São Paulo Attractions

With a rep as Brazil’s cultural capital, São Paulo is the place to be for all manner of artistic pursuits. While visual arts are well represented with eight major art institutions alone, mostly housed in striking buildings of their own, don’t discount the burgeoning street art scene of this mega metropolis with edgy spaces dedicated to the genre and public displays of pichaçao – an intriguing (some say ugly) local style of graffiti tagging.

Performance-wise, beautiful and historic spaces like Sala São Paulo and Teatro Municipal, plus the newer Credicard Hall, Auditorio Ibirapuera, Via Funchal and Latin America Memorial venues showcase a wide range of musical and theatrical entertainment, while the city’s museums traverse everything from Brazil’s African roots (Museu Afro Brasil) and anti-venom vaccines (Instituto Butantan) to the Portuguese language (Museu da Língua Portuguesa) and Brazilian football (Museu do Futebol).

A great way to see Sampa is to strike out and explore the Downtown area on foot. Everywhere you go you’ll see the mark of Brazilian Modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer from the 1950s wave-shaped Copan Building to the UFO-like Oca edifice in the Parque do Ibirapuera. Centro is also home to many other architectural wonders from around the early 20th century to the city’s oldest building, Pátio do Colégio, now a church and museum.

To shop like a local, head to shiny shopping centres like gay-friendly Frei Caneca, Pátio Paulista on the famed Avenida Paulista or sophisticated Iguatemi, or check out the huge variety of weekend markets selling everything from eco fare at the Organic Fair to the hundreds of stalls at the city’s oldest downtown bazaar, Feira da República. Hitting the hilly neighbourhood of Vila Madalena will unearth young designers and indie boutiques, while Bom Retiro or ‘Bomra’, Sampa’s textile district – is bargainista heaven. For our pick of what else to see and do in São Paulo, read on.

Museu de Arte de São Paulo

Known as MASP, this striking red concrete and glass-walled modern architectural building houses one of the most significant collections of Brazilian and European art. Come here to see all the European masters and stay to learn about Brazil’s iconic artists.

Hopi Hari

A fictitious country in a fun park setting, Hopi Hari is a popular theme park destination for both Brazilians and visitors with thrilling rides, shows and entertainment. Located just outside São Paulo, the massive amusement park mixes culture and fun to best effect.

Parque do Ibirapuera

São Paulo’s version of New York’s Central Park is Parque do Ibirapuera - a massive, verdant parkland retreat in the centre of the city with cultural venues, gardens, recreational facilities and heaps of free activities. It’s a spot to feed body, mind and soul in the mega metropolis.

Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo

Set across two sites, Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo is the city’s oldest art museum housing significant Brazilian and European artworks from the 19th century to present day. The main museum is a refurbed Neoclassical edifice, while the other is a former political prison.

Carnival

While not as well known as Rio’s Carnival, São Paulo’s pre-Lenten celebrations come a close second in terms of lavishness, spectacle and sheer debauchery. The glossy samba school showcases happen at the Sambodrome, but head to the blocos for all-out, month-long street parties.