The Complete Guide to São Paulo, Brazil

When to travel

We were in São Paulo from July to August, and personally, I thought the weather was perfect. It was never too hot or too cold. Technically, it was winter in the southern hemisphere, but São Paulo generally had pretty mild weather. Some days were rather rainy, but there were plenty of cool, sunny days.

Plane

  • Tickets to Brazil can be expensive! Our best advice here is to be flexible. Play around with the dates and the airports you want to fly in and out of with Google Flights. This year, we’ve seen tickets from Miami to Fortaleza for about $300 round trip during May and June, and we’ve seen tickets from Salt Lake City to São Paulo for $500 round trip during May. Last year, we found tickets between SLC and Manaus for $650 round trip June – August.

Where to Stay

  • We stayed in an AirBnB in the Pinheiros neighborhood. It was my first time visiting Brazil, and I wanted to stay somewhere where I felt comfortable to explore on my own while my husband was in school. We stayed at Lia’s apartment. It’s $15 a night, but she offers a 10% discount if you stay for over a week and a 33% discount if you stay there for over a month. We enjoyed it there, and I felt very safe going on morning runs and wandering around the neighborhood on my own. There was a metro station and a weekly market only a few blocks away.
  • Liberdade could also be a fun neighborhood to stay at. See below for things to do in Bairro Liberdade.
  • We have found some cheap apartments in Bela Vista.
  • If you’re a wimp like me, it might be a good idea to inquire about whether the shower is heated before you book a place. If it isn’t, the water will be cold. May – August are winter months, so there are some chilly mornings.

Things to Do

Holy cow, there’s a lot to do in São Paulo! Here’s some of our suggestions…

  • Parque Ibirapuera. One of the largest urban parks in Latin America. Its iconic significance for São Paulo is comparable to Central Park in New York City. The park offers a beautiful view of the city. There are trails for running or biking and a lot of benches where you can sit and people watch. There are also a couple of museums inside the park.
View of the city from Parque Ibirapuera
  • Museu Afro-Brasil. One of the museums inside Parque do Ibirapuera. This museum explains the history and cultural traditions of African-Brazilians. I greatly enjoyed it, and it made me want to visit the North East part of Brazil. It was mostly in Portuguese, but we read online that they provide English speaking guides. It generally costs R$6, but entry is free on Saturdays.
  • Bairro Liberdade. We planned to visit Liberdade only once, but we ended up returning several times (mostly for the food). Liberdade is home to the world’s largest Japanese community outside of Japan. We enjoyed walking down the streets and checking out all the fun foods in the little grocery stores. Every Saturday morning, they have a market where you can have your fill of temaki (basically a sushi cone). We were also able to find specialty brands of Guaraná soda in the little shops at Liberdade. One of our favorite flavors is Guaraná Jesus, which comes in a pink can and tastes like bubblegum. It’s rather hard to find outside of the northeastern state of Maranhão, but we were able to find it in Liberdade.
The pedestrian signals in Liberdade matched the street lanterns!
  • Beco do Batman. A street full of artistic graffiti. We went on a Sunday and it was full of people and photographers. It is a fun stroll.
Obligatory photo next to the reason this alley is called Beco do Batman.
  • Municipal Market. Giant public market full of various fruits, veggies, meats, and other food stands. We only visited once, but we had friends who would come here often to buy their produce.
  • Avenida Paulista. This is São Paulo’s center street. It’s fun to walk down this busy street and see the shops and museums along the road. Each Sunday, the avenue is closed to vehicle traffic and instead is full of street vendors and street art performers.
  • Museu de Arte (MASP). Located on Avenida Paulista. Offers student discount if you show a student ID. It’s an interesting museum full of gorgeous works of art. Most of plaques are in both English and Portuguese.
  • Japan House. I was pleasantly surprised how by much I enjoyed this. This museum is located on Avenida Paulista. When we stopped by, they had a “sensations” exhibit featuring non-visual artwork. We sniffed little bottles full of different scents and tasted gummy bears with diverse flavors, including berry, wasabi, and soy sauce. Entrance is free.
  • Teatro Municipal de São Paulo. Beautiful theater built in the early 1900s. They offer free tours in English on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 11am and 3pm.

Cheap Eats

  • We were in São Paulo for about a month, so we mostly cooked meals at our Airbnb. We got our dry goods at the grocery store (rice, beans, cereal, etc.), and we would purchase produce and meat at the local market. We would also get pastéis and caldo de cana (sugar cane juice) at the market. Not all Americans enjoy caldo de cana at first, but we fell in love with it!
  • Any bakery or little lanche stand or store. Get a pastel, coxinha (be sure to top with ketchup and mayonnaise!) and/or pão de queijo. Not super healthy for you, but so very delicious and cheap. Be sure to try a juice or vitamina (smoothie) as well.
  • Sushi at Liberdade. As mentioned above, there is a market with a lot of sushi stands on Saturday mornings.
  • Aska. Located in Liberdade. A meal costs about R$17-20 ($4-$5 with the current exchange rate) for Lamen. Which is ramen. But they serve it fancier, and it is way better than instant ramen. The restaurant is typically VERY crowded. Try to get there early, and be prepared to wait for seats to open up.

Treat yo’ self

  • Attend a production at the theater! We went to a production of “O Fantasma da Opera.” I didn’t speak Portuguese fluently at the time, but I knew the story well enough to follow along. It ended up being one of my favorite things we did on the trip. My husband bought the tickets here.
  • Famiglia Mancini. This might be our favorite restaurant in Brazil. They served the best lasagna I’ve ever had. The locals often boast about the quality of São Paulo’s Italian food, but I didn’t really believe them until we went to Famiglia Mancini. In addition to the delectable food, the restaurant also has a really fun atmosphere, with live music and fun decorations
  • Fogo de Chao. Holy. Cow. This place was good. It is a fancy Brazilian churrascaria. It is similar to Tucanos in Utah, except about a million times better.
  • Frida & Mina Small, unique ice cream shop located in Pinheiros. They offer a variety of fruity, chocolatey, and specialty flavors. I decided to be adventurous and go for Balsamic Vinegar ice cream, and I loved it. R$8 for a single scoop, R$12 for a double scoop.
Frida & Mina
  • Bacio di Latte. Great gelato! There’s one in the JK Iguatemi Shopping and several other malls in São Paulo. R$11 for a small and$13 for a medium.

Tchau tchau for now!

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