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Rio de Janeiro is the first Brazilian city that many people think of when they take a trip to South America, but São Paulo is a cosmopolitan destination that’s incredibly diverse and fascinating to learn about. This is actually the largest city in Brazil, packed with museums and historical sites. Some of the best restaurants in the country are located here, the city has a very livable climate, and it’s an authentic city without all the standard tourist traps. If you’re planning your first trip to São Paulo, make sure to check out these nine fun things to see and do!
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Locally known as Parque do Ibirapuera, this is a spacious green area that provides a dose of nature among the tall skyscrapers of São Paulo. It has been a public park since the 1950s and has walking and biking paths to get some fresh air and exercise during your visit. Ibirapuera Park feels like an oasis in the city and is great for relaxing, as long as you can put up with a few crowds on sunny weekend days. If you’re getting around town via public transportation, you can hop off at the Brigadeiro or Paraíso metro stops to visit this iconic park and browse the food vendors for a snack or lunch.
There’s a vibrant and exciting market in São Paulo that has lots of fresh produce, meats, and local crafts known as the Mercadão. This market opened up in the 1930s and has hundreds of stalls that sell delicious foods and treats. Also, the market that the building is housed in is decorated with beautiful stained-glass windows. This market gets really busy on weekends, so plan to have some crowds and long lines. Or you can visit on a weekday for a calmer environment. Make sure to eat one of the famous baloney sandwiches that the market is known for when you stop by. You can hop off the metro at the São Bento metro stop and walk about a half-mile to the market.
This is an art museum in São Paulo that has lots of Brazilian art that dates back to the 19th century. The museum was established in 1905 and has thousands of paintings, sketches, and sculptures onsite. If you’re looking for a relaxing way to spend a day in São Paulo, plan a trip to this museum and then have lunch or a cappuccino at the café overlooking the garden. The museum is open Wednesdays through Mondays from 10am to 5:30pm, and free parking and a bike rack are available for visitors.
Another art destination worth visiting is the Museu de Arte de São Paulo, which is on Avenida Paulista. This is a museum where you can browse the works of international artists and see a huge collection of Western art. Also known as MASP, this museum has been open since 1968 and features Picasso, Renoir, Van Gogh, and many more famous artists. There are thousands of pieces of art here, as well as temporary exhibits, music performances, and speaker series events.
Speaking of Avenida Paulista, there is a lot to see and do here besides the famous art museum as well. Here you’ll also find lots of hotels, shops, and businesses because it’s one of the main thoroughfares in the city. There’s also some great skyscraper architecture to check out, with easy access to parks and other city attractions. If you visit on a Sunday, you can avoid the heavy vehicle traffic and perhaps even be entertained with live music and vendors. Many people compare this avenue to 5th Avenue in New York City, so it’s easy to find great places to eat and shop as you take a leisurely stroll.
There is also some creative and interesting street art in São Paulo, so head to Beco do Batman to check it out. This neighborhood is packed with colorful art – on the walls, sidewalks, and even trees. The streets are narrow and make for some excellent photo ops. Plan to walk here and not drive. There are also a lot of bars in the area to pop in for a drink after you’re done checking out the art scene.
Another neighborhood worth checking out is Liberdade, which is a Japanese neighborhood that sells souvenir handicrafts and delicious food from various parts of Asia. It may surprise some first-time visitors to learn that Brazil has a significant Japanese population, and many of the Japanese immigrants live in this São Paulo neighborhood. Make sure to try the local ramen and sushi restaurants, experience the Zen of an oriental garden, and maybe even get up on stage to sing a song at a karaoke bar.
Benedito Calixto Square is another fun spot to check out in the city, especially on Saturdays. This is when lots of vendors come to the open-air market to sell everything from furniture to records and food. This is a great place to find artisan-made items made from hand to take back home, try local foods, and listen to festive live music. Visitors often notice a shift in the day from the morning crowd, which is mostly families and couples shopping at the market then to the afternoon and evening crowd, which is mostly people sipping cold beers, chatting, and hanging out. A few hot spots to check out in this area include Consulado Mineiro, São Benedito, Teu Lar, and Escondidinho da Amada.
The Museu do Futebol is a must-visit destination for any soccer fans, but also an interesting place to stop by for everyone because of how important soccer is in Brazilian culture. You’ll find multiple rooms here with sports memorabilia and interactive exhibits that are great for fans and families with kids. The museum is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 9am to 5pm and on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 6pm. Plan your visit for Saturday to take advantage of free admission for all visitors.