By Lindenberg Junior | Contribution: Lucas Veiga / Cristiane Alves
We have updated our short guide about São Paulo in 2017, but it is still valuable for 2021, and here we bring what is new and trending as well what is traditional and worth to check. The biggest city in South America and considered the most important political and cultural center in Latin America, São Paulo is the heart of Brazil. It is the Brazilian city with the largest companies (national and multinational) and it has a lot to offer: great hotels, giant malls and many options for having fun.
You can go to nice restaurants, find great tourist and leisure activities, and enjoy the nightlife, be it at a fancy restaurant, in a club or in small bars, all of them ready to show why São Paulo is considered the world capital of cuisine. Now we give you this text – a guide that can be really useful in your next trip to “Sampa”
People from the city go to the Outlets when they want to buy affordable clothing. In Vila Mariana you can find one at the Rua Pelotas (near SESC Vila Mariana). Another good one is the Stand Center located at the famous Avenida Paulista. There you will also find import fragrances, cool watches and all kinds of electronic products sold at good prices. Other outlets of interest can be found in Itaim Bibi and downtown.
On José Paulino and 25 de Março streets, and the main streets in the Brás neighborhood are popular places were you can find fashion articles at an excellent price. If you’re interested in large quantities, those places also sell wholesale. These places are visited by Brazilians from every part of the country for a “shopping trip”. You will even find many Paraguayans, Uruguayans and Argentines doing some shopping here. One section has several stores that sell cloth and fabrics. Curiously, most of them are managed by Arabian descendents. Lots of patience and a good disposition are required to face this “challenge”, since these places are visited primarily by resellers.
If you want to buy trendy or posh clothes, go the stores that sell the leftovers from past seasons or with small defects from the most famous brands for a nice price. The Offashion (Rua Raul Saddi, Butantã) is the place to go for these kinds of finds. For those with a little more money in their pockets who want to buy high fashion wear, Oscar Freire street is still the most traditional place with a “Beverly Hills Style”.
Over there you’ll find, among others, stores by Forum, Zoomp, Osklen, Armani and Gucci. Walk a little more and you’ll find the Oscar Freire and Haddock Lobo streets and the Alameda Lorena. There you’ll find more sophisticated shops from world famous brands. Take the time to visit the decoration stores, and the Empório Santa Maria – the best place in town to buy high quality food, wines, fruits, teas and chocolates.
Arts & Culture
Without a doubt, the MASP (Modern Art Museum of São Paulo) is still one of São Paulo’s greatest tourist destinations. It’s an obligatory stop if you have an interest in arts and culture, as it always has exhibits and cultural shows. The Bienal of Ibirapuera is another place that unfailingly has something worth looking at. Since last January (2010) the Afro-Brazilian Museum has been open, depicting the trajectory of the influence of the African culture in Brazil.
On Saturdays the Benedito Calixto Fair in Pinheiros is the place to go if you’re a cool kind of person: sunglasses, potteries and antiques (from old records and record players to jewels, silver pieces and even clothes) can be found there. Close to the fair you’ll find the food court where among the many options you can taste a good Acarajé and witness the “Chorinho” meeting.
Speaking of Chorinho, here’s two other places where you can hear good music without spending any money: the “old school choro” players are always found in downtown in the many bars at the poetic address (made famous by Caetano Veloso in his song Sampa), Avenue Ipiranga with Avenue São João or at the Contemporânea store (Rua General Osório close to the Luz subway station). This is where some local legends of the chorinho traditionally meet and play every Saturday.
Another important place is the M.I.S (Museum of Image and Sound), with its huge cultural archives. The SESCs can never be forgotten either, in São Paulo they are cultural and social centers as good as any found in the so-called First World. They consistently present different kinds of cultural workshops, music and dance concerts on a daily basis (except on Mondays).
The Pompéia, Vila Mariana and Pinheiros branches usually offer the most sought out programs, but it’s always nice to see what’s happening on the other branches as well. Finally you can also pay a visit to the FNACs (there are two of them: one at the Avenida Paulista and another in Pinheiros). Books, movies and records are always a nice option (also check the Sensorial Discos at Rua Augusta, where you can find a lot of prime Brazilian Music for sale prices).
The Casa das Rodas is one of the last standing big houses that used to be such a part of the historic Avenida Paulista. Today you can see exhibitions by famous artists if you go there. This is a must see if you’re interested in arts and architecture.
On Sundays Av. Paulista is closed to the crossing of cars, which opens space for several artists to perform on the streets with shows ranging from mpb to rock covers. The proposal was to create a new space for the residents of the city so the street on this day is released for pedestrians to use as they wish.
In São Paulo you’ll find some of the most respected Capoeira masters of the world. People like Mestre Suassuna, the legendary master from the Cordão de Ouro group, and Mestre Tucano Preto from the biggest capoeira group on the planet. Another attraction is the open “roda” (showing) that happens every Sunday at the Praça da República, downtown. It’s one of the most traditional Capoeira meetings in town and a large number of people show up ranging from tourists and curious people to professional capoeiristas. The interesting thing is that those events don’t require the use of the specific capoeira clothing (the abadá) and the “cordão” (something like a belt in the martial arts) even with the presence of famous names in the sport like Mestranda Leopoldina and Mestre Ananias.
