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São Paulo is among the largest cities in the world and it can take some time to see all of its sights and fully appreciate its cosmopolitan charm. However, if you’re only there for a flying visit, here is our guide to making the most of 48 hours in São Paulo.
Head down to Avenida Paulista and grab breakfast at Bella Paulista. São Paulo is famous for its large bakeries (known as padocas) which serve everything from freshly baked bread, coffee and fresh juices to steak, pizza and beer. Bella Paulista is one of the city’s best examples, open 24 hours and serving a huge breakfast buffet.
From there, take a walk down Avenida Paulista, the most important street in today’s São Paulo and often compared to New York’s Times Square. On Sundays, the road is completely closed to traffic and is full of people walking their dogs and riding bikes. Walk to M.A.S.P., São Paulo’s most popular art museum housed in a fascinating building designed by Brazilian-Italian architect Lina Bo Bardi. The modern brutalist construction is elevated high above the ground by four pillars, giving the impression that the museum is floating above the ground.
From M.A.S.P., cross Avenida Paulista and head down towards the neighborhood of Jardins, passing through Trianon Park on the way. Jardins – also called Jardim Paulista – is one of the wealthiest areas of the city, and many of São Paulo’s best fashion boutiques are situated around here, particularly on Rua Oscar Freire.
Once your shopping is done, go for lunch at Vento Haragano, one of the best traditional churrascarias in São Paulo. Churrascarias are all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouses, where waiters bring diners massive cuts of perfectly-barbecued meat skewered on swords.
With lunch settling, head over to the Japanese neighborhood of Liberdade and marvel at its oriental decoration and traditional East Asian stores. When you’re ready for a sit-down, walk to Izakaya Issa and grab a sake. This is arguably the best Japanese restaurant in town, but as it is an izakaya (an informal sake bar), the atmosphere is very friendly and laid-back. If you can manage more food after what was no doubt a hearty lunch, order some takoyaki, which are delicious crispy octopus dumplings.
For the evening’s entertainment, walk a couple of blocks to Chopperia Liberdade, São Paulo’s best karaoke bar. Its kitsch décor, tasty cocktails, and incredible selection of karaoke tunes make this place one of the most fun spots in the city.
Get up and go to Frutaria São Paulo for breakfast. Grab a coconut water and an açaí na tigela (frozen açaí pulp with sliced banana and granola) to get rid of that karaoke hangover. Once you’re back in the land of the living, take a quick walk over to Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo’s answer to New York’s Central Park. Your options here are endless: you can take a stroll around the forest, do some birdwatching or even rent a bicycle and pedal around Ibirapuera’s two vast lakes. You’ll be amazed at just how peaceful this place is.
Before leaving Ibirapuera Park, be sure to head over to the beautiful Manuel da Nóbrega Pavillion (designed by modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer) and take a tour around the Afro Brasil Museum, a wonderful historic museum telling the story of Brazil’s African roots. Do not miss this one.
It’s now time to check out São Paulo’s historic center, one of the most underrated parts of the city. But first, a bite to eat. Jump on a bus towards the center and get off at Estadão Bar & Lanches, a no-frills diner with the best sandwich in the city: order a “pernil com provolone” and prepare to be dazzled. Estadão is famous for its pork shoulder (pernil) sandwiches, and a counter full of joints of roast pork welcomes you as soon as you step in the door. The classic order is pork shoulder, roasted peppers and onions, with melted provolone cheese, served on the small French-style rolls found all over Brazil. You might want to order two.
From there, go for a walk around São Paulo’s historic center. Be sure to see Sé Cathedral, the charming Martinelli Building and the Theatro Municipal. Head up to the top of the Edifício Itália for some of the best views of the city.
Paulistanos are adamant that they have the best pizza in the world. New Yorkers, Napolitans and Romans may disagree, but it’s definitely worth trying a São Paulo pizza and judging for yourself. Take a short walk out of the center and get a table at Veridiana to see what all the fuss is about.
Fully converted to the wonders of São Paulo pizza, take a walk down to Roosevelt Square and have a drink to celebrate your discovery and toast your 48 hours in São Paulo. Choose from one of the many trendy bars which look out over the square, such as Papo, Pinga e Petisco with its excellent selection of cachaças – Brazil’s famous sugarcane spirit. Excellent, inexpensive options include Salinas or Seleta, but if you’re looking for something fancier, try the delicious Nega Fulô.