São Paulo: Top Things To Do
“São Paulo is a monster”. That’s how my guidebook introduces this gigantic city. After the chilled out, fun atmosphere of Rio, many visitors to São Paulo despise this giant, hectic monster. But I have to admit (and I’m going to be controversial here): I didn’t hate it.
Here are my favourite things to do in this monster of a city:
1. Galleries and Exhibitions in Villa Madalena
São Paulo is a sprawling mess of neighbourhoods with no real centre, but Villa Madalena is a popular area where we based ourselves for much of our time in the city. This bohemian neighbourhood is filled with artists and musicians, and here you can find a range of ever-changing exhibitions and events. We took in a free photography exhibition in the Nikon gallery, and there are countless other galleries and studios to choose from. Villa Madalena is also where you’ll find Benedito Calixto Market, Beco do Batman, and the best nightlife (see below).
2. Benedito Calixto Outdoor Market
This wonderful market takes place every Saturday, and features a wide collection of stalls selling antiques and handicrafts. Around noon, a band sets up by the food stalls. It’s a great place to pass a Saturday afternoon, strolling through the stalls, dancing to live music, and picking up some snacks. And if the market gets too hectic, you can always admire it from afar at one of the bars and restaurants lining the opposite streets.
Benedito Calixto market is held every Saturday from 9 am to 7 pm on Praça Benedito Calixto in Villa Madelena. The nearest metro station is Clinicas, and the market is free to enter.
3. Street Art in Beco do Batman
In and around the awesomely named Beco do Batman street, you’ll find a great collection of street art. Ever since a painting of Batman first appeared on the alley walls in the 1980s, art students have been adding their works to the growing collection, and now every inch of the street is covered in colourful paintings. Brazil is a great place to experience street art, and Beco do Batman is one of the best examples. The area is popular with visitors, and is great place to explore for an hour or two.
Beco do Batman is in Villa Madelena, very close to Benedito Calixto market. It’s free to enter, and the closest metro station is Sumaré.
4. Sushi in Liberdade
The neighbourhood of Liberdade is home to the world’s largest Japanese community outside of Japan. This interesting district gives a great taste of Japanese culture, and is far removed from the rest of São Paulo (both in appearance and in distance!). On Saturdays and Sundays, the neighbourhood hosts a street market, selling Japanese goods and food, and on Sundays only, a weekly craft fair is held in the public square.
This district is also home to the best sushi I have ever eaten! While I initially struggled to find a restaurant that sold vegetarian sushi, I found a massive veggie platter in Nishi Sushi Bar, on Avenida da Liberdade.
5. Samba bars
Wherever you go in Brazil, the air will be filled with the sounds of Samba. Bands play on the street and at markets throughout São Paulo, but to get a real feel of the samba scene in the city, head out for a night in a Samba bar. Bars throughout the city host regular live music nights, especially on the weekends. There is often a cover charge for the more well-known venues, but we found a few in Villa Madelena that were free to enter. Staff at your accommodation should be able to help you find a samba event (or you can just head out and follow the music!).
6. Sunday market on Avenida Paulista
Yes, another market has made the list! Brazil is well known for its markets (or feiras), and São Paulo is overflowing with them. On our visit to the city, we stayed near Avenida Paulista, and on Sunday the whole street was taken over by a market of antiques and street food. The market is sometimes referred to as the Antiques Market or the MASP Market (as it takes place around the MASP building). Many stretches of road are closed to vehicles on Sundays and instead are filled with cyclists exploring the city on rented bikes. We stuck to getting around on foot, and wandered through the market, getting our fill of street food.
The market takes place every Sunday from 10am- 5pm on Avenida Paulista, near the MASP (Museu de Arte São Paulo) building. The market is free to enter, and the nearest Metro station is Trianon-Masp.
And that’s it! My top things to do in São Paulo! If you have any more to add, be sure to include them in the comments…