With its sheer size and spread out tourist attractions, South America’s largest city can sometimes seem a little daunting to first-time visitors. However, thanks to the growing efforts of tourism organizations such as Visit Sao Paolo, a thriving cultural and gastronomy scene, and around-the-clock nightlife, São Paolo continues to be one of the world’s greatest traveler destinations.
Sampa – as the city is known by locals- is home to the largest Japanese community outside of Japan, the largest population of Italian descendants, and a significant number of Spanish, Portuguese and Arab residents; making this huge metropolis one of the most culturally diverse places on our planet.
From contemporary galleries and experimental theatres to state-of-the-art live music venues, São Paolo is a relentless hive of cultural activity waiting to be explored. With this guide, we’ll make sure you pack your 72 hours in São Paolo with some of the best museums, bars, event spaces and restaurants that this urban giant has to offer. Be warned, though: you may find yourself staying a little longer than planned.
It’s your first morning in São Paolo, and there’s no doubt you’ll be itching to explore its world-class art and culture scene. A great place to start is Casa Triângulo; one of the most renowned and respected contemporary art galleries in Brazil. Since its opening in 1988, the gallery has played a vital role in promoting some of the biggest names in the contemporary art world through outstanding international exhibitions, events and art fairs. Check out their full schedule here.
Keeping with the theme of exploring Brazil’s most prestigious contemporary art scene, your next stop should be Galeria LEME. The building itself is a work of art; two modern, bare concrete blocks sit joined by a single, brightly lit passageway. Designed by architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha, the building aims to subvert ideas of a neutral exhibition space. Inside, you’ll find thought-provoking and beautiful work from both local and international contemporary artists. Check out their full exhibit schedule here.
After that art-filled morning, our guess is you’ll be feeling a little hungry. Take a well-deserved pitstop at quaint Bistro de Paris for an authentic, mouth-watering Parisien lunch. World-class Chef Alain Poletto serves up beautifully presented French classics such as duck confit, cassoulet and sizzling garlic snails in an atmospheric outdoor patio. With over 60 selected wines to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect accompaniment to your dish too!
Now that you’ve fuelled up, it’s time for some more São Paolo cultural fun. Finish off your afternoon with a locally curated dance, drama or live music performance at the brilliant Centro Da Terra. Sitting twelve meters below the surface, Centro Da Terra- meaning “centre of the earth”- is a 5-level underground music and visual arts centre equipped with an Italian stage, atelier, arty café, terrace and multipurpose workshop rooms. Expect anything from live samba bands and full production theatre to kids art workshops and tai chi lessons. Check out their schedule here.
With over 15,000 bars and countless world-class restaurants, the setting of the sun in São Paolo is hotly anticipated by locals and visitors alike. Fine dining, locally brewed craft beers and live music are all part of the vibrant evening line up here. The only problem? Fitting it all into just 3 nights.
Start as you mean to go on with a delicious first meal at Catalan restaurant, Tanit. Award-winning, Catalunyan-born Chef Oscar Bosch specialises in Basque seafood dishes such as seared octopus on black rice and king prawn fideua. Make sure you save room for dessert too; Oscar’s wife, Bia Bosch, prepares the most delicious Red Fruits pudding, served with goats cheese mousse, pistachio crumble and strawberry ice cream.
You may be in a full seafood and white wine coma, but the night is still young. And, in true São Paolo style, there’s only one thing for it: an ice-cold beer and glass-shattering live music. Head to the vibrant neighbourhood of Pinheiros, where you’ll find St Paul’s Pub serving local craft beers to the sound of the city’s best live rock and roll bands. When a big game is on, expect huge crowds round their a 100”+ screen too.
It’s the morning after the night before: your danced-out feet ache and your head’s a little sore. The best thing for it? Spoil yourself at Fit Body Pilates, Spa & Estetica. Choose from a huge range of spa packages from facials and massages to reflexology and cellulite treatments. If you fancy getting a little more active, there’s also a Pilates class schedule. Be warned: a morning visit here can easily turn into a full day of fitness workouts and pampering.
Now that you’re feeling relaxed and revitalized, it’s time to hit some more museums. One to tick off your São Paolo bucket list is the fascinating Museum of Energy of Sao Paulo. Housed in an 1800’s former mansion (at the time the home of one of the richest men in Brazil, Henrique Santos Dumont), the Energy Museum showcases the future of energy and its uses though captivating film projections, interactive games and hands-on science experiments. A must-visit for families.
You’ve had a busy day exploring, which means it’s definitely time for a beer. Well, you’re in luck; in recent years, the craft brewery scene in São Paolo has exploded into life. One of the places leading that craft beer revolution is Capitao Barley. With more than 150 artisanal brews, even the most experienced drinkers will be impressed here. Keep an eye on their website for free samplers, 2×1 deals and slashed drink prices.
Worked up an appetite? A worthy stop for your second meal in São Paolo is the award-winning Italian restaurant, Vinheria Percussi. Delighting hungry visitors since 1985 with their lovingly prepared antipasti, pasta and risottos, this family-run restaurant is one of Sao Paolo’s most precious gems. Don’t miss the mouth-watering Bauletti, an artisanal pasta filled with Codfish “Brandade” and Sweet Potato and served in herbed butter sauce.
Calling all yogis! If you’re the kind of person that likes to keep active on vacation, we’ve got the perfect early-morning activity for you. Set yourself up for the day and stretch out with a yoga class at centrally located YogaFlow. With more than 70 classes per week in 15 + styles such as Vinyasa, Hatha, Iyengar and Devi, there’s a practice here for everyone. Check out their schedule here.
Next up is an activity that no visitor in São Paolo should miss out on: learning how to cook, the Brazilian way! If you’re looking for an informal cultural exchange experience, Traveling Spoon offers fantastic private meals, market visits and cooking classes hosted by locals in their own homes and neighbourhoods. For a more traditional and structured cooking course in a professional kitchen environment, check out highly acclaimed Receitaria Escola Gourmet.
Did you know São Paulo has the largest openly gay community in Latin America? This afternoon, learn about the empowering history of the Brazilian LGBT community at the excellent Museu Da Diversidade Sexual (The Museum of Sexual Diversity). Covering important issues such as transgender politics, sexual orientation, discrimination, and human rights, the museum- one of only 3 in the world – attempts to support and protect sexual diversity through art, talks, performances and events. Check out their calendar here.
It’s your last meal in São Paolo, so we better make it count. If you’re looking for the best pizzas in town (maybe even in the country) head to Pizzeria Veridiana. Each pizza here is lovingly prepared from start to finish: the dough is expertly kneaded, left to rest for 48 hours and later topped using only the freshest of ingredients. Finally, it’s cooked to perfection in one of the huge wood-fired ovens and served in a beautifully romantic candle-lit patio surrounded by lush green palms. Heaven.
The night is young, and you’ve still got a good 12 hours left of your vacation. If you want to keep the evening going that little bit longer, book tickets to see a live dance, theatre or music performance at the 6,000-square-meter, state-of-the-art Simón Bolívar Auditorium. With flawless acoustics and a stunning interior, it is considered to be the most modern cultural space in Latin America. Check out their list of events here.
There’s no doubt you’ll leave São Paolo feeling like 3 days just wasn’t enough. The key to making the most out of this vibrant, culturally-diverse city is to get lost amongst its graffiti-painted walls, wander through the unique museums, sample the international cuisine and, of course, drink the expertly-brewed craft beer. With this itinerary, I think we might just have you covered there.