There’s a lot of excitement as the game becomes a “Russian roulette” since no one knows how good or strong his opponent will be. Right near there in the Galeria 24 de Maio there are two good stores – Luar Capoeira e Sobrado with capoeira articles. For percussion enthusiasts, a great place to go is a store called “Batucadas 1000” located at Rua Teodoro Sampaio, 836, Pinheiros.
In São Paulo you can order your pizza by the meter and the pizza is square! If this left you curious, go to the Bar Graminha (Rua Aspicuelta Vila Madalena). And what about a bar where you can take a ride in a charrete (a kind of carriage pulled by horses or mules)? This is at the Bar Piratininga, also in Vila Madalena.
By the way, it’s in this neighborhood that you’ll find the most open mind/alternatives bars in town and where artists, poets, journalists and philosophers are found. The Bexiga is famous for Italian restaurants such the Famiglia Mancini. There’s also the very traditional Capuano at the Conselheiro Carrão. This street have many other wonderful restaurants for you to enjoy with various types of meat, including barbecue. Also worth noting is the Candaluga (José Maria Lisboa, Jardim Paulista) with its high quality ambience, food and service (it’s a Brazilian version of a bona fide Lombardian restaurant).
The Asian kitchen has a strong presence in the Liberdade district. Every Sunday there’s a Asian culture fair where you can buy Asian pottery and check out the music and arts exhibitions. It’s quite easy to spot restaurants and small bars serving kibes, esfihas and other Lebanese specialties. The Almanara with almost 60 years is the most famous Lebanese restaurant in town. They now have twelve different address including one in the Oscar Freire street (Jardim Paulista) and another in downtown (Basílio da Gama street). It’s nice to point out that São Paulo has more Lebanese people than any other part of the world (save, of course, for Lebanon).
The Mercado Municipal, completely revitalized a few years ago, is an obligatory stop on your trip, with every kind of food you can think of (exotic fruits and spices, sweets and much more). The Bar Sujinho (Rua da Consolação close to the Avenida Paulista), is another traditional adress that deserves your attention and stays open until late (4am).
If Brazilian food is the subject it’s impossible not talk about the many churrascarias (Brazilian Style barbecue restaurants), among them the “Fogo de Chão” with three different locations (Santo Amaro, Moema e Brooklin – plus a Los Angeles adress!) and the Boizão Grill (Rua Pedro Vaz de Campos, 33, Pari). The restaurants with typical Bahian food are also a must, especially the Barra Baiana (Rua Traipu, 156, Perdizes) and the Iemanjá (Avenida Pavão, Moema). The last one in particular is very authentic with a real Bahia feeling. For Caipira food/Country style (that’s hillbilly or regarding the inland) try the Graça Mineira (Rua Machado Bitencourt, 75, Vila Madalena) and the Caipira (Rua Amazonas da Silva, 21, Vila Guilherme).
The “Galeria dos Pães” (Bread Gallerie) at Rua Estados Unidos, Jardins, located close to the Flats where the major executives stay, is also an interesting places to get to know. There’s a huge variety of wines, cheeses and breads to be tasted. On the upper floor there’s a “self service” type restaurant where you can buy food by weight. There’s quality live music and it’s open 24 hours. For the hot and multi-ethnic nights, the Chakras Espaço Gastronômico e Cultural (Rua Dr. Melo Alves, 294, Jardins) has the cosmopolitan face of São Paulo. They offer to their clients many attractions such as arts exhibitions, movies, a dance floor and contemporary food.
Bars & Places to Dance
At the bar of the Cambridge Hotel (downtown, at the beginning of Ave. 9 de Julho) there’s always a cool party happening with many foreigners and modern people. The Afrospot (13 de Maio 48, Bela Vista) has alternative nightlife style with tribal designs on the wall and three big screens with images mixed live by Dj’s on the dance floor.
The Love Club & Lounge (Rua Periquita, 189, Vila Olímpia) usually has international DJs playing techno and hard techno.Vila Olimpia is the neighborhood for the fancy and rich at night and for executives during the day. Vila Madalena is for the people with interest in new and alternative music, a place to find nice and cheap restaurants (always good for those who leave the party hungry). In the Downtown area you can find some rock, old school and hip-hop parties, in particular on the Rua Augusta (close to Consolação and the Jardins) there’s some interesting alternative clubs like the Blitz.
It’s good to know that even on Mondays or Tuesdays you can find high class parties to go to. Take the Urbano (at the Cardeal Arcoverde Ave.), for instance, where you van hear nice black music and high quality acid jazz. Nice quality concerts with a low price can be discovered through the SESC home page www.sescsp.com.br. And there’s much more to see, like the Bourbon Street and its New Orleans inspiration with daily blues and jazz shows. A must see!
