48 Hours in Sao Paulo
Not content with simply being Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo is the most populous city on the South American continent, home to a staggering 12.04 million inhabitants. Regarded as the country’s economic powerhouse, Brazilians are well aware of the city’s work hard, play hard culture, with paulistanos (São Paulo’s inhabitants), being infamous for their fast-paced, non-stop cosmopolitan lifestyle.
Why then, does a city that undoubtedly packs a punch, often get excluded from travel guides for foreigners visiting Brazil? Perhaps it’s the lack of beaches boasted by rivals such as Rio and Salvador, or maybe it’s the city’s vast expanse of tall buildings that may well challenge Manhattan for the title of the world’s largest concrete jungle.
Whatever the reason, until now São Paulo has been criminally overlooked. To remedy this, here’s your guide for making the most of the city in 48 hours.
1. Be a Culture Vulture
Think Brazil is all samba, beaches and coconut juice? Think again. São Paulo offers a vast array of opportunities to discover art and culture from across Brazil and the wider world.
Located on the city’s principal boulevard, the vibrant Avenida Paulista, MASP (São Paulo Museum of Art) is the premier spot for discovering a large variety of different works of art from a range of eras and movements. Innovatively displayed in glass frames, the permanent collection takes visitors on an accessible and easily digestible journey through international artistic heritages. The building itself is an unforgettable modernist construction that offers great views over the buzzing street scenes below.
Other places of cultural interest within easy reach of the city centre include the Pinacoteca, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil and São Paulo University’s Museum of Contemporary Art (which also offers fantastic views of Ibirapuera Park – the city’s equivalent of New York’s Central Park).
2. Bike Your Way Around the City
To enjoy São Paulo from an exhilaratingly different perspective, rent a bike from one of the many Bike Sampa points which can be found in the city centre.
This is particularly recommended on Sundays, when the whole of Avenida Paulista is closed to cars, allowing cyclists and pedestrians alike to reclaim the streets and not worry about the city’s often erratic drivers.
From just R$8 (about £1.77) for a full day’s rental, cycling around São Paulo is a cheap and fun way to explore its eclectic districts and parks. Just make sure to keep to the red cycle lanes, always being aware of your personal safety and security.
3. Dance the Night Away
What better way to round off a fleeting visit than to take advantage of São Paulo’s plethora of bars and clubs? Whatever your taste, be assured there’s something to suit all tastes. Stomachs lined with delicious coxinhas from Veloso Bar, head to Vila Madalena and sample the many beers and caipirinhas on offer at the district’s countless botecos.
From then on, see where the night takes you, from world-renowned dance music at D-EDGE, to the indie, pop and LGBT venues that litter Rua Augusta, a street famous for its open-minded vibe that attracts straight, gay and bisexual party-goers in equal measure.
48 hours pass quickly in a city that offers so much. Whatever your reasons for travelling around South America, a short stay in São Paulo will reveal it to be more than just a pit stop between the Iguaçu Falls and Rio, demonstrating the true extent of the diversity that defines Brazil.
By James Landymore