Despite Rio getting most of the attention, São Paulo is actually South America’s largest city and a huge, bustling megalopolis full of life, culture and great food. Brazil's financial center, the city boasts abundant cultural institutions and a rich architectural tradition. While you could spend weeks exploring, in just 48 hours, you will get a good sense of what makes this city home to some of Brazil’s most fiercely loyal residents.
8 AM - COFFEE AND A BRAZILIAN-STYLE BREAKFAST
If you’ve arrived in São Paulo by plane, you’ll need a little pick-me-up before hitting the city. Stop for a Brazilian-style breakfast: a quick cafezinho and snack at any café, even those at the airport before you leave.
Brazil is known for its coffee, and as the world’s largest producer, it’s an important part of the culture. Typically served Italian style -- fresh espresso in small ceramic cups — if you need to tone down the strength, try ordering a media (pronounced "meh-JEE-ah"), espresso served with steamed milk. Be careful when ordering a "cappuccino" in Brazil, as it's generally made with milk and chocolate.
11 AM - PARQUE IBIRAPUERA
AV. PEDRO ÁLVARES CABRAL - VILA MARIANA, SAO PAULO, BRAZIL
Once in the city, a refreshing way to spend the day is with some fresh air at the city’s finest park, Parque Ibirapuera. A nice place to relax — the park has bike lanes, coconut water stands, a lake with ducks, and plenty of green space — but it’s much more than that. Home to several of the city’s finest museums and well-known architecture, Ibirapuera is the cultural center of São Paulo, as well.
There is the Museum of Modern Art (MAM); Museu Afro-Brasil, which houses a colorful collection of artifacts detailing the history of slavery; Oca, where temporary exhibitions on a wide range of artistic topics are held; and the São Paulo Art Biennial, where exhibitions take place every two years.
1 PM - LUNCH IN THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
AV. PEDRO ÁLVARES CABRAL - VILA MARIANA, SAO PAULO, BRAZIL
The museum’s restaurant serves a buffet-style lunch Tuesday-Sunday and while eating, you can enjoy a view of the sculpture garden and Oca, one of the park’s most striking buildings designed by Brazil’s best-known architect, Oscar Niemeyer.
As you enter, take note of the huge mural created by two of the city’s most famous street artists, Os Gemeos. These internationally recognized twin brothers were commissioned to paint the colorful, whimsical piece to decorate the outside of the museum.
5 PM - BECO DE BATMAN
R. GONCALO AFONSO - VILA MADALENA, SAO PAULO, BRAZIL
One of São Paulo’s hippest areas is also the best place to see one of the city’s most notable features: its street art. Head on over to Beco de Batman (Batman’s Alley) in the hilly neighborhood of Vila Madalena. Here you can stroll a few blocks down the pedestrian-friendly lanes taking in the vibrant scene. Be careful with your valuables and avoid this area at night. It's also good to note that this low-lying street can flood quickly, so leave if you see a storm approaching.
6:30 PM - DRINKS AND DINNER IN VILA MADALENA
R. ASPICUELTA, 533 ALTO DE PINHEIROS, SAO PAOLO, BRAZIL
Pop into São Cristovão for a chopp (draft beer) and taste of local culture. São Cristovão is the place to visit if you’re into soccer for a cultural lesson in futebol, the country’s favorite pastime. Food is served here, but it's more of a drinking establishment.
Banana Verde (located just two blocks from Beco de Batman at Rua Harmonia, 278) provides a taste of the city’s health-food scene. The all-vegetarian restaurant is refined yet casual with exceptional fresh juices. Still up for some nightlife? You can’t go wrong in Vila Madalena — the streets are full of bars with live music. Simply ask a local for suggestions.
9 AM - BREAKFAST AT BELLA PAULISTA
RUA HADDOCK LOBO 354 CERQUERIA CESAR, SAO PAULO, BRAZIL
While a good Brazilian breakfast consisting of coffee, a toasted baguette with butter, and fresh juice can be found on just about every street corner of São Paulo, this bakery serves a delicious breakfast buffet and made-to-order juices. And don’t despair if you don’t make it in the early morning hours -- they're open 24 hours a day for whenever the craving hits.
11 AM - MUSEUM OF ART OF SÃO PAULO
AV. PAULISTA, 1578 SAO PAULO, BRAZIL
One of the city’s most striking
buildings is also home to the finest collection of western art in Latin
America. Here you can stroll among masterpieces by Rembrandt, Velazquez and
Monet before heading downstairs to see the temporary exhibitions, which often
showcase politically-charged pieces made by modern Latin artists. Stroll
Trianon Park across the street or shop the bustling antiques market below the
museum if you are lucky enough to come on a Sunday.
1:30 PM - MUNICIPAL MARKET
R. DA CANTAREIRA, 306 CENTRO, SAO PAULO, BRAZIL
The Municipal Market, or Mercadão, as it’s known by locals, is a must for those who love food. After taking in the building’s grand architecture, head to Bar do Mané or one of the many other bars for a mortadella (Italian sausage or cold cut sandwich). A reflection of the city’s huge Italian population you'll also want to try delicacies like pineapple and mint juice and pastel de bacalhau, a fried snack filled with cod fish and herbs. Stroll the market as you admire the dazzling displays of fresh fruit and aisles of dried nuts, olive oils, sausages, and desserts.
4 PM - PINACOTECA DO ESTADO DE SAO PAULO & PARQUE DA LUZ
PRAÇA DA LUZ, 2 LUZ, SAO PAULO, BRAZIL
If you can squeeze it in,
the Pinacoteca is a nice place to relax while taking in a bit of Brazilian
history. A beautiful brick building, housed here is a sweeping collection of art illustrating life in colonial Brazil through the centuries. Next
door is Parque da Luz, an interesting mix of sculpture gardens, European-style
botanic gardens, and meeting place for prostitutes and their clients.
6 PM - DRINKS AT THE EDIFÍCIO ITÁLIA, DINNER AT COPAN
AV. IPIRANGA, 344 CENTRO, SAO PAULO, BRAZIL
One of the city’s most famous landmarks, O Edifício Itália is located in the old city center and, at 46 stories, stands as one of
the city’s tallest buildings. Take the elevator up to Terraço Itália Restaurante at the top to enjoy
a drink with a view before dinner.
A slightly more casual but interesting dinner option is just a few steps away at Bar da Dona Onça in the Copan building. Here you can sample traditional Brazilian dishes in one of the city’s most recognizable buildings. The swirling shape was designed by renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer.
WHERE TO STAY: HOTEL UNIQUE
AV. BRIGADEIRO LUÍS ANTÔNIO, 4700 SAO PAULO, BRAZIL
As the name suggests, Hotel Unique is an innovative place to stay thanks to its contemporary building design. The half-moon shape of its striking architecture was designed by Ruy Ohtake to complement other modern details like the landscape, interior and gastronomy at Skye, the hotel's restaurant. Conveniently located in the residential neighborhood of Jardins, you'll be nearby Ibirapuera Park and central to other landmarks.