For many people, when it comes to planning their South American travel itinerary, the mega metropolis of São Paulo is often overlooked. The problem with Brazil’s largest city is not that it suffers from any particular bad reputation; rather it has become renowned for lacking alluring tourist attractions. Those that do schedule some time for São Paulo, will, however, find it an extremely rewarding destination, home to a charming cosmopolitan vibrancy with a dizzying nightlife scene and an enviable cultural landscape. Here's a guide to what you can do.

são paulo best urban destination south americaA view of São Paulo city under the cover of darkness / Image Source


São Paulo is adorned with monuments, remarkable facades, timeworn theatres, and an array of stunning museums, each of them displaying unique shapes and styles that together conspire to lend the city an impressive architectural and cultural heritage. Wander through this gargantuan city and you will see the structures and imaginings of many of the world’s greatest urban designers – much of famed Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer’s finest work can be seen in Ibirapuera Park, while the SESC Pampéia sports tower made the Guardian newspaper's top ten best concrete structures in the world. To admire the architectural jewels of São Paulo in the company of an expert local guide, reserve a place on the saopaulo4u Architecture Tour.

5391718290_78f102bbec_bSESC Pompéia was in The Guardian's list of 10 best concrete buildings in the world / Image Source


It is today no longer a novelty to say that one of the main gastronomic trademarks of São Paulo is the original flavours of pizza. This cultural quirk can be attributed to the efforts of dozens of Italian migrants, who together brought their traditional customs and adapted to the tastes of local ingredients, producing an exquisite mix of unique and incomparable flavours. The city is home to a large number of pizzerias – around 6,000 in total – and they offer an extraordinary array of toppings that include ham and chicken, zucchini, chocolate, and eggplant with ricotta cheese.

18065398768_4dc9478d31_kBraz Pizzeria is one of the most traditional pizza restaurants in the city / Image Source


São Paulo is considered one of the best destinations in the world for those with an interest in urban art and graffiti. The origin of this cultural expression dates back to the demonstrations against the dictatorship (1964 – 1985) and was inspired by the United States art scene of the 1970’s; this was a time of significant artistic development in São Paulo. Today, many internationally recognised Brazilian artists have work on the walls of buildings and mansions across the city, attracting hundreds of visitors to seemingly random streets. The Open Museum of Urban Art, Beco do Batman (Batman’s Alley), and the neighbourhoods of Augusta, Consolação and Liberdade are just a selection of the best places to enjoy the spectacular street art. Take a saopaulo4u Graffiti Tour to see the highlights.

6920408599_6eb16fdbfa_bBeco do Batman (Batman's Alley) is a must see for graffiti lovers / Image Source


It is no surprise that São Paulo is the number one destination in Brazil when it comes to shopping. It can be arduous to scour the shops here, however, simply because the city is so big and the choices are endless. With a seemingly countless number of street bazaars, international brand outlets, and luxury malls, São Paulo is a real paradise for those who love to make a day of dipping in and out of shops and markets. If you are addicted to luxury, head to Rua Oscar Freire or Ciudade Shopping Jardim; those looking for something more affordable should wander down the streets of João Cachoeira and Bem -te -vi são; or alternatively, providing you can handle large crowds, take a stroll down Rua 25 de Março to browse some of the cheapest products on the market – a perfect place to buy souvenirs and gifts. Book a bespoke saopaulo4u shopping tour to find the best deals.

oscar_freire5Oscar Freire Street is a key attraction and shopping paradise / Image Source

São Paulo is at once a lively, dynamic, eclectic place. Explore the city’s streets, sample the local cuisine, gaze at the architectural ingenuity, visit the world-renowned museums and discover exactly why São Paulo is the best urban destination in South America. Book your tours and travel activities in this wonderful city right here.

By Luiza Cavalcante,  professional in Visual Arts and Image Technologies. Portuguese travel writer, passionate photographer and traveller / Translated by Simon Hall.