First-timer’s Guide to São Paulo, Brazil

For first-timers in São Paulo, this sprawling metropolis might seem completely overwhelming. It’s Latin America’s largest city – with 20 million inhabitants. And it is the most vibrant, multi-cultural, and exciting city in Brazil, if not the world.

 

We answered the most frequently asked questions about traveling and moving to São Paulo. Keep reading to find out how to make the most of your time in the city

Aerial view of Sao Paulo

1. What are the current COVID-19 restrictions in São Paulo?

If you’re planning to arrive by air, you must present a negative COVID test before boarding. Either a negative PCR test performed within 72 hours or a negative antigen test taken within 24 hours of boarding. Children under two are exempt, as are children under 12 who are accompanied by an adult with a negative test.

Additionally, you will h

ave to present a traveler’s health declaration form, which you can complete online

Travelers must also present proof of vaccination, unless they’re an exempted case as listed here. Exempted unvaccinated travelers must quarantine for 14 days at their final destination in Brazil.

 

2. What are São Paulo’s best neighborhoods to stay in?

The assortment of neighborhoods of São Paulo are the jigsaw pieces to this cosmopolitan and diverse puzzle, each offering their own charm and character. Some of the best neighborhoods in São Paulo include Vila Madalena, Liberdade, Itaim Bibi, Jardins, Vila Olímpia and Pinheiros

 

Admire the first open-air museum dedicated to graffiti at the bohemian ‘bairro’ Vila Madalena. This trendy part of São Paulo attracts a younger crowd of brunch lovers and flat white fans. The overspill of creatives and artists from Vila Madalena pour into Pinheiros for happy hour drinks and lunch at its Mercado Municipal, now making it an even more exciting place to live.

Otto Modern Loft, Itaim Bibi, Sao Paulo
Otto Modern Loft, Itaim Bibi

Itaim Bibi is one of the most stylish neighborhoods in the city, as well as Jardim Paulista — simply known as Jardins — and Pinheiros. The three ‘bairros’ are very close to each other and all within an hour’s walk. Jardins and Itaim Bibi are two of the most popular places to live in São Paulo as they are a stone’s throw away from Parque Ibirapuera

 

Perhaps not commonly known, Brazil has the largest community of Japanese descendants outside of Japan. Liberdade is the central hub of this community and has been transformed to resemble an Asian city, with a red torii arch at its entrance. Weekends are usually the best time to visit Liberdade for the eclectic market, located next to the metro station. 

 

Casai has luxury apartments in up-and-coming, trendy and above all safe neighborhoods of São Paulo. Check our availability here.

Copan Apartment building, Sao Paulo
First time visitors to Sao Paulo should visit Liberdade Bairro

3. Is São Paulo safe? 

Like all major cities, São Paulo is no stranger to crime. Pickpocketing happens, particularly on the Metro. Therefore, we recommend keeping your belongings close to you. Don’t wear flashy jewelry or carry a lot of cash with you – as the locals recommend. The touristy areas and more residential parts of São Paulo are perfectly safe as long as you are aware. It is safe for you to walk around by yourself or with friends during the day. When night falls, Uber or 99s are available if you are travelling far and alone. 

 

4. How to get around São Paulo?

Navigating this formidable city is not as difficult as you might think. São Paulo has an impressive and efficient Metro and overground train network. As mentioned above, take extra care of your belongings when traveling on the Metro. It’s also best to avoid during rush hour times (7:00 AM-8:30 AM and 5:30 PM-7:30 PM) as carriages are filled to the brim. A single ticket costs four reais, available at any station. On this same single ticket, you can hop between Metro lines and the overground train at no extra charge. This public transport is certainly worth using when travelling further afield rather than driving to avoid the city’s notorious traffic. 

On Sundays, Avenida Paulista is open to pedestrians and cyclists
The Metro is the best way to get around Sao Paulo

On the other hand, if you are only going between neighborhoods and not across the entire city, you can order an Uber or a 99. The latter is São Paulo’s answer to Uber and usually has better prices. For those who prefer to cycle, the city is slowly becoming more bicycle-friendly with new bike lanes cropping up. On Sundays, Avenida Paulista closes off to cars, and pedestrians – meaning cyclists have the avenue all to themselves.

 

5. What is the weather like in São Paulo?

São Paolo is a city you can visit all year round. Each season offers a new and agreeable climate. Summer months (December to February) can heat up, with temperatures averaging at 82-86 degrees Fahrenheit. Heavy bursts of rain break up the sunshine for just 15-30 minutes, cleaning the humid air. Rain can arrive at any moment, so it’s best  to carry an umbrella with you. 

