Many think that this Brazilian city is all about shopping and perhaps a bit old-fashioned, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. As the largest city in South America, a visit to São Paulo is an opportunity to experience all the great cultural attractions this metropolis has to offer.
The recent resurgence in the number of tourists visiting São Paulo is largely thanks to the city’s cultural scene with its museums and galleries, as well as its nightlife, perfect if you want to groove to the beat of the samba and sip on a cold caipirinha.
This compact city has one of the most impressive landscapes in the world, where historic sites can be explored beneath towering skyscrapers. Start by visiting the extensive Ibirapuera Park, a green area popular with locals and tourists alike as a spot to relax by the lakes or for visiting one of the many cultural institutions in the area.
Follow it up with a visit to the Ibirapuera Auditorium for open-air concerts, the Professor Aristoteles Orsini Planetarium and the Museum of Modern Art to see masterpieces by Pablo Picasso and numerous Brazilian artists. The cultural activities continue downtown, where you can find the Banco do Brasil Cultural Centre and the Museum of the Portuguese Language.
Another one of the city’s attractions is the well-known Avenida Paulista, home to expansive shopping malls and a popular entertainment spot where you can taste authentic local cuisine with Japanese, Italian and Arabic influences, which is why it is considered one of the world’s major culinary hubs.
Below is our suggestion for a sightseeing tour that hits the city’s highlights:
- Vila Madalena, an artists’ enclave:
A place brimming with charm and creativity where every building is burst of color and local artists sell their work on the street or in their own boutiques. Street parties are a regular happening in the neighborhood, and if you’re lucky enough to catch one, you’ll be able to experience the authentic Brazilian carnival spirit.
This part of the city is teeming with museums and churches and the Stock Exchange, the Cathedral, the famous Itália building and the Viaducto Promenade are all worth a visit. Plus, it’s home to the famous municipal market where you can sample typical local dishes, as well as a wide variety of tropical fruits and vegetables that you can’t go home without trying.
- The Japanese quarter in Liberdade:
São Paulo is home to the largest Japanese community outside of Japan, which is why you won’t feel like you’re in Brazil when you visit the Liberdade neighborhood. The entrance to the neighborhood is marked by a large Shinto arch, the streets are lined with lanterns and beautiful cherry blossom trees, and even the traffic lights have green and red torii lights. Try a beer at one of the many izakayas (traditional Japanese bars) and enjoy all the sushi and ramen you’ll find in the Liberdade.
- Museum of Art (MASP):
This is a must-see for anyone with an appetite for art or simply an interest in culture in general because it is one of Brazil’s top museums. You’ll find over 10,000 paintings, photographs and sculptures by world-famous artists, as well as regular screenings and interactive exhibitions. The famous building is a breathtaking sight, perched on four large red pillars that welcome you to the museum.
- Parque Ibirapuera:
There’s no better place to rest and relax than in the vast green gardens of Ibirapuera. This is a park that has room for it all: skateboarders, people working out outdoors and street musicians playing great tunes. A bonus is the several museums located within the park, including the Afro-Brazilian Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, as well as the eye-catching Ibirapuera Auditorium designed by Brazil’s most famous architect, Oscar Niemeyer.
- The Brooklin neighborhood:
This is the financial and cultural hub where you can mingle with local professionals in one of the neighborhood’s many bars. Stroll down Paulista Avenue and check out the modernist architecture in the skyscrapers that house several major corporate headquarters. You’ll also come across the famous Octávio Frias de Oliveira cable bridge with its X-shaped tower, which crosses the Pinheiros River. The area is also home to luxury shopping malls such as Market Place and Morumbi, famous for their international gourmet food courts.
- Soccer museum:
The sport is the quintessential Brazilian pastime, and if you want to know why Brazilians are so passionate about their national game, visit the Museu do Futebol. This incredible landmark documents the history of soccer in Brazilian culture and displays a number of prized artifacts that no soccer lover should miss. It is housed in the impressive Pacaembú stadium, which you can also take a tour of, and if you’re really lucky you might even be able to time it so that you’re there at the same time as a game and can experience the Brazilian atmosphere like a local.
Visit this innovative and avant-garde city – you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
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