The Top 10 Things to See and Do in São Paulo, Brazil

Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo has a wealth of historic sites and places to visit
Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo has a wealth of historic sites and places to visit | © Keith Kapple / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Lise Alves
22 June 2020

There is so much for tourists to discover in Brazil’s largest city that it can take more than one visit to see the main attractions. And getting around can take a big chunk out of your valuable sightseeing time. To help you, here’s our pick of the top 10 things to see and do when in town.

Pinacoteca

Art Gallery, Library, Memorial, Museum
Map View
Top view of the Julio Prestes railway and Sala Sao Paulo Incidental old railway Pinacoteca DOPS. Image shot 09/2010. Exact date unknown.
© Pulsar Imagens / Alamy Stock Photo
Designed in 1895, the building that now houses the Pinacoteca do Estado was the first art museum in São Paulo. At the time it was built to house the Lyceum of Arts and Crafts, an institution that taught technicians and craftsmen. The structure of the museum itself is worth the visit. Exposed brick walls and a large, two-story atrium in the middle of the museum lets visitors enjoy the artwork under natural lighting.

Beco do Batman

Art Gallery
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Before graffiti was fashionable in São Paulo, there was Beco do Batman. The narrow alleyway in Vila Madalena, which gets its name from one of the first drawings on its walls, attracts thousands of tourists a year passing through the artsiest neighborhood in São Paulo. The Beco do Batman (or Batman Alley) was one of the first open-air museums dedicated to graffiti to spring up here. But it’s better to make the visit through the alleyway on foot, since due to the amount of traffic the walls attract it won’t be easy to stop with a car to take photos.

Parque Villa Lobos

Park
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Although much smaller and less famous than its older sister, Ibirapuera Park, Villa Lobos is one of the greenest settings in all of São Paulo. Here the crowds are not as large during the weekends so you can rent a bike and enjoy the native trees and plants. Certain weekends see bands and individuals play their songs on the Musical Island open-air stage surrounded by concrete bleachers.

MASP

Building, Museum
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One of the most important museums in the southern hemisphere, the Museu de Arte de São Paulo has a collection of 8,000 pieces, including works from famous artists like Brazil’s Portinari and Anita Malfatti, and international acquisitions from Picasso and Van Gogh among others. The building itself is an attraction. The majestic concrete structure is suspended by four red pillars, forming a 74m (243ft) free zone underneath the museum.

Theatro Municipal

Theater
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Based on the Paris Opera House, the Municipal Theatre is one of the postcards of São Paulo. Since its construction in 1903, it has gone through several restorations to modernize its facilities, but without losing the glamour of its early-1900s style. The theater hosts performances by music and dance schools and, during days when no performance is scheduled, visitors can enter the theater to visit.

Museu do Futebol

Museum
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Courtesy of Museu do Futebol
Even if you are not a die-hard fan of futebol, you’ll enjoy the Footballl Museum. The history of the ball game is told in photographs, video clips and memorabilia. After watching and reading and seeing all about one of the most popular sports on earth, visitors get the chance to become a player in the Body Game Room, where they can hit a penalty kick and discover the speed of their strike.

Municipal Market

Bar, Market, Brazilian
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One of the most popular tourist attractions in the center of town is São Paulo’s Municipal Market. Set across 12,600 sq m (135,625 sq ft), the Mercadão, as it’s called, brings together merchants from all corners of the city, selling everything from fruits and spices to salted codfish. Many people who visit the market come here especially to eat the famous baloney sandwich.

Catedral da Sé

Cathedral, Church
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The cathedral is one of the five largest neogothic temples in the world. There are guided historical visits within the cathedral and around its crypt, where the indigenous leader Tibiriçá is buried below the altar where the imaginary line of the Tropic of Capricorn passes. The front of the cathedral is considered the very center of the city of São Paulo.

Feira da Liberdade

Market
Map View
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.
These recommendations were updated on June 22, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.