Perhaps you’re here for a business trip, or maybe your stay in São Paulo is part of a larger tour of Brazil. If you’re pressed for time in the city, you’ll want to make sure you still get to see the best of what it has to offer. This one-day itinerary introduces you to local São Paulo food and some of its top cultural institutions, while also taking time to soak up the city’s street vibe. After a day, you’ll begin to see why São Paulo is becoming more and more popular with travelers from all around the world.
Stop by one of the many coffee shops that line the streets for breakfast. To start your day in a Brazilian way, order a pão de queijo, a small cheese-flavored roll, or a pão na chapa, grilled bread with butter. Wash it down with some pingado, warm milk with a dash of sweetened coffee. If you’re a bit hungrier, order a tapioca, a pancake made with manioc flour, with a filling of your choice; ham and cheese is a good option.
Start off your tour of the city at the Catedral da Sé de São Paulo, also known as the São Paulo Cathedral. It’s located in the center of the city, in Sé, just north of the Liberdade neighborhood. The cathedral is a stunning building which was inspired by the architecture of the medieval churches of Europe. Entry is free, and the stained glass windows are incredible. You can also enter the enormous and beautifully designed crypt — which contains the remains of some fascinating historical figures — underneath the church for a small fee.
One of the city’s most important landmarks is this beautiful opera house, and it’s just a short walk away from São Paulo Cathedral. There are guided tours of the Theatro Municipal available throughout the week, some of which are done by English-speaking guides. If you’re not a fan of guided tours, you can wander around parts of the building by yourself. It’s worth it to admire the incredible architectural design.
For lunch, make your way over to the Mercado Municipal in the Luz neighborhood. You can reach it by Uber, on foot, or by public transport. Once you’re there, enjoy one of the city’s famous and huge mortadella sandwiches or a pastel de bacalhau, a deep-fried cod pastry, and wash it down with a fresh fruit juice.
From the Mercado Municipal, make your way toward Luz Station, near which you’ll find the Pinacoteca. This important art gallery has a particular focus on Brazilian art from the 19th century onward. Spend a few hours admiring the large art collection here before enjoying a coffee in the downstairs coffee shop, which backs onto the Parque da Luz.
After visiting Pinacoteca, catch the metro to Paulista, hire one of the bikes that are widely available for a cheap price, and then cycle down one of the city’s most important roads, Avenida Paulista. Stop along the way for a breath of fresh air in the rainforest that is Parque Trianon, then if you fancy another museum, cross the road and pay the MASP a visit. Just up the street, Instituto Moreira Salles often has free, and excellent, photography exhibits. Paulista is especially nice on a Sunday, as it is closed off to cars and has live music and several small markets.
Pop back to your accommodation and freshen up, because it’s time for dinner at Varanda, one of São Paulo’s best steakhouses, located in the affluent Jardins neighborhood near Paulista. Here you’ll enjoy fantastic food and excellent service, just what you need after a long day of sightseeing.