted the Week of Modern Art in 1922. Today, the Theatro Municipal hosts a variety of performances, including operas, plays, symphony orchestras and ballets. If you're unable to make a performance, free guided tours of the venue (in English) are also available.
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#4

#4 in São Paulo

Free
Most major cities have impressive markets filled with fresh produce, meats and fish, unique crafts and local treats. In São Paulo, that vibrant, aromatic market is the Mercado Municipal, known simply as Mercadão by locals (the "big market"). Originally the city's very first grocery market, Mercadão first opened in 1933 and hosts around 300 stalls selling everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to spices, cheeses and sweets to meat and seafood. More than 1,500 people work at this market and handle more than 450 tons of food on a daily basis. The building is also decorated with stunning stained-glass windows (72 windows that make up 32 panels) that depict different aspects of food production in the region.
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Shopping Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Mercado Municipal de São Paulo
Most major cities have impressive markets filled with fresh produce, meats and fish, unique crafts and local treats. In São Paulo, that vibrant, aromatic market is the Mercado Municipal, known simply as Mercadão by locals (the "big market"). Originally the city's very first grocery market, Mercadão first opened in 1933 and hosts around 300 stalls selling everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to spices, cheeses and sweets to meat and seafood. More than 1,500 people work at this market and handle more than 450 tons of food on a daily basis. The building is also decorated with stunning stained-glass windows (72 windows that make up 32 panels) that depict different aspects of food production in the region.
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#5

#5 in São Paulo

This neo-Gothic cathedral may catch your eye with its enormous spires and you'll hear it referred to by many (similar) names, including Catedral da Sé, Catedral Metropolitana and Catedral da Sé de São Paulo. The church is smack dab in the center of the city, near the main square of Praça da Sé. Inside, the venue can hold up to 8,000 people, which means it's the largest church in the city, and visitors can enjoy the intricate details that represent Brazil – from coffee beans to flora to animals – carved into the structure. The church also boasts a beautiful marble interior and colorful stained-glass windows (be sure to snap some photos). As the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of São Paulo's cathedral, it holds Mass daily; visitors can also tour the tombs within the church (for a fee).
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Churches/Religious Sites Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Catedral da Sé de São Paulo (São Paulo Cathedral)
This neo-Gothic cathedral may catch your eye with its enormous spires and you'll hear it referred to by many (similar) names, including Catedral da Sé, Catedral Metropolitana and Catedral da Sé de São Paulo. The church is smack dab in the center of the city, near the main square of Praça da Sé. Inside, the venue can hold up to 8,000 people, which means it's the largest church in the city, and visitors can enjoy the intricate details that represent Brazil – from coffee beans to flora to animals – carved into the structure. The church also boasts a beautiful marble interior and colorful stained-glass windows (be sure to snap some photos). As the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of São Paulo's cathedral, it holds Mass daily; visitors can also tour the tombs within the church (for a fee).
... more

#6

#6 in São Paulo

Set on Avenida Paulista in a bold red building with dozens of long, rectangular windows, the Museu de Arte de São Paulo is impossible to miss. The museum houses exceptional collections from many world-renowned artists, including Vincent van Gogh, Rembrandt, Picasso, Renoir and Degas, and is touted as offering the most comprehensive collection of Western art in Latin America. MASP has more than 10,000 pieces of art ranging from paintings and sculptures to photographs and period clothing. The museum also hosts talks, temporary exhibits, art classes and music and dance performances.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Museu de Arte de São Paulo
Set on Avenida Paulista in a bold red building with dozens of long, rectangular windows, the Museu de Arte de São Paulo is impossible to miss. The museum houses exceptional collections from many world-renowned artists, including Vincent van Gogh, Rembrandt, Picasso, Renoir and Degas, and is touted as offering the most comprehensive collection of Western art in Latin America. MASP has more than 10,000 pieces of art ranging from paintings and sculptures to photographs and period clothing. The museum also hosts talks, temporary exhibits, art classes and music and dance performances.
... more

#7

#7 in São Paulo

Free
Filled with shops, hotels, businesses, cultural institutions and restaurants, Avenida Paulista is one of the city's main thoroughfares. Towering skyscrapers populate this street – many of which boast some interesting architecture. Strolling down this avenue is a great way to take in the sights and sounds of São Paulo, and it makes for a convenient jumping off point to see some of the city's other top sights, including the Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Shopping Cidade São Paulo and Parque Trianon.
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Shopping Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Avenida Paulista
Filled with shops, hotels, businesses, cultural institutions and restaurants, Avenida Paulista is one of the city's main thoroughfares. Towering skyscrapers populate this street – many of which boast some interesting architecture. Strolling down this avenue is a great way to take in the sights and sounds of São Paulo, and it makes for a convenient jumping off point to see some of the city's other top sights, including the Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Shopping Cidade São Paulo and Parque Trianon.
... more

#8

#8 in São Paulo

Towering 46 stories above central São Paulo, Edifício Itália is one of the tallest buildings in the city. The building itself is a sight to behold – it's narrow and covered with office windows. But the real reason travelers come here is for the spectacular panoramic city views afforded by Edifício Itália's observation deck. You can access the rooftop deck for free between 4 and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you'd rather spend some time savoring the view, you may want to visit the rooftop restaurant Terraço Italia, or its piano bar. Past visitors suggested ordering cocktails and drinking in the views (and beverages); many warned the food was subpar and on the pricey side.
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Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Edifício Itália
Towering 46 stories above central São Paulo, Edifício Itália is one of the tallest buildings in the city. The building itself is a sight to behold – it's narrow and covered with office windows. But the real reason travelers come here is for the spectacular panoramic city views afforded by Edifício Itália's observation deck. You can access the rooftop deck for free between 4 and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you'd rather spend some time savoring the view, you may want to visit the rooftop restaurant Terraço Italia, or its piano bar. Past visitors suggested ordering cocktails and drinking in the views (and beverages); many warned the food was subpar and on the pricey side.
... more
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#9

#9 in São Paulo

Opened in 2008, the Football Museum celebrates the history of football (soccer) throughout Brazil. The museum is composed of several rooms that showcase different aspects of the game, including framed objects like pennants, buttons and posters; photographs of "heroes" of the game and videos of impressive goals in big games and World Cup competitions, among other highlights.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Museu do Futebol (Football Museum)
Opened in 2008, the Football Museum celebrates the history of football (soccer) throughout Brazil. The museum is composed of several rooms that showcase different aspects of the game, including framed objects like pennants, buttons and posters; photographs of "heroes" of the game and videos of impressive goals in big games and World Cup competitions, among other highlights.
... more

#10

#10 in São Paulo

This museum gets mixed reviews from visitors. Some say only Portuguese-speakers will be able to get much out of it (few displays are in English). Others say the art speaks for itself – providing an in-depth look into Afro Brazilian culture – and the collection is large. Visitors note there is a free self-guided audio tour app (in English) that offers insight, so bring headphones.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Museu Afro Brasil
This museum gets mixed reviews from visitors. Some say only Portuguese-speakers will be able to get much out of it (few displays are in English). Others say the art speaks for itself – providing an in-depth look into Afro Brazilian culture – and the collection is large. Visitors note there is a free self-guided audio tour app (in English) that offers insight, so bring headphones.
... more

Parks and Gardens Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend

Free
Neighborhood/Area Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
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