Welcome to this guide on things to do in Sao Paulo.
The sprawling metropolis of São Paulo is often the gateway for most travelers arriving in Brazil.
However, unfortunately, most backpackers and people traveling to Brazil leave quickly before seeing the best of what the city has to offer.
In this guide, I will cover the city and explore all, including the best time to visit, how to stay safe, and some of my best travel tips.
Things to do in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Despite its intimidating size, this major hub has tonnes to see and do. Later in this guide, we’ll explore the very best attractions and activities.
Is Sao Paulo worth visiting?
As a world-renowned melting pot city with over 12 million inhabitants, São Paulo is by far South America’s largest city.
As a result, there are tons of different areas to explore, and also a wide variety of cultures that vary from European heritage to African roots and even a Japanese district (some travelers visit just for this alone).
💡Smart Travel Tip
As you may know, Brazil has a reputation for not being one of the safest places in South America but we will talk more about that below.
As well as its culture, São Paulo is also home to lots of interesting sights and monuments. Another big draw is to go for a stroll in the largest park on the continent – Ibirapuera Park.
Is Sao Paulo safe?
São Paulo is a giant city but in comparison with other Brazilian cities (like Belem and Fortaleza, or even Recife), São Paulo is pretty safe.
The homicide rate here is 13.2 out of every 100,000 inhabitants, which is almost a third of that of Rio.
Take into account the cost of living in Brazil too. In comparison further afield, Detroit in the United States has a rate of around 41.45 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Regardless of its current safety situation, you should always make sure you take out good, reliable travel insurance in case any incidents happen were to happen, as you never know.
How to get from Rio to Sao Paulo?
There are two ways to get from Rio to São Paulo. The first and most inexpensive way is by bus, which leaves from the Novo Rio station.
There are dozens of departures daily, with competing companies such as Aguiabranca and Penha charging around $20 for a one-way ride.
The trip in total takes around 6 hours, and the main hub that most arrive to is the Tietê station in São Paulo.
When traveling from Rio de Janeiro remember you can fly, which is quicker, however, it’s more expensive with prices starting around $100.
Areas to avoid in Sao Paulo
When traveling around São Paulo, you can never be too sure. However, some of the neighborhoods which are best avoided are:
- Rua Augusta
- Parque de la Luz
- Praça da República
To be honest, there’s nothing really to see in these areas anyway, so there’s no reason to be there.
The area of Sé is of course known for its cathedral, however, use caution as the surrounding area is quite poor.
As any person from your hostel or hotel in São Paulo will tell you, try to go in a group if heading here, and also leave all valuables in your room.
Things to do in Sao Paulo
Now we’ll explore some of the best sights and things to do in São Paulo. We’ll also include some worthy tours for you to check out too.
This lively area is one of the best to visit in São Paulo. With a mix of both residential areas and bustling streets, Vila Madalena is simply perfect for a stay.
Here you’ll see lots of amazing street art such as those found in Beco do Batman, and tons of great nightlife options along Rui Aspicuelta.
On Rui Aspicuelta you can expect everything from lively samba dance bars to electronic clubs heading late into the early morning.
The closest metro stop to Vila Madalena is Fradique Coutinho.
São Paulo in itself is a melting hotpot full of many different cultures, however, most interesting is its strong connection with Japan.
The Liberdade district is in fact home to the largest Japanese settlement outside of the Asian country.
Walking the streets you’ll see lots of hanging lanterns and arches, and also tonnes of Japanese restaurants as well as small shops to buy some unique souvenirs. The closest metro stop to this district is Liberdade.
São Paulo City Tour
One of the best ways to explore São Paulo and its highlights are by joining an organized tour provider who knows the city best.
This City Tour is a good way to see São Paulo from a local’s perspective.
As well as visiting the big monuments such as Sé Cathedral and Pátio do Colégio, you’ll also visit the Ibirapuera Park, Pacaembu Stadium as well as the neighborhood of Liberdade.
The tour takes 5 hours, which is impressive given the size of the city, with all of the best logistics and ways around already handled for you.
The Sé Cathedral (also known as the São Paulo Cathedral) is one of the most popular sights to visit in São Paulo, and for good reason too.
Standing at an impressive 92 meters high, Sé is one of the tallest neo-gothic cathedrals in the world.
As well as its beautiful exterior completed with a renaissance-style dome, the inside is just as photo-worthy, with a spectacular altar, crypt, and stained windows all great to marvel at.
