São Paulo, Brazil is the largest city in the world, outside Asia. With 22 million inhabitants, its charm has that incomparable Latin vibe where things seem to move fast, but where you can still find endearing moments, lightness, democratic spaces, and nature.
The list of things to do in São Paulo is endless. In this great city you will find a little bit of every place in the world. Many other countries in the world are represented in its restaurants, art, communities, and entire neighborhoods. We reached out to our favorite Paulistana (person who was born in São Paulo) who prepared this eco-friendly itinerary to help you get to know São Paulo and its diversity.
Paulista Avenue, the city symbol, is an important economic and cultural hub. Here is where you can see the contrast that exists in São Paulo, with big buildings and old houses, financial business and art, traditional and vanguard.
São Paulo is known for its almost unending urban landscape. However, throughout the city, we can see social expressions and environmental projects that are so important for the city’s sustainable development.
Here is some of what to do on Paulista Avenue:
- Casa das Rosas – is a French architectural style home turned art and poetry center. It has large grounds that survived amidst the modernization of Avenida Paulista. It is a space of resistance and to celebrate literature. In addition to enjoying the museum, you can walk in the gardens or sip a coffee in its beautiful coffee shop.
- MASP – Museu de Arte de São Paulo is an art museum that is a 20th-century landmark made by Lina Bo Bardi, an Italian-Brazilian architect. Though the building itself is beautiful, it houses important art exhibitions, and on the weekends it holds a unique antique fair that is very worth visiting.
On Paulista Avenue, you will also find Japan House – Japanese culture, Itaú Cultural – with a permanent art exhibition about Brazil, FIESP – a mix of art, technology, and traveling exhibits.
When you are traveling it is crucial to support the local economy. Buying from small merchants is a way to do that. Another way is to look for brands that are making green products. If you are looking for sustainable Brazilian products there are four good options near Paulista Avenue.
- Street-side Thrift Shop – Clothing vendors bring their racks to Paulista Avenue with amazing previously-owned products. A lot of the clothing has been transformed in a variety of ways including adding graffiti artwork.
- Capim Dourado – is a type of beautiful handcrafted golden colored grass that aims to replace gold. You can find this product for sale in small tents on the Paulista. Gold is illegally exploited in Brazil making it harmful to the community and the environment.
- Mapeei – On Augusta Street, Mapeei is the first zero-waste store in Brazil. They have a lot of local and sustainable products and work responsibility with their suppliers.
- Bemglô – On Oscar Freire Street, Bemglô has handcrafted items, clothing, accessories, cosmetics, and more. They are committed to sustainability and sell only Brazilian-made products.
Paulista on Sunday
Sunday is the best day to walk on Paulista Avenue. The Avenue is closed to traffic and it is crowded with pedestrians, artists, and street sellers, making it great for people watching. You can see all kinds of art, shop for handmade gifts, and experience street food São Paulo style.
When shopping remember to bring your reusable bag rather than taking the plastic bag from the sellers, and have some pocket money for the artists.
Next to Paulista, downtown you can find 31 Restaurante. A gourmet restaurant that is zero waste, using techniques such as fermentation, carbonization, and dehydration.
One of the best things to do in São Paulo is visit Vila Madalena. Vila Madalena is a bohemian neighborhood from São Paulo that breathes street art and an alternative lifestyle. It is an excellent place to take a walk, see the art galleries, stop for a drink or eat good food.
In Vila Madalena, you can visit Beco do Batman, an alley full of graffiti drawings. It started in the 80s when students saw a picture of Batman on the wall, then began to paint around it. Although graffiti first appeared in New York, it went through tremendous growth in Brazil. São Paulo was the precursor of this kind of art in Brazil, so in Beco do Batman, you’ll see many influential artists of this style.
If you visit Vila Madalena on Sundays, you will find a street market with art, food and second-hand products.
Stop to have an incredible coffee experience in Sofá Café. They buy their coffee directly from the farmer, choosing those with a traceability lot and socio-environmental commitment. In addition to that, Sofá Café educates socially vulnerable young people through the project Fazedores de Café.
If you want to go for some Brazilian sustainable food, the perfect place is Instituto Chão, a market that works exclusively with small organic farms. Looking for a restaurant? Try Purana.co, a plant-based, organic and plastic-free restaurant.
Take the opportunity to go shopping for green products. In Vila Madalena, you have Flávia Aranha, which works with organic raw material and natural dyeing. In the next neighborhood, Pinheiros, you can find Insecta Shoes, which sells recycled and upcycled shoes and accessories. On Saturday, you can visit an antique fair on Benedito Calixto square.
Visit a park
Serra da Cantareira
The Cantareira State Park is a park in the Serra da Cantareira mountain range. It is a protected area of the greater Atlantic Forest to the north of the city of São Paulo. Serra da Cantareira is one of the largest urban forests in the world. It extends from São Paulo to neighboring cities. It is an unbelievable experience to have such a big natural environment so close to everything in the city, where you can find trails and even waterfalls.
Because Serra da Cantareira is so large it is separated into four areas. None of the areas have restaurants, so don’t forget your snacks. Remember: don’t leave your trash behind!
Núcleo Pedra Grande: This area is famous because of the big rock that provides an amazing view of the city. Besides the rock, you can visit the lake nearby and drink water directly from the source. It is easy to get to without a car, you can take the subway, stop at Santana station, and then take an Uber or taxi.
Opening hours: Wednesday-Sunday: 8am-2pm
Ticket: R$ 37,00
Núcleo Águas Claras: this area is in another city, Mairiporã, but you can get there from Núcleo Pedra Grande, and if you are a fast walker you can do it all in the same day.
Opening hours: Temporarily Closed
Núcleo Engordador: this is an area where you can bathe in a waterfall. It is an excellent option to go on hot days.
To get to Núcleo Engordador from Paulista Avenue without a car, you could take an Uber or taxi. You can take the subway from Tucuruvi station and take two more buses, which isn’t always practical.
See on Google Maps how to get there from Paulista Avenue
Opening hours: Wednesday-Sunday: 08am-2pm
Ticket: R$ 37,00
Núcleo Cabuçu: Located in Guarulhos city, it has four trails, a waterfall, and a dam. It is a good option for those who want to explore a more rustic path.
Opening hours: Wednesday-Sunday: 08am-2pm
Ticket: R$ 37,00
More than a park, Ibirapuera is a space for culture and to practice sports. You can see a lot of open sports classes happening in Ibirapuera and sports courts. There you can rent a bike for one or two people.
Ibirapuera has five museums, such as the important MAM (Museum of Modern Art) or Museu Afro Brasil (afro culture).
This botanical park has a fantastic garden and historic building. It is lovely here. Lots of couples take photos to celebrate milestones like wedding, pregnancy and other family engagements. Jardim Botânico is a great place for a picnic, a nice walk or to visit the museum.
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