32 Must-Visit Attractions in São Paulo

| Aurelio Scetta / Unsplash
Lise Alves

São Paulo is Latin America’s largest city, and Brazil’s financial hub; the sheer size of the city and number of attractions in São Paulo are enough to make any visitor dizzy. Fortunately, Culture Trip has done the work for you with this list of the top twenty attractions that should not be missed while you’re in town.

1. Mercadão Municipal

Market

Fresh strawberries in Mercado Municipal, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Wagner Vilas / Unsplash

The municipal market of São Paulo, known as Mercadão, sprawls across over 12,000 metres and features merchants and artisans from all corners of the city, with a great variety of food and spices to eat there or take home. Its famous stained-glass windows were imported directly from Germany and its large columns make it a must visit stop for foodies and architecture aficionados alike.

2. Catedral da Sé

Cathedral, Church

Praça da Sé - Sé, São Paulo - SP, Brasil
Brunno Tozzo / Unsplash
The first version of the church was installed in 1591, when the indigenous leader Tibiriçá chose the spot where the city’s first temple would be built. The ‘church’ was a taipa structure with walls made of clay and straw, held up together by logs. The construction of the current Cathedral began in 1913 but was only inaugurated in 1954, still without its two main towers. One of the five largest Neo-Gothic temples in the world, there are guided historical visits within the church and its crypt below the altar, where the imaginary line of the Tropic of Capricorn passes and the indigenous leader Tibiriçá is buried. The front of the Cathedral is considered the very centre of the city of São Paulo.

3. Avenida Paulista

Architectural Landmark

Avenida Paulista, São Paulo, Brazil
Yuri Catalano / Unsplash
Avenida Paulista is one of the main financial and cultural centers of the capital, attracting thousands of visitors and tourists a day. In addition to having several options of shops and restaurants, it is also the home of São Paulo’s most famous museum, MASP, several movie theaters and large bookstores.

4. Parque do Ibirapuera

Park, Natural Feature

Ponte do Parque Ibirapuera, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Nathana Rebouças / Unsplash

Elected as one of the best urban parks on the planet by the UK daily newspaper The Guardian, Ibirapuera Park is an island of green and tranquility in the middle of this very noisy city. In addition to the thirteen playgrounds, lakes, picnic spaces and bike lanes, the park contains within its boundaries the OCA museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Afro-Brazilian Museum. It is also here that every two years the art scene comes alive with the São Paulo biennale.

5. MASP

Building, Museum

MASP, Avenida Paulista - Bela Vista, São Paulo - State of São Paulo, Brazil
Odinei Ramone / Unsplash
Located in São Paulo’s most famous avenue, Avenida Paulista, the São Paulo Art Museum Assis Chateaubriand (MASP) is one of the most important museums of the Southern Hemisphere and one of the main postcards of the city. It has a collection of about 8,000 pieces by famous artists, from Brazil’s Portinari and Anita Malfatti, to Picasso, Van Gogh, and others. With its modern architecture, designed by Lina Bo Bardi, MASP is said to be the only museum in the world with the main body perched on four lateral pillars, and a free area of 74 meters in length.

6. Pinacoteca

Art Gallery, Library, Memorial, Museum

Located in the centre of town, the Pinacoteca was São Paulo’s first art museum. It houses a collection of about 9,000 pieces from both national and international artists, and attracts over half a million visitors each year. The unique interior of the museum is one that first catches the visitors’ eye. Exposed brick walls and a large two-story atrium in the middle of the museum lets visitors enjoy the artwork under natural lighting. In the museum’s beautiful garden there are also several interesting sculptures.

7. Mosteiro de São Bento

Architectural Landmark

Even if you are not religious the São Bento Monastery in São Paulo is a must-see attraction while you are in the city. The Benedictines arrived in São Paulo in 1598, and in 1634 the Abbey was created and the chapel dedicated to St. Benedict. Today the monastery is home to about 40 cloistered monks, who sell the much sought-after breads, cakes, cookies and jams that help to fund the monastery’s activities. The monks follow centuries-old recipes which are well-guarded in the Abbey and not released to the general public. Also a must is the daily mass which includes Gregorian chants.

