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Is Sao Paulo worth visiting?

When I first started researching Brazil, I knew I wanted to see the famous Christ the Redeemer in Rio and the epic Iguassu Falls, but what about São Paulo? Frankly, most blogs say it’s just another big city along the Green Coast and not worth more than a day or two. However, I think São Paulo is definitely worth visiting! São Paulo is one Brazilian city that stands above the rest when it comes to gastronomy, street art and museum offerings. During my time in the city, I got to enjoy time with a friend – who gave me a truly local experience! I wanted to share my experience with the web world, so… enjoy the below!


Getting Around São Paulo


After some disastrous bus rides in Rio, I decided to avoid them in São Paulo. However, the metro is clean and easy to use. And bonus, you can use your Visa or Mastercard at the turnstile; no need to buy a single ticket each time (which I was doing and hoarding change every chance I got). Cry! Just make sure you secure your credit card after payment. Like in Rio, you want to take care of your belongings at all times. Ubers are also plentiful and relatively inexpensive, so if the metro stop is a little far away from your activity, just plan to grab an Uber.


Things to Do in Sao Paulo


Take a Free Walking Tour


SP Free Walking Tour offers daily English-speaking tours in various parts of the city, including a historic tour of the downtown that I did at 11 am. I loved the local coffee break at one of the best bakeries in the city. If you haven’t already, this is a perfect opportunity to try the yummy pão de queijo (or cheese bread) that is so different than your mom’s grilled cheese.


Areas of Interest


Unless you just need that Instagram shot, I would pass on the Municipal Market and instead go to a local café/bakery/food shop off Paulista Avenue called Bella Paulista. They offer a deli, fresh pastries and a full menu for a one-stop shop with tasty treats. You can grab a mortadella sandwich here (make sure to add mozzarella) for even cheaper! It can be busy on the weekends, but if you are in a hurry, you can go to the counters and order to-go.


When I travel, I love to visit local grocery stores. My friend brought me to one of the best – Casa Santa Luzia. This store was opened in 1926 and its quick to see how it’s become a crowd favorite. There is a wonderful café on the second floor with coffee and pastries. This store is next level with lots of specialty items. Wander around and enjoy the foods.


If you want another real local experience, head to one of the weekly fresh markets in town. I enjoyed Feira Livre – a local market on Sunday mornings. They usually closed off a block and sell all kinds of fresh produce, including some I’ve never seen before. On the ends of the market are usually some food stalls, selling freshly made pastels, sugar cane juice and other treats. Dive in and explore a truly local experience.

Grab a Local Pizza


According to the locals, pizza is a THING in São Paulo. Be sure to grab a pie at one of the city’s best pizzerias, like Braz Pizzeria. Most places will allow 2-3 different flavors on each pizza, so choose a variety of styles!

If you want a special treat, head to Croma Brewery for a local beer. They have at least a dozen beers on tap, including the elusive IPAs! The staff is really friendly, and I enjoyed trying several different options. The brewery is in Vila Madalena, which is a great place to bar hop or grab dinner. You can also wander through Batman Alley and all the famous street art in the neighborhood.


Areas to Stay in São Paulo


Where should you stay in São Paulo? São Paulo is safer than Rio de Janeiro in general, but it’s still good to be vigilant when walking around, especially at night. There are certain areas that are safer than others. If your budget allows, look for accommodations in Vila Nova Conceição, the Jardins, or around Paulista Avenue. I stayed in a hostel in Vila Madalena, which is a great low-budget area filled with hipsters and a big nightlife. It’s not exactly the safest area, but sorta like “strength in numbers” mentality being surrounded by other travelers (and the desire to stay in a group after dark). 

Fun Tip: Get out of the city for a day! If you have a car, take a trip outside the city for more of the local life in the state of São Paulo (same name as the city… confusing I know). I went with some friends to a local cheese farm – Fazenda Atalaia, which was about 2.5 hours outside the city. We enjoyed breakfast on site before our 10 am tour. They offer a cheese tasting at the tour’s end. Lunch is also available at the restaurant. Tours are usually twice a day on Saturdays, but just a heads up, they will likely be in Portuguese (tour & tasting are 45 BRL per person).


I really enjoyed my time in São Paulo. I got to catch up with a friend, visit a sweet English-speaking church for Sunday service (shout out to Calvary International Church) and explore the city’s many areas of interest. I definitely think there are many ways to enjoy the city. Hope some of these tips help you have a local experience!

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Dec 21, 2023
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