São Paulo in two days
Welcome to gigantic São Paulo, the renowned Latin American financial and commercial center. The city is diverse and intense, like its more than twelve million inhabitants. Beneath its skyscrapers you’ll discover vibrant nightlife and a rich cultural scene. Come explore the metropolis, its culture, and its cuisine, and discover its hidden gems.
ByMarcia Cárdenas Viveiros
Photos: Felipe Viveiros y Viviane Seeger
8:00 a.m. – The Early Bird…
Visit the Municipal Market, with its incredible variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, sausages, and condiments. The gorgeous neoclassical building, which has been thriving for over ninety years, has large, beautiful stained glass windows. Savor a mortadella sandwich or look for the popular Padaria Paulistana and enjoy their famous coffee with pão na chapa (buttered toast).
10:00 a.m. – The Great Pinacoteca Picture Gallery
With the opening of the new Pina Contemporánea exhibition space, the Pinacoteca is now the largest museum in Brazil and the second largest in Latin America. Housing the best art of the past, and open to the most delirious of contemporary formats, a visit here is de rigueur (closed on Tuesdays). Across the street is the Museum of the Portuguese Language, where visitors can learn about the similarities between Romance languages and even more about the Brazilian soul. The museum reminds visitors of the importance of language.
01:00 p.m. – IMS and Balaio
The Moreira Salles Institute (IMS) offers a privileged view of Paulista Avenue, the city’s busiest and brightest street. IMS features excellent photography and plastic arts exhibitions and outstanding programming in its movie theaters and auditoriums. On the ground floor you’ll find Balaio IMS, a restaurant owned by chef Rodrigo Oliveira, who also owns Mocotó. Oliveira was ranked 23rd on the list of Latin America’s 50 Best Chefs in 2021 and already has a Michelin star under his belt. Be sure to order Oliveira’s world-famous dadinhos de tapioca (fried cheese cubes).
04:00 p.m. – Lighthouse View
Arriving at the old Altino Arantes building, which reopened in 2018 as Farol Santander, one can hardly imagine all that awaits on 13 of the magnificent art deco skyscraper’s 35 floors. Begin at the Mirante, on the 26th floor, for a view of the “sea of buildings” and catch your breath with a cafezinho. Inspired by the Empire State Building in New York, this former headquarters of the São Paulo State Bank (Banespa) stands 538 feet high. It is among the most visited places in the city. On the fourth floor you’ll find one of the building’s main attractions: a 360-degree exhibition of the work of famous plastic artist Vik Muniz, pride of the people of São Paulo. The 19th, 20th, 22nd, 23rd, and 24th floors offer a contrast with temporary immersive art, music, fashion, and history exhibitions. The 21st floor surprises with its huge indoor skateboard park.
06:00 p.m. – Happy Hour
Farol Santander is also a great place to enjoy some traditional Brazilian pleasures. On the 28th floor there’s Boteco do 28, a local-style tavern, where we recommend you try at least a few of the starters: bolinhos de costela croquettes, a “shot” of caldinho de feijão soup, or a pastel (relative of the empanada), all of which go very well with the classic caipirinha cocktail.
09:00 p.m. – Time to “Rumba”
If you’re looking to save time, you can begin your São Paulo night at the Bar do Cofre without leaving the Farol Santander, but there are other options as well. Nearby is Drosophyla, listed among the World’s 100 Best Bars. Or, for a fashionable speakeasy, visit the São Paulo Urban Distillery (SPUD) next door. But if you’d like something a bit more contemporary, and you have the patience to get on “the list,” Sweet Secrets, in the heart of the Jardins neighborhood, is a delicious alternative.
08:00 a.m – The Dark Charm of Caffeine
Coffee, which is very popular in Brazil, can be experienced perfectly here, as when accompanied by pão de queijo (cheese bread) at locations throughout the city. Worth ordering at Café Habitual are the Turkish-style eggs benedict, a stimulating Color Púrpura açaí drink, or the chia pudding with cupuaçu, another star among Amazonian fruits. “Paulistanos” love a big breakfast (café da manhã), and you don’t need to be staying at the elegant Emiliano, Rosewood, Palacio Tangará, or Unique hotels to enjoy a splendid morning spread. Special breakfast options are available at Futuro Refeitório, Padoca do Maní, Santo Grão, Baianeira, P.Ã.O., Botanikafé, Camelia Odódó, and Casaria.
10:00 a.m – Trails of Green
Ibirapuera Park acts as the lungs of this big city. You won’t have time to visit all its attractions, but the park is home to the planetarium, the Japanese Pavilion, and the museums of Modern Art (MAM), Contemporary Art (MAC), and Afro Brazil. Schedule your visit to coincide with a traveling exhibition like those hosted by the Oca Museum, or come for the 35th São Paulo Biennial, which takes place this year between September and December; visit the Biennial headquarters, also home to the glamorous São Paulo Fashion Week.
01:00 p.m. – A Matter of Taste
If you’re still inside the “Ibira,” as the park is affectionately known, you can have lunch at the MAM restaurant or venture into the exuberant Selvagem, one of the park’s new options. But if you’re feeling carnivorous, go to Barbacoa in the Itaim neighborhood, an excellent restaurant in the famous rodizio style. The salad bar will leave even the staunchest of vegans well satisfied. Omnivores, on the other hand, should be moderate with the starters and leave room to enjoy the different cuts of meat.
04:00 p.m. – Streets and Colors
Beco do Batman, a narrow alley famous for its graffiti, is located in the bohemian Vila Madalena, a hip party neighborhood. And check out the Jardins quarter, where the new CJ Shops and Rua Oscar Freire are home to several of the city’s most exclusive shops, brands, and restaurants. If you’re looking for an air-conditioned mall, visit Iguatemi, open since 1966, where you’ll find Manioca, a casual version of the Maní restaurant. It is run by award-winning chef Helena Rizzo, who was named the World’s Best Female Chef in 2014. Stop in at Dengo and try their popular brigadeiro soft chocolate and dulce de leche candy.
08:00 p.m. – Priceless Pleasures
If you came to São Paulo hoping to eat at A Casa do Porco (House of Pork) in downtown São Paulo, be aware that it’s difficult to get a table without a reservation. Decorated with knick-knacks, the restaurant ranks seventh on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. All dishes, drinks, and desserts contain pork of some kind. And discover unusual tropical flavors when you book a reservation at Espaço Priceless, on the top floor of the Shopping Light mall. At both the Abaru bar and in Notiê–a restaurant serving dinner only, with a tasting menu–you’ll experience avant-garde Brazilian cuisine.