Winter (June to August) is the most popular time to visit São Paulo as visitors enjoy comfortable temperatures of 63-77 degrees Fahrenheit. To avoid the high season (Winter), one of the best times to visit the city is between March and May, as there is a small chance of rain and temperatures of around 68 Fahrenheit. 

Parque Ibirapuera, Sao Paulo

6. What are the best things to do in São Paulo? 

  • Avenida Paulista

This main avenue of São Paulo is home to some of the city’s most famous museums, including MASP (São Paulo Museum of Art). This is one of the most important museums in the southern hemisphere and hosts a collection of 8,000 pieces of art. It includes works from Brazilian artists, such as Portinari and Anita Malfatti, as well as international collections from Picasso and Van Gogh. 

 

Pedestrians and cyclists are allowed to enjoy this avenue freely on Sundays when it is closed to traffic. As you wander the length of this pedestrianized street, look out for world-famous artist Kobra, whose street art adorns many high-rise buildings.

MASP, Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Ibirapuera Park:

An area of over 150 hectares of parks, lakes and museums slots itself into one of the world’s busiest cities. Voted as one of the world’s best urban parks by The Guardian in 2015,  this park offers a tranquil oasis in the heart of a concrete jungle. Encompassed by a sea of skyscrapers and heaving avenues, this inner-city “island” features a planetarium, the Afro-Brazil museum and an auditorium designed by Oscar Niemeyer, just to name a few. 

  • Beco do Batman:

Named after the first graffiti this alley bore, Batman Alley is a hit with hipster locals and artsy tourists. Meander this famous alleyway and other streets of Vila Madalena to fully admire the extent of talent painted on these walls.

Edificio Copan, Sao Paulo
Catedral da Se, Sao Paulo.
  • Catedral da Se:

This is one of the five largest neo-gothic temples in the world. The cathedral is considered the very center of the city of São Paulo. Take a guided tour to explore inside, especially the crypt where indigenous leader, Tibiriçá, is buried along the imaginary line where the Tropic of Capricorn passes.

  • Architecture:

After living in São Paulo for a while you will start to take notice of the modern architecture, and even recognize their architects. Oscar Niemeyer’s style is very prominent, usually celebrating the female form and her curves, which take shape in his sensual designs. For instance, Copan — a sleek apartment building in the city center. Whereas, MASP is a brutalist masterpiece, designed by Italo-Brazilian architect, Lina Bo Bardi. It balances on four bright-red pillars and floats majestically above Avenida Paulista.

The best selection of street food for first timers in Sao Paulo - Mercado Municipal

8. What should I eat in São Paulo?

There is an abundance of options of things to eat in São Paulo, as expected for its sheer size and diversity. Here are some of our must-eats:

  • Pizza:

São Paulo has the largest Italian community in Brazil. Subsequently pizza is one of the most popular foods of any Paulista (local of São Paulo). Fun fact: there are more than 6,000 pizzerias in the city, producing more than 1 million pizzas per day, that’s 720 per minute! 

  • Street food

The array of food that you can order from the street is phenomenal. Dishes from all over the country are found curbside. You must try pão de queijo — fluffy balls of cheesy bread with warm pockets of air. Mortadella sandwiches are humongous, perfect to enjoy warm or cold. The best ones are allegedley found in the São Paulo Municipal Market.

 

Tapioca is certainly the most versatile street food of  São Paulo — made from manioc flour, these delightful discs are stuffed with a savoury or sweet filling. Coxinhas are teardrop-shaped breaded pastries usually filled with the best combo — chicken and cheese.

 

Note: eating on the street is sometimes frowned upon in the city. We recommend finding somewhere closeby to sit and enjoy your street food snack.

Churrascarias in Sao Paulo
  • Churrascarias:

Churrascarias are all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouses. When you arrive, you are handed a card with a red sign on one side and green on the other. As long as your card shows green, the waiter will continue to offer you cuts of tenderly barbecued meat skewered on swords. If that’s not enough, there’s a salad buffet with an array of pastas, potato salads and vegetables. 

  • Michelin star restaurants:

São Paulo boasts an impressive 70 percent of Brazil’s Michelin star restaurants. In Jardins, you will find the only restaurant with two Michelin stars. D.O.M. is considered one of the best places in the world to eat. Led by Brazilian chef, Alex Atala, the menu celebrates Brazil’s Amazon region, offering flavors and ingredients never experienced before.

 

We hope this first-time guide to São Paulo provides you with enough information to begin planning your trip.

 

Looking for a place to stay? Take a look at our available apartments in São Paulo.