One of the world’s most fascinating cities, São Paulo is the city of 11 million people. It is an enormous place which many people think as dangerous and intimidating. But the truth is, below that grimy and scruffy surface, São Paulo is an energetic city full of surprises. This 5-day suggested itinerary is for those who are short on time, but still want to get a good taste of what São Paulo has to offer in 5 days or less.
Things to know before travelling in Brazil:
Language – The official language of Brazil is Portuguese, which is spoken by the majority of population. However, it is important to note that the people also use Brazilian Portuguese, a manipulation of the Portuguese language which has its own distinct pronunciation, grammar, and slang. Ergo, tourists who speak European Portuguese might have a hard time understanding when the locals speak Brazilian Portuguese. Many Brazilians cannot speak English that is why it is recommended to learn a few important phrases before going on your trip.
Currency exchange – The official currency of Brazil is the Real (pronounced as hay-ow or hay-ice). Exchanging money in Brazil is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in South America. Most major establishments like hotels and restaurants in major tourist and business destinations accept credit cards. The best way to get local currency is to use the ATMs, which are widely available in São Paulo and other major cities, and withdraw in Real to get the best rate.
Health – Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccinations before your trip. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Typhoid vaccines are the most common. Rabies vaccine is also recommended because there is a large number of stray dogs in Brazil. Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times especially in areas where Zika virus is circulating.
Safety and security – There is currently no nationwide security advisory in effect for Brazil. Check your country’s travel advisory website to get the most up-to-date information for your personal safety abroad. Keep your guard up at all times and avoid any streets that are not crowded. Do not carry debit or credit cards with you, or hide it in your bra or shoes. There were incidences of robbery when offenders will escort you to an ATM and make you take out as much as you can. Leave your passport in the hotel’s safety deposit box and just carry a photocopy.
Detailed Itinerary Sao Paulo in 5 Days
Take an international flight to São Paulo–Guarulhos International Airport, known locally as Cumbica Airport. Try to schedule it so that an overnight flight gets you there very early in the morning. If coming from other parts of Brazil like Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, you can travel to São Paulo by air, bus or rental car. After check in at your preferred accommodation in the old downtown neighborhood of Centro or wherever you prefer, hit one of the top rated restaurants in the city for breakfast or brunch.
Where to stay in Sao Paulo:
Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo (Avenida Das Nacoes Unidas 13301 | Brooklin, Sao Paulo, State of Sao Paulo 04578-000, Brazil)
Emiliano Hotel (Rua Oscar Freire 384 | Jardins, Sao Paulo, State of Sao Paulo 01426-000 , Brazil)
Gran Estanplaza Berrini (Rua Arizona, 1517- Brooklin Novo, Sao Paulo, State of Sao Paulo 04567 003, Brazil)
Clarion Hotel Faria Lima (Rua Jeronimo da Veiga, 248, Sao Paulo, State of Sao Paulo 04536-001, Brazil)
Radisson Sao Paulo Vila Olimpia (Rua Fidencio Ramos, 420, Sao Paulo, State of Sao Paulo 04551-010, Brazil)
In the afternoon, explore the many attractions in São Paulo. If you just want to take it easy on your first day and just soak in the atmosphere of São Paulo, make your way to Parque Ibirapuera (Ibirapuera Park), the largest urban park in the city. Head back to the hotel for a much-needed rest.
Cycling in São Paulo is an increasingly popular activity among locals and tourists as it has several physical advantages. It is also a great way to see the city without spending too much money on transportation. Currently, there are 4 dedicated bike paths in the city. They are Guarapiranga bike path, Ciclovia Brás Leme, Ciclovia Marginal Pinheiros and Greenway bike path. On Sundays and National Holidays, there are also dedicated leisure bike lanes from 7 AM to 4 PM.
After having a filling breakfast, set out for the day and start your ride at the Parque Ibirapuera (Ibirapuera Park). Do not miss to stop by at Monumento às Banderas (Monument to the Banderas), the large-scale monument built by Victor Brecheret in front of Ibirapuera Park. Then, head to Villa Lobos Park. You can also stop along the way to visit some attractions like Marginal Pinheiros, Paulista Avenue and Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo Assis Chateaubriand (Av. Paulista, 1578, São Paulo – SP, 01310-200, Brazil). In the evening, experience live Samba in one of the top rated Samba places by Paulistanos, the Bar Samba Restaurant in Vila Madalena (an upper middle class neighborhood of the Pinheiros district in the western part of the city of São Paulo).
On day 3, make your way to Estação da Luz (Luz Railway Station), one of the most important public transport hubs in Sao Paulo. This railway station was originally built in 1867 by a British architect and was demolished in 1901 to build an improved version. Then, head to Parque da Luz (also called Jardim da Luz), the oldest park in São Paulo. Grab some lunch at Sabor e Arte on Rua Marquês de Itu. In the afternoon, spend a few hours in Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo (Praça da Luz, 2 – Luz, São Paulo – SP, 01120-010, Brazil), the oldest art museum in São Paulo featuring modern and contemporary art. For soccer fans, visit the Museu de Futebol, located in Estadio Pacaembu. Spend the rest of the afternoon in Bairro da Liberdade, the biggest Japanese community in Brazil.
One of the best ways to open the door to Brazil’s secrets is through São Paulo’s food and drink. Join one of the food walks offered in the city which will introduce you to key gastronomic sites as well as traditional and contemporary Brazilian cuisine. You can also do this tour on your own and make your way to Mercadao – Sao Paulo Municipal Market. Some Brazilian street foods you should definitely try are Coxinha (shredded chicken meat covered in dough), Kibe (minced beef mixed with bulgur wheat), Caldinho de feijão (black beans soup), Mandioca frita (cassava chips) and pastel (thin crust pies with assorted fillings).
If your travel happens to be on a Saturday, head to Calixto Outdoor Market for some antiques and handicrafts, which you can take home with you. You can also enjoy live music and dancing in the market’s central food court. If you’ve been going on gastronomic hunt and shopping for hours, you’re just in time for your reservation at Dalva E Dito (R. Padre João Manuel, 1115 – Cerqueira César, São Paulo – SP, 01411-001, Brazil), the sister restaurant to the highly successful D.O.M by Chef Alex Atala.
Today marks the end of your São Paulo adventure. If your international flight is in the evening or late afternoon, explore the city for other attractions you might have missed. Biking around Sao Paulo is a great option which allows you to enjoy the city at your own pace. Fit in one last amazing lunch or dinner in the city. You could even squeeze in some souvenir shopping at Rua 25 de Marco before you travel to the airport. Or you can choose to stay in São Paulo longer or travel to other parts of Brazil. The decision is all yours!
This is the end of our 5-day suggested itinerary. Remember, this is just a guide for planning and is in no way, shape or form the only way to travel the city. There are several alternative routes of travel within the country and it will depend on your intended length of stay. Enjoy São Paulo!