Many travellers tend to leave no more than a few days to explore the vast city of Sao Paulo, a large metropolis on Brazil’s east coast.
There’s a few reasons for this: Sao Paulo tends to be a stop-gap before Rio de Janeiro which looms nearby.
And with desirable beaches only a few hours drive away, travellers are often drawn quickly out of this great city. Contributing also is an unfortunate reputation that Sao Paulo has procured; it is considered by many tourists to be an industrialised, administrative centre in Brazil (and therefore un-pretty and un-exciting).
However this description of Sao Paulo could not be more wrong.
Sao Paulo is brimming with atmosphere and culture and is well worth a visit. That’s why I have planned out the perfect way to spend three days in this great city on a tight budget.
Day 1: Explore
What’s interesting about Sao Paulo is that there is not necessary a lot of things to see or do. There’s museums, yes, and walking tours which I will get to, but in terms of cramming in tourist sights, there is not a tonne of things to see. However, I see this as a positive rather than a negative.
So instead of rushing out to a few different sights, I would recommend hitting the city’s main places of interest and wandering between them. (We always felt incredibly safe in Sao Paulo but always check online before wandering into a strange neighbourhood.)
My recommendation is to walk Avenue Paulista, the city’s main street, before making your way to Parque Ibirapuera (best get your walking shoes on as this will take you the guts of two hours!).
However, the stroll is more than worth it; the walk is all downhill and Sao Paulo’s tree-lined streets and quirky shops will keep you entertained. This is also a great way to pick up on the city’s chilled out vibe. Pick up some snacks on route and enjoy a well-earned picnic by the lake in the city’s gorgeous park.
Tip: The walk back is uphill so you can get the metro or an Uber (which are way cheaper than regular taxis in Brazil).
Day 2: History and Culture
Today is the day to get up and learn more about Sao Paulo. You can avail of free daily walking tours each of which offer insight into the main areas of the city: Paulista Avenue, Downtown and Vila Madelena.
I would recommend taking the downtown (historic) tour or Paulista Avenue. Then, in the afternoon, I would suggest getting your fix of art in the MASP, Sao Paulo’s main art gallery. Located on Paulista Avenue, this is a great museum with that hosts really interesting exhibitions and also boasts an impressive long-term exhibition full of well-known names as well as local artists.
Tip: While the MASP offers all of its exhibitions in English as well as Portuguese, many of the other museums in this city do not. I would suggest checking up on this before heading out to any other museums.
Day 3: Soak up the atmosphere
Today should be dedicated to one of Sao Paulo’s greatest areas: Vila Madelena. You can take the walking tour in the morning or early afternoon and then spend the rest of the day there soaking up the atmosphere.
Vila Madelena offers stunning street art that Sao Paulo is slowly becoming renowned for and this area is the trendiest part of the city by a long shot. Beco de Batman (or Batman Alley) is a small alleyway covered in the best of Sao Paulo’s street art so make sure to stop by.
Tip: Beco de Batman is a draw for tourists to the prices around here tend to be slightly steeper. Wander around to get cheaper drinks and food on little side streets.
More Sao Paulo Tips:
- As I said earlier, Uber is a great way to get around in Sao Paulo with great bargains to be had on price. I would recommend discarding taxis altogether and downloading the app.
- Note that many people in Sao Paulo have little to no English, so have your Google Translate on hand and the basics of Portuguese down.
- Where to stay? A place close to Avenue Paulista has you smack bang in the city centre and close to everywhere you need to go (this city is big though so Uber will be your friend).