The other day, I got to enjoy a single-day tour of São Paulo with a visiting American. There was much back and forth discussion about how the day would go until a schedule was finally settled moments before we left. While it was a great day, I realized there is much I would have done differently now that I’ve actually walked through an official one-day tour. Given all there is to see and do in São Paulo, some amazing and some just “eh,” picking the best of the best while trying to also be efficient isn’t so easy. Yet, I thought it through and here is what I would recommend for a one-day tour of the city:
9:00 a.m. Walk through Ibirapuera Park
Ibirapuera Park is São Paulo largest park and often likened (mostly by Brazilians) to New York’s Central Park. While I don’t know if I agree with that comparison, Ibirapuera is an amazing park and worth a walk on a nice morning.
There is a variety of spectacular vegetation, plenty of artwork and architecture to view across the landscape and space to stroll. Starting off a day with some fresh air and a brisk walk through a lovely park is a great idea. And there is always something interesting to see.
10:00 a.m. Museu AfroBrasil
Inside Park Ibirapuera is Museu AfroBrasil, my absolute favorite São Paulo museum. It is a spectacular display of all the elements that make up Brazilian culture and history through sculptures, paintings, photographs, fashions, icon and 3 dimensional artwork.
11:30 p.m. MuBe and MIS
For some edgier art that often represents the pulse of São Paulo pop culture, the MuBe always delivers.
You can also make a mid-morning snack stop and have a café and a lanche at the museum’s espaço gastronômico. Just a few steps away from the MuBE is the Museu da Imagem e do Som. This space houses innovative Brazilian art in the form of photography, film and sound.
1:30 p.m. Lunch at Mercado Municipal
A local favorite for finding staples as well as items considered “exotic” in Brazil, like jalapeños, Mercado Municipal is great for getting a taste, literally, of all that is Brazilian cuisine. Strolling by the fruit stands, you’ll certainly be offered a sample some of the produce brought to Brazil from Asia like fruta de conde, caqui, or pitaya.
If meat and poultry is more your game, a pile of chicken feet or perhaps pork pieces might get your appetite going.
For lunch, indulge in a Mortadella sandwich and a chop beer at one of the cafes to get a true taste of a traditional São Paulo sandwich.
3:00 p.m. Praça da Luz
For a cultural quartet, the Praça da Luz has four destinations. First, the Pinacoteca highlights modern and contemporary Brazilian artists within a building that is a work-of-art in itself and includes the Memorial da Resistência de São Paulo, a tribute to political resistance during the regime of military dictatorship.
Next to the Pinacoteca is the Jardim da Luz where you can enjoy an afternoon coffee in the cafe and walk off some of your Mortadella sandwich amongst flowers and garden sculptures.
Across the road is the Estação da Luz, a glorious historical train station originally built by the British. Next to the station is the Museu da Língua Portuguesa which has a number of interactive exhibits and a cool auditorium show that draws you through the history and development of the Brazilian Portuguese language.
5:30 p.m. Catedral de Sé
You can’t visit one of Brazil’s signature cities without swinging by a Catholic Cathedral.
The Catedral da Sé is as big and impressive as many you will see in Europe, but don’t stay too long because the neighborhood begins to grow rather shady as night falls.
6:30 p.m. Terraço Itália Bar
As long as someone else is driving, it’s time to see the city over the edge of a glass. Terraço Itália Bar, above the restaurant of the same name, provides a spectacular view of São Paulo and you will see how seriously massive the city really is. Depending on the season, if cocktail hour coincides with sunset, you can stop by the Skye Bar at Hotel Unique in Jardins where you will also catch at spectacular city view.
If you want to rest, you can have a decent Italian dinner at Terraço or a meal at Skye in front of the scene. Or, you can make one more stop…
8:00 p.m. Rua Oscar Freire
Things heat up in the evenings on this famous São Paulo strip. There are plenty of places to end your evening with a fabulous dinner on Oscar Freire or the surrounding side streets. Some of my favorite neighborhood meals are Italian at Italy, cross-regional Brazilian at Brasil a gosto, Asian-Mexican fusion at Obá and traditional Brazilian churrascaria at Vento Haragano.
For more sights in São Paulo, check out American Exbrat in São Paulo: Advice, Stories Tips and Tricks for Surviving South America’s Largest City.