Among the most famous concert halls there’s always something for you. Don’t forget to take a look on the programming of Via Funchal (Vila Olímpia), Credicard Hall (marginal Pinheiros, Santo Amaro), Citibank Hall (formerly know as Palace – Rua Jurupis, Moema) and the Tom Brasil (Ave. das Nações Unidas, Chácara Santo Antônio). The biggest stars (local or not) will probably be playing in one of these halls.
Other Interesting Places Worth Checking Out
Japan House – A museum located on the São Paulo avenue dedicated only to Japanese art, it was inaugurated last year and has three floors of gastronomy, art and Japanese technology.
Galeria Ouro Fino – The place for the modern youth. You get the feeling that you’re in London, with rock ‘n’ roll record stores, alternative wearing, tattoos and underground parties (from rock to hip hop).
Galeria 24 de Maio – Get a New York feeling here. Hundreds of record stores for all tastes (heavy metal, indie rock, hip-hop, eletronica and more), street wear fashion and hairdressers. The best place in town if you want to find rare records including those on vinyl.
Cinema Espaço Unibanco – Great movies with good theaters and a good crowd. Rua Augusta near Jardins and Consolação.
Praça Pôr do Sol – At the Alto dos Pinheiros. Have moments of great pleasure and ecstasy stopping your car during a sunset in a sunny day. Just sit and enjoy the astonishing view.
Jardim Zoológico (Zoo), Jardim Botânico (Botanic Garden) and Simba Safári – São Paulo’s Zôo is the biggest in Latin América and is worth a visit. It’s a beautiful place and attracts people from everywhere. The three places (Zoo, Garden and Simba Safari) are close to each other and it’s a great chance to see lakes and enormous green areas. Check out at the Avenida Cursino, Jardim da Saúde.
Interlagos Autodrome – an obligatory place to visit if you are a F-1 lover or car race enthusiast.
Cantareira Ridge (Serra da Cantareira) – for those who enjoy adventure and hiking (take a look at the Horto Florestal trails). The place is amazing and is really close to São Paulo (in the Horto Florestal neighborhood, 20 km from downtown).
Museu do Ipiranga (Ipiranga Museum) – For those who want to know something about the History of Brazil, the story of independence, the land owners and slave houses and much more. A beautiful place, and really close from São Paulo’s downtown.
Rua 25 de Março – The reference place for the popular commerce in the city, the 25 de Março Street has unusual and quite cheap options for those who want to shop and have “cold blood”. Be prepared to face huge crowds (especially on holidays) and to feel tired and thirsty. The street got its name from the date when Emperor Dom Pedro I proclaimed the first Brazilian Constitution in 1824. Despite this, not all the products that can be found there are “constitutionally” accepted. Some sellers and peddlers sell counterfeit or smuggled products without ever being bothered.
Rua Santa Ifigênia – The paradise for those who search for electronic products. You’ll find everything there and for great prices. Just like on the 25 de Março St., street peddlers sell counterfeit products without a problem.
Rua do Arouche – Downtown, this is the street you must go if you want to buy leather (costumes, purses, wallets, shoes and belts). Here they have the best and most famous stores specialist in this business.
Rua da Consolação – between downtown and the Cerqueira Cezar street – It’s the biggest selling center for lamps and lampshades, the biggest light market of Latin America.
Rua Teodoro Sampaio – In Pinheiros, it is the place for musical instruments and furniture from many different styles and affordable prices.
Rua Bem-Te-Vi – In Moema, this street was the firestarter for the stores that sell clothes from past seasons or with small defects from great producers. Nowadays you can find many stores dedicated to this kind of commerce with huge demand thanks to the low prices and high quality articles.
Motels of São Paulo – Some are very luxurious and expansive. Others offer discounts during weekdays. Some worth checking out are the Studio A, Guarujá, Caribe, Astúrias (all in the Marginal Pinheiros) and the Faraós (Via Anchieta, seashore way, with a special and beautiful decoration). * Motels in Brazil are used for “love stories” and payable by hour!
Churches – The Mosteiro de São Bento (São Bento’s Monastery – close to the São Bento subway station), the Catedral da Sé (Sé’s Cathedral) and the exuberance of an authentic Orthodox Church (close to the Paraíso Subway station) are the most interesting ones.
São Paulo is a city of great opportunities, perfect for doing business and shopping, excellent for those looking for fun. Even without a beach and the tropical way of life of other Brazilian cities, it is a cosmopolitan town where everybody can find something to do and enjoy. São Paulo has the biggest Japanese and Lebanese communities in the world (outside their country), and 65% of the population has an Italian surname. For visitors and paulistanos – the residents of São Paulo, this is a city like no other.
*Special thanks to capoeirista Cristiane Alves and journalism student Lucas Veiga for the great research and contribution.
** For airline tickets from the U.S to Brazil or Latin America, customized travel packages, hotels and cruises, please visit our travel agent page or contact Magali Da Silva by phone or whatsapp: 1 (323) 428-1963.