Visiting Sao Paulo - What to See and Do

(Congonhas Sao Paulo Airport CGH, Brazil)

Not only is Sao Paulo Brazil's largest city, it is the third-largest on the planet. Don't let the sheer size of this metropolis daunt you, Sao Paulo is quite accessible in small doses. The city's legendary traffic jams aren't the problem of visitors who stay in the central districts of Higienópolis, Jardins or Centro. Here, the city's top shops, restaurants, museums and nightlife are within arm's reach.

There are plenty of things to do in Sao Paulo, as one would expect from such a vast city. There isn't a great deal of Old Sao Paulo left, but areas like the Pátio do Colégio complex offer a decent glimpse into the early years. Luckily, its amazing museums and related attractions make up for history, providing visitors with a deep look into the heritage, culture and artistry of this city and Brazil as a whole.

You won't be lacking for things to do after dark, if you can start your night at midnight that is. This is a city that truly doesn't sleep, with top Brazilian bands performing every night and an endless list of trendy bars, dance halls and restaurants to explore. Days are best spent shopping and napping, saving energy for a proper night out with the local Paulistas.

Ten things you must do in Sao Paulo

  • Sao Paulo is best explored on foot, and old neighbourhoods like Centro are where the historic attractions are concentrated. Centro is home to the Banespa Tower, the Catedral da Se, and pedestrian streets like the Rua Direita and the Rua Sao Bento.
  • The Parque da Luz is the city's oldest botanic garden. Built nearly 200 years ago, this oasis of towering trees, green lawns and welcome shade sits right in the heart of the skyrises. During the day it is well-policed and safe to stroll, but don't venture here after dark.
  • The Praca da Se is one of the city's great plazas. It is home to the Metropolitan Cathedral, along with street preachers, buskers and pickpockets. The plaza is a fun place to watch life go by, just keep an eye on your valuables.
  • For one of the best views in Sao Paulo, make your way to the observation deck of the whitewashed Banespa Tower. From the 35th floor you are treated to a 360-degree panorama of high-rises and cityscapes. It may not sound enchanting, but in fact the vista is strangely inspiring.
  • Search for your own personal treasure at the weekend flea market in the Bixiga (Bela Vista) neighbourhood. Each Saturday and Sunday, the Praca Dom Orione entertains vendors selling antiques, second-hand items and other interesting things.
  • The architecture alone of Sao Paulo's top art museum makes it worth a visit. Add a stunning collection of Brazilian art that spans its 19th and 20th centuries and there is plenty to recommend this museum. Visitors can see how Brazilian artists first broke free of their European influences and struck out on their own unique artistic pathway.
  • It is surprising to see a Japanese neighbourhood in Sao Paulo, but the Liberdade area is a real treat to explore. In fact, this is the largest Japanese expat community in the world. Asian faces replace Brazilians in Liberdade, while the sushi is sublime, and the style and décor unmistakably Japanese.
  • The Mercado Municipal is the city's oldest, largest and most endearing local market. Built in the 1930s, the market is quite an attraction. Tropical fruits, rainforest herbs, produce and other fresh goods overflow the stalls as people wander in and out to do their shopping.
  • Arguably the best shopping in Brazil is in Sao Paulo. Head to the Jardins district for designer fashion or to Centro for a maze of quirky little shops. Of course, Sao Paulo also has some amazing indoor shopping malls such as Morumbi and Iguatemi. These classy malls are really upscale and genteel, offering another side of Paulista living.
  • The bars and clubs of Sao Paulo don't get bumping until after midnight, but this party scene is an easy rival to Rio. Head to the Vila Olimpia area with the younger crowd for the city's top dance clubs and giant bars. If classy bars and slick restaurants are more your thing, then pay a visit to the neighbourhood of Vila Madalena.

Sao Paulo Airport CGH

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