São Paulo isn't really a tourist destination which actually makes it an awesome place to visit with a ton of hidden pockets of cool things happening in the city. Whether you're here on a work stint, visiting a friend, or just passing through we’ve got the best things to eat, shop, & experience in our São Paulo travel guide below.
table of contents
São Paulo is a massive place with a ton of neighborhoods to explore. Here are a few of our faves.
Vila Madalena - A beautiful, bohemian neighborhood with steep hills and tons of street art. Pretty quiet and residential with a few restaurants and bars scattered throughout.
Jardins - This is the Beverly Hills of São Paulo. Rua Oscar Freire, often described as the most expensive street in South America, runs through the middle of Jardins, and has some of the city's best restaurants and most glamorous stores. If you want to people watch rich, beautiful, well-dressed Brazilians, this is the place.
Pinheiros - For a lot of Brazilians the center of day-to-day life, in between Vila Madalena, Centro, and Jardins, with Itaim Bibi and Liberdade not far away. There are a ton of restaurants and bars, and this is where a ton of people come to have lunch or spend happy hour with friends before going home for the day.
Itaim Bibi - A very chic neighborhood near Jardins and Pinheiros. Tons of bars and restaurants.
Liberdade - Brazil has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan, and Liberdade is culturally considered the Japanese neighborhood of São Paulo. You can find a ton of sushi restaurants and Japanese food stores here.
Hotels can be a bit tough in São Paulo, but we love all the options found on Tablet Hotels. If you're down for an Airbnb, there are a ton of great options.
Things Sampa does well: sushi & burgers. We ate our fair share on a recent trip.
R. Prof. Carlos de Carvalho, 105 - Itaim Bibi | Website
A Japanese restaurant that’s the place to see and be seen. The restaurant is filled with beautiful people and great for people watching. Dress accordingly and be prepared to wait if you don’t have a reservation. What to order: salmon carpaccio and the tuna with foie gras (just trust us).
R. Bela Cintra, 1929 - Jardins | Website
Another Japanese restaurant that’s a bit of a scene, but with a jungle vibe and a vibrant sushi bar. What to order: the chef’s sushi and sashimi selection to share.
R. Cunha Gago, 590 - Pinheiros | Website
Buzina was a popular food truck that has since opened a brick and mortar location. They stick to what their good at: burgers and a few decadent sides. You never knew you needed fried guacamole in your life, but now you have it and you can never go back to the way things were before. What to order: the fried guacamole & the Brooklyn burger
R. Joaquim Antunes, 210 - Jardim Paulistano | Website
We 💕supporting creative women whenever we travel so we were super excited to learn about Brazilian chef Helena Rizzo 👩🏻🍳. She has a fabulous restaurant and bakery called Maní that’s located on a beautiful street in Jardins, São Paulo. The restaurant is perfect for a fancy splurge and the bakery is the coolest weekend brunch spot in the city.
Padoca do Maní
R. Joaquim Antunes, 138 - Jardim Paulistano | Website
A gorgeous European style cafe by the owners of Maní (above). We loved sitting out on their small patio for Saturday brunch nibbling on the basket of freshly baked bread and sipping espresso drinks. What to order: any of their yummy salads or the scrambled eggs.
Rua Oscar Freire, 384 - Jardim Paulista | Website
Emiliano is one of the most upscale hotels in São Paulo and a stunning property, but you’re coming here for one thing and one thing only: boozy weekend brunch. It’s one of the best deals in town - unlimited food and champagne for around $60 a person.
R. Girassol, 523 - Vila Madalena | Website
A cozy Lebanese restaurant with amazing dishes to share. What to order: the hummus with grilled meat and the tabouleh salad.
Av. Pedroso de Morais, 141 - Pinheiros | Website
An elegant Japanese restaurant with fabulous ceramic dish ware by Kimi Nii (see below), a Japanese-Brazilian ceramist. What to order: the gyoza (they were the best we’ve ever had) and the fried banana dessert.
R. Joaquim Antunes, 108 - Pinheiros | Website
A beautiful Italian restaurant that’s perfect for an intimate dinner. Dishes are pretty innovative - like deconstructed lasagna.
Le Jazz Brasserie
R. dos Pinheiros, 254 - Pinheiros | Website
Le Jazz has a Parisian bistro vibe. A lively, circular bar in a tiny room with walls covered in old jazz posters is perfect for people watching. Order a glass of champagne or wine and nibble on bar snacks.
R. Delfina, 163 - Vila Madalena | Website
A lively open-air bar in Vila Madalena filled with locals and serving well balanced cocktails.
Av. Brigadeiro Luís Antônio, 4700 - Jardim Paulista | Website
A swanky rooftop bar on top of Hotel Unique. A bit of a scene but great drinks and killer city views.
R. Fradique Coutinho, 1340 - Pinheiros | Website
Possibly our favorite spot in São Paulo