The closest metro stop is Sé, which is right across the plaza from the towering cathedral.
Paraiso is a popular area to stay and visit in São Paulo. Here you’ll find lots of cheap hostels, and also one of the most central and best-connected areas of the city.
One cool place to stay Hotel Residenza is a home away from home. The top sights here are in the south of the district, where you’ll find Ibirapuera Park.
This giant park is the largest in Latin America and is great for getting some fresh air, exercising, or enjoying ice cream or drinks next to its beautiful lake. The closest metro stop in this district is Paraíso.
Visit Campos do Jordão
Located roughly 2.5 hours away from São Paulo is the stunning winter-style town of Campos do Jordão.
Based in the Mantiqueira Mountains, here you’ll get a different view of Brazilian life, as well as a rest from the 24/7 hectic life of São Paulo.
I found that this tour is a great way to explore the small city, where you’ll visit all of the top landmarks which include:
- Boa Vista Palace
- Ducha de Prata waterfall
Not to mention a stroll around the touristy center of Villa Capivari.
The total duration of the tour is 10 hours, with both pick-up and drop-off in São Paulo.
Beco Do Batman
This beautiful street is one of the most picturesque in the city, and as a result, is one of the most popular destinations to visit in São Paulo.
Beco Do Batman is known for its incredible artwork and graffiti, which covers the entrance into the street and all along until the end.
It’s known for having a very laid-back bohemian culture here, and you’ll find many friendly travelers selling novelties along the popular walkway. The closest metro to this Brazilian landmark is Vila Madalena.
Experience Sao Paulo Nightlife
As South America’s largest city, São Paulo of course has many bustling areas to head out to when the sun comes down.
Pinheiros is the best for a night out, with the infamous Vila Madalena known for its different style bars and clubs, most can be found along or near Rui Aspicuelta.
If you are a big fan of electronic music, then look no further than D-Edge which is one of the best places in all of Latin America.
Also, Bar Samba is for those who want to try out the native Brazilian dance, or simply watch the pros take hold of the floor.
Sao Paulo Travel Tips
Now we’ll cover some of our best travel tips and hacks, which will help to make your stay in Sao Paulo much better and smoother.
With these tips above, you’ll have a much better experience in São Paulo, as well as save money and stay safe during your trip.
Travel Insurance for Sao Paulo
I always recommend backpackers and travelers (no matter who you are) use World Nomads Insurance for fully comprehensive cover.
If you are due to travel soon, you can get a Get A Free Quote by clicking the link or the image above and filling out your details – that way you’ll get instant cover from the exact date that you choose.
On many occasions World Nomads has provided me with reliable insurance cover for travel in Latin America and the rest of the world.
Best time to Visit Sao Paulo
São Paulo has a wet/dry season. The wet season runs from October until March and has average daily temperatures of between 69-76°F.
Highs can reach up to 82°F, with lows somewhere around 63°F. Rainfall is very heavy during this time, with anywhere from 4-9 inches falling each month (January is overall the wettest month).
The dry season in contrast runs from April until September. Average temperatures range from 63-71°F, with highs of 78°F and lows of 56°F.
Rainfall is much lower this time of year, with between 1.5-3 inches falling within each month (August is overall the driest month to visit).
How many days do you need in Sao Paulo?
With São Paulo’s pretty huge size as well as the large number of things to see and do, I recommend staying a total of 4 days minimum here.
This amount of time is good to be able to explore many of the interesting districts such as Liberdade and Pinheiros, and also to get a good feel for each and their own ways of living.
With 4 days in Sao Paulo, you’ll be able to see all of the best landmarks (without constantly running around trying to cram everything in).
You’ll also be able to head on a day trip or two to explore the outer regions of São Paulo.
Within those days you will also allow you to kick back and enjoy yourself with some caipirinhas at night and dance some samba.
All without your legs being too tired from exploring the city (hence it’s better to spread sightseeing over a few days rather than doing everything in just one or two).
Things to do in Sao Paulo
As we have seen, São Paulo is home to tons of great things to see and do and is really worth the visit plus an extended stay.
This guide has covered all you’ll need to know, including whens best to visit, the best sights, staying safe, and some key travel tips.
Are you feeling inspired? See this guide on the best places to visit in Brazil for more ideas on where to go in this amazing country.
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