São Paulo’s Municipal Market, or Mercadão (Big Market) as it is known locally, is a must-see for any visitor to the city. Its myriad stalls of incredible fruits and vegetables (many of which you will have never seen before in your life) and the delicious bar snacks available on the market’s upper floor make for an excellent day out. But it is also an ideal spot to buy something to take home with you.
Avoid the fruits and vegetables, which clearly will not travel well and are particularly expensive to buy in the Mercadão, and head for the stalls which sell cured meats and other long-life produce. You’ll probably want to buy everything in the shop, but look out for some typical Sâo Paulo ingredients, such as Ceratti mortadella – the meat of choice in the Mercadão’s famous mortadella sandwich.
Mercado Municipal, Rua Cantareira 306, Centro, Sao Paulo, Brazil, +55 11 3313 3365
Located in the center of the city, Rua 25 de Março has to be seen to be believed. This long, hilly street is filled with shoppers all through the week, who dip in and out the dozens of stores selling all kinds of products. From the traditional to the downright tacky, you can find anything on 25 de Março, usually at incredibly low prices.
While always busy, the street fills up even more around the holidays, and it’s a one-stop shop for your carnival costumes, Christmas decorations and colorful, noise-making tat for cheering on Brazil during the World Cup. You’re guaranteed to find fun souvenirs here, but if you are looking for a practical tip, look for a nice hammock. They are incredibly expensive outside of Brazil, but you’ll find plenty of cheap, quality hammocks on 25 de Março.
When visiting Brazil, it is a good idea – if not your duty! – to bring your friends back at least one bottle of cachaça, Brazil’s national spirit. Cachaça is a delicious beverage made from fermented sugarcane juice with an alcohol content of around 40%. It is the main ingredient in the Caipirinha cocktail (along with lime, sugar and ice) and is an excellent alternative to more widely known spirits such as vodka and rum, aside from being considerably cheaper.
It comes in two varieties, unaged (cachaça prata, the type used in caipirinhas and as a general mixture) and aged (cachaça ouro, perfect for sipping and can rival many whiskeys). A great place to pick up a bottle is at Beale Bebidas, an excellent little shop close to Praça da República which has an excellent selection of cachaça. For something simpler, try a bottle of Seleta or Salinas, or if you’re looking for something a little fancier, Nega Fulô is a delicious aged cachaça which often comes in handmade clay jugs.
Beale Bebidas, Rua Rêgo Freitas 52, Vila Buarque, São Paulo, Brazil +55 11 3337-0899
The charming Benedito Calixto Square in the trendy neighborhood of Pinheiros is a lovely place to spend a weekend afternoon, and it hosts one of São Paulo’s best arts and antique fairs every Saturday from 9am to 7pm. The stalls sell a little bit of everything, from vinyl records and clothes to antique furniture and children’s toys, but there are plenty of typically Brazilian items on sale, making it a good spot to find that perfect souvenir. It also has live music and plenty of food stalls, as well as the excellent Consulado Mineiro restaurant nearby, meaning that your souvenir shopping needn’t be a rushed, last-minute experience.
Another excellent spot for buying souvenirs in São Paulo is right outside (actually, directly underneath) one of the city’s most famous landmarks. MASP, the São Paulo Art Museum, is an impressive glass and concrete structure which is suspended above ground level by large beams. Therefore, the area underneath the museum is left free, often serving as a meeting place for cultural events. On Sunday, however, the free space is devoted to the MASP Antique Fair, which receives around 5,000 visitors each week and has been running for over 25 years.
The stalls offer all kinds of unique items, including antique clocks, jewelry, plus arts and crafts. This is a great way to spend your Sunday afternoon in São Paulo, as well as being an excellent chance to pick up a unique souvenir to bring home with you.
Football (don’t call it soccer) is a huge part of Brazilian culture, and very few places in the country take it as seriously as they do in São Paulo. The city’s Football Museum, housed inside the gorgeous municipal Pacaembu Stadium, is a must-visit for any tourist in São Paulo and the museum’s shop offers a good opportunity to buy football-related souvenirs.
The Brazilian national team’s golden yellow shirts are famous all over the world, so why not pick one up after your tour around the museum?
Entry into the museum is cheap (R$10, free on Saturday), and while most of the exhibits are in Portuguese, independent guided tours are available in English.
Museu do Futebol, Praça Charles Miller, Pacaembu, São Paulo, Brazil +55 11 3664-3848
Known as the most expensive street in Latin America and home to top-end international labels such as Versace and Tommy Hillfiger, Oscar Freire is perhaps not the first place that comes to mind when you’re talking about buying souvenirs (unless you are a very generous person indeed!). Despite being a lovely place to window shop and have an afternoon stroll, Oscar Freire does have one excellent souvenir-buying opportunity at the Havaianas flip-flop store.
While ubiquitous and cheap in Brazil, Havaianas flip-flops and sandals are much rarer and more expensive elsewhere in the world. This makes them an excellent gift for your friends and family, and the Havaianas store on Oscar Freire has the best selection of models and colors in the city.
Havaianas, Rua Oscar Freire 1116, Jardins, São Paulo, Brazil +55 11 3079-3415
Located inside Ibirapuera Park, the Museu Afro Brasil (or Afro-Brazilian Museum) is an excellent choice for a day out in São Paulo, doing an excellent and important job in documenting the history of Brazil’s Afro-descendant population. While the museum itself is spectacular, the gift shop is also a good place to pick up some interesting and unique souvenirs. From books to replicas of beautiful artifacts, you are sure to find a great gift to take back home.
São Paulo has the largest concentration of Japanese people outside of Japan, and this is visible in the neighborhood of Liberdade, just outside of the city center. This is São Paulo’s very own Japantown and has an East Asian atmosphere all year round. There are a number of stores selling Japanese food and ornaments, but for buying souvenirs, visit on the weekend when Liberdade hosts its arts, crafts and culture fair. From 8am to 7pm every Saturday and Sunday, there are a number of stalls selling jewelry, clothing, antiques and other artifacts.