8. Liberdade

Architectural Landmark

Liberdade, São Paulo - SP, Brasil
Gabrielle Roncarate / Unsplash

No trip to São Paulo would be complete without a visit to the Liberdade neighbourhood, Japan’s largest colony outside of Japan. Walk around Liberdade and you will feel a part of Japan in the largest city in South America. It is estimated that about 400,000 Japanese and descendants live in São Paulo today, many in the streets of Liberdade. With Japanese lanterns decorating the streets and dozens of sushi establishments and specialised food stores where one can find Japanese, Thai and Korean products for sale, Liberdade is a true centre for its tight-knit community. It even has its own Japanese-language newspaper and hosts several annual Eastern culture festivals including Chinese New Year.

9. Beco do Batman

Art Gallery

Beco do Batman, Brazil
ckturistando / Unsplash
Its name was created in the 1980s when a group of art students found, in a narrow alleyway in Vila Madalena, the graffiti of the famous comic book hero Batman on one of the walls. They decided to expand the idea and pretty soon the entire alleyway was covered with multicoloured street art, which to this day attracts thousands of tourists each year passing through this artsy neighbourhood of São Paulo. The Beco do Batman (or Batman Alleyway) was one of the first open-air museums dedicated to graffiti to spring up in Latin America’s largest city.

10. Edificio Martinelli

Building, Architectural Landmark

Its construction began in 1924 and for some years the Martinelli Building – located in the heart of São Paulo – was the tallest skyscraper in Brazil and Latin America. Still today the building is impressive not only by its size but also by the rich and luxurious finish. Visitors can climb to the top of the building where there is a beautiful terrace with a panoramic view of the entire city, including the Jaraguá Peak mountain range, Avenida Paulista and the thousands of smaller buildings below. Visits are free.

11. Theatro Municipal

Theater

One of the true postcard-perfect places in the city, São Paulo’s Municipal Theatre was first constructed in 1903. Since then it has gone through several restorations to make it more modern without losing any of its initial glamour. The theatre hosts performances by local music and dance schools, and during days when no performance is scheduled, visitors can enter the theatre to visit.

12. Museu do Futebol

Museum

For futebol aficionados the Futebol Museum in São Paulo is a must. Located underneath the bleachers of the Pacaembu stadium, the museum traces the history of football, Brazilian football legends and the World Cup Games since its inception in 1930. It has old movie clips and radio transmissions from famous football games, interviews with football personalities in Brazil and an entire room dedicated to Brazil’s football ‘king’ Pele.

13. Eataly

Architectural Landmark

With close to 4,500 square meters divided over three floors, this food emporium is designed to look like the Eataly in Italy, selling more than 7000 products, many of which are imported directly from Europe. Eataly not only has shops where you can find Italian delicacies, but also thirteen restaurants and cafes, some of them serving great pasta entrees and superb desserts.

14. Parque Villa Lobos

Park

Named after one of Brazil’s most famous classical composers, the park is one of the most beloved in the entire city, with almost 20,000 visitors passing through on any given weekend. The park, located in the Alto de Pinheiros neighbourhood, encompasses 732,000 square metres of green space which also houses a bicycle path, football fields, playground, gym equipment, jogging track, and a forest with species from the native Mata Atlantica (Atlantic Forest).

Sala São Paulo

With 1,509 seats in its 1,000 square metre space, Sala São Paulo is considered the largest concert hall in Latin America. The hall has a movable ‘lining’ which allows for the adaptation of the acoustics depending on the music to be performed. The hall is also the only one on the continent which functions inside a working train station.

Galeria do Rock

Founded in 1963 as a shopping centre, Galeria do Rock is a meeting point of the most diverse tribes in the center of São Paulo.The centre’s fame began in the 1970s, when music stores began setting up there and record fans from all over the city descended on the area for the rarest record or bargain tapes. Today Galeria do Rock is a space not only dedicated to rock music, but skaters, tattoo artists and music-themed clothes and accessories.

Instituto Butantan

Founded in 1901 as the Serum Institute of the State of São Paulo, the Butantan Institute is not only an important tourist spot in the capital, but also one of the largest centres of biomedical research in the world, producing more than 80% of the total serum and vaccines consumed in Brazil. In addition to the nice park which surrounds the Butantan, visitors come to see the snakes in the open, rounded pits in the gardens located around the Institute. Several times during the week researchers take a variety of snakes out of their cages so that visitors can pet and hold them.

Instituto Tomie Ohtake

Don’t let the shiny, purple, red and blue skyscraper throw you, the Instituto Tomie Ohtake hosts some of the most sought-after exhibitions in the country. The building not only houses the gallery but is also home to a theatre, restaurant and book store. The gallery specialises in exhibitions of fine arts, architecture and designers who have been a reference in the art world for the past 50 years. Since the space has no permanent collection, visitors return again and again to see the new exhibitions.

Memorial da America Latina

Inaugurated in 1989, this building complex aims to strengthen Brazil’s political, economic, social and cultural relations with other Latin American countries. The memorial is home to more than 4,000 works of art, documents, sculptures, and handicrafts from nations around the region. Designed by Oscar Niemeyer, the complex has six buildings linked by a catwalk. The main symbol of the Memorial is Niemeyer’s seven-metre-high hand sculpture, with the map of the Latin American subcontinent in red, suggesting the dripping of blood of the population who suffered through many dictatorships, protests and authoritarian governments.

OCA

Another architectural masterpiece by Oscar Neimeyer, the OCA structure’s real name is Lucas Nogueira Garcez Pavilion. Because of its similarity to a typical indigenous hut – which in Tupi-Guarani is called an Oca – locals started to call it just that. The hemispheric format houses an exhibition space of more than 10,000 square metres inside the Ibirapuera Park.

Praça Benedito Calixto

From antique toys to aviator sunglasses to 1950s-style luggage, you can find it here at the charming Benedito Calixto square fair. The fair, which takes place every Saturday in Pinheiros, is considered one of the best antique fairs in all of Brazil, not only for its products but also for its snacks. In the afternoon people gather around to drink cold beer and eat typical Brazilian munchies while listening to chorinho (typical Brazilian music).

Templo de Salomão

Although a place of worship, this temple – built by one of the founders of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God – is a tourist attraction just due to its sheer size. Inspired by the biblical temple of the same name in Jerusalem, the Temple of Solomon has the capacity to hold more than 10,000 people and the height of an 18-story building. It hosts 36 Bible School rooms, television and radio studios, an auditorium for 500 people and parking for almost 2,000 cars. Visitation is free.

Feira da Liberdade

The weekend fair at the Liberdade neighborhood is one of the best places to buy delicate Japanese handicrafts. The stands sell not only souvenirs but also typical food from Japan, Korea and China. The fair is usually packed by mid-morning, with both tourists and Liberdade residents alike. If you are not staying in São Paulo during the weekend, a visit to Liberdade is still worth the trip.

JK Iguatemi Shopping

JK Iguatemi has 180 designer stores and is currently the top luxury shopping center in the city. Daslu, Lanvin, Lacoste, Sephora and Scarf Me, among many others, can all be found at JK Iguatemi. This place also has other attractions, like the terrace which provides a beautiful view of the Parque do Povo and the area across the Pinheiros River toward the Morumbi neighborhood. The cinema is also a hit, with eight large viewing rooms, six of which are VIP, equipped with comfy chairs, reading lamps and bar service. The other two have 4D and IMAX technology, respectively.

Parque do Povo

One of the newest parks in São Paulo, the Parque do Povo was inaugurated in 2008, after the city rejuvenated a rundown area near Marginal Pinheiros. The park has three sports courts, paths for cycling and walking and gym equipment for senior citizens. If you like chess, the park also provides giant checkered boards, with huge chess pieces. There is also a garden, where aromatic herbs are grown for the enjoyment of everyone, including the visually impaired.

Brascan Mall

This entire block once housed the Kopenhagen Chocolate factory, with the sweet smell of cocoa spreading throughout the neighborhood. The factory moved to an area outside São Paulo city, and the block was transformed into a open mall area, with fast food stores, cafes, and a cinema. Surrounded by trees, it is easy for residents to forget they are in one of the busiest streets in Itaim Bibi. The area also has one of the few playgrounds in the neighborhood.

Unusual Things to Do in São Paulo

15. Helicopter flights

Architectural Landmark

Helicopter taking off at São Paulo Airport - Campo de Marte, São Paulo, Brazil
Gabriel Goncalves / Unsplash

Imagine seeing one of the world’s largest cities from above. São Paulo has the largest helicopter fleet in the world, with around 500 registered helicopters, with an average of 700 flights a day and over 375 helicopter pads spread throughout the city. Many of these belong to tour companies that offer 15- to 60-minute helicopter rides. Flight tours occur every day of the week – weather conditions permitting – by several companies, many of which leave from Campo de Marte airport hangar.

16. São Paulo Zoo at night

Zoo

Monkey in Sao Paulo Zoo, Brazil
Mahboba Rezayi / Unsplash
The São Paulo Zoo offers guided visits at night to those interested in learning more about the animals that are nocturnal and thus usually not seen during daylight hours; these include bats, owls and possums. The monitored trip occurs every 15 days on pre-set dates, and should be booked early via the zoo’s operator – this visit is very popular, and sometimes fills up months in advance.

Crypt at São Paulo Cathedral

In addition to the beautiful stained-glass windows at the São Paulo Metropolitan Cathedral, located at the very centre of the city, visitors can also see the crypt of the Cathedral beneath the church’s main chapel. Located where the imaginary line of the Tropic of Capricorn passes, the crypt is just as impressive as the floor above it, with marble floors and arched ceilings. There are 16 bishops buried here, as well as the indigenous leader Tibiriça, who helped the Portuguese settle into São Paulo. Visitations occur from Tuesday through Sunday from 9am–5pm.

Quan-Inn Temple

In the southern region of the city, near the Interlagos racetrack, there is a Buddhist temple that remains an underrated destination. Vibrant, colourful and featuring ornamental décor that will impress even the most seasoned visitor, the establishment actually has three temples devoted to the Buddhist and Taoist religions. These temples are open to visitors only on Sundays from 9am–2pm.

Rota tunnel

The Tobias de Aguiar Army Headquarters located on Avenida Tiradentes is much more than an army centre based in São Paulo. Built in the 1890s, the headquarters hide tunnels underneath its buildings that were used by soldiers in the 1924 Revolution. Later, in the 1960s, the tunnels were said to hold those being interrogated by the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil for over 20 years. The tunnels – which were almost 3km (1.8 mi.) long – were demolished with the arrival of the metro system to this part of the city, but 100m (109 yds.) remained and was transformed into a unique museum, with pictures and posters tracing its history. The atmosphere, however, remains damp, and visitors should arrive knowing they may come across bats and giant spider webs. Visitation is on Fridays and by appointment only.

Ceagesp Flower Market

You will have to wake up at dawn to visit South America’s largest flower and flower markets. Hundreds of flower trucks line up outside Ceagesp to deliver flowers and trees that will be bought by flower shops and supermarkets; decorators and architects also come here for inspiration. Here you can buy flowers and plants at a fraction of the prices at retail stores, and there is also a section selling clay pots and everything else you need to make flower arrangements. The flower market is open in the morning from 5am–10am, but if you want the best selection, you have to get there as early as possible. On Wednesday afternoons (4pm–10pm), there is a fruit and vegetable market in the premises, but the prices do not vary much from what you find in your local supermarket.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,656 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

X
close-ad
Edit article