The city of Sao Paulo may be, at first sight, enormous, intimidating and perhaps a bit rough around the edges. But look just a little closer and you’ll be rewarded with incredible cultural diversity, unparalleled cuisine, hundreds of museums, quirky urban art, beautiful parks and such a welcoming environment that you may not want to leave. For anyone planning a visit (which we highly recommend), our local Sao Paulo tour guides have shared everything you need to know about getting there, getting around and what not to miss.
Guarulhos International Airport (GRU) is located in Guarulhos City, 25 kilometres from downtown Sao Paulo.
The best and cheapest option to get to downtown is to take the free transfer at Terminal 3 from the airport to Estação Aeroporto on Line 13 (Jade). From there, you’ll ride the metro to Estação Engenheiro Goulart, then switch to Line 12 (Sapphire) and make your way to Estação Brás, switching then to Line 3 (Red), which will take you to Estação Sé in downtown São Paulo. The journey takes approximately 90 minutes.
To return to GRU, you’ll need to take the route in reverse, changing at the same stations. If you want more information, you can check the Sao Paulo Metro map.
Sao Paulo’s public transportation will easily take you to practically all of the attractions of the city. The system is fully integrated, and you can use a single ticket (bilhete único) to pay for buses, minibuses, subways and trains. With a single ticket, it’s possible to make up to four bus trips in a three-hour period, or use the subway and the train within two hours. You can purchase tickets from newsstands or at the subway and SPTrans ticket booths.
Avenida Paulista (Paulista Avenue) is the main avenue of Sao Paulo and can keep visitors entertained for days. The streets are filled with cultural spaces, shopping centres, parks and many bars and restaurants. You can walk Paulista Avenue from end to end, and there are worthwhile attractions on every block, including many museums, theatres, exhibition halls and large bookstores.
The bohemian neighbourhood of Vila Madalena is famous for its high concentration of bars. They range from the most popular botecos (traditional pubs and bars) to more refined drinking establishments. The truth is that Vila Madalena pleases everyone. The area where you’ll find the majority of bars is quite large, but when in doubt, start at the corner of Rua Fradique Coutinho and Rua Aspicuelta. From there, just walk around to find out which bar suits you best. At Vila Madalena you’ll also find the best in urban art, including the famous Batman Alley, a corridor full of art that will astound you.
Ibirapuera Park is one of the best places to visit in Sao Paulo, and the main leisure area of the city. The park hosts many events such as exhibitions, fairs and shows that attract thousands of visitors. There are children’s playgrounds, a skate park, jogging track and three interconnected lakes here.
You’ll also find the Contemporary Art Museum, the Modern Art Museum, Afro Brazilian Museum, the Ibirapuera Auditorium and the Japanese Pavillion on the park’s extensive grounds. And the party is complete when the Ibirapuera Auditorium opens the doors to the lawn! This is the perfect time to sit on the grass and enjoy an excellent show. Regardless of whether you have a specific goal or point of interest, go to Ibirapuera for a stroll. You will surely discover various activities that will keep you busy the entire day.
The Liberdade neighbourhood in São Paulo is a must-see tourist attraction, especially for lovers of Japanese and Asian culture. A delicious buzz, the movement of people mixing with the flavours and spices of the markets, crafts on all sides, and all this on streets decorated with red bows. This is one of the best Sao Paulo attractions and the best days to visit are on the weekends.
A favourite among both visitors and locals, the Municipal Market is one of the best things to do in Sao Paulo and a real paradise for lovers of good food. Strolling through the corridors is a delight; at each booth new products come up and many are offered for tasting. Do not miss the chance to try exotic fruits, delicious sausages and spectacular cheeses. If you want a more complete meal, go up to the second floor, where several restaurants offer delicious menus overlooking the incredible stained glass of Russian artist Conrado Sorgenicht Filho.
Looking for more things to do? Urban Adventures offers day tours in Sao Paulo and beyond, all led by local experts who will give you a taste for local life in the capital city:
Vila Madalena Art & Booze
Spend the evening exploring boho Vila Madalena with us, one of the coolest neighborhoods in São Paulo. Offering you the heady combo of booze and art, this tour is a great way to get off the tourist trail, discover a new neighbourhood and have lots of fun in the process! Together, we’ll explore Vila Madalena’s colourful back streets and admire its pulsating urban art scene. As we stroll, we’ll stop regularly to show you where the locals go for a stiff drink and a great night out in the city!
Paulista Avenue Sites & Bites
Join us for a tour of São Paulo’s cultural and financial heart, Paulista Avenue, and let a local guide take you to all its top foodie hotspots as you dutifully tick some of the city’s architectural marvels off your must-do list. You will discover extraordinary buildings and mouth-watering international cuisine around every corner and pick up some insider tips on how to get the best out of this occasionally overwhelming metropolis during your stay.
Sampa Downtown Discovery
Discover the secrets of São Paulo on a fun-filled sightseeing tour with a local guide and see all the city’s top highlights in one morning. This is definitely the most sensible (and entertaining!) way of orientating yourself in Brazil’s biggest metropolis and you’ll get some insider tips on where the locals go to eat and have fun that you won’t find in any guidebook!
Rio de Janeiro: Corcovado, Christ Statue and Copacabana Beach
Tap into local culture in Rio de Janeiro! Visit three of Brazil’s most heavy hitting icons in one day on this Rio de Janeiro tour. 1. Christ the Redeemer. 2. Copacabana Beach 3. Corcovado. This could just be the ultimate, big city travel hack!
Iguassu Falls Brazil Experience
Potamophobia is the fear of running water. Here’s hoping you don’t suffer from this strange phobia because this Iguassu Falls tour features lots of running water in high definition 3D, with surround sound! You’ll see and feel the fury of the falls from many vantage points, so bring your wet weather gear (a flimsy plastic poncho won’t cut it)!
Carandiru is the name of a prison and a movie. The prison, located in the North Zone of Sao Paulo, was disbanded in 2002 and soon became the setting for one of the bloodiest movies in national cinema — after being the scene of some of the most violent episodes in the city’s history.
Some of most well-known musicians from Sao Paulo include rapper Criolo, jazz artist Eliane Elias, and rock singer Rita Lee. Add one or two to your pre-travel playlist to get in the mood for your visit.
Add a few books set in Sao Paulo to your reading list. Some to consider include Heliopolis by James Scudamore, Daytripper by Gabriel Bá & Fábio Moon, and The Girl in the Photograph by Lygia Fagundes Telles and translated by Margaret A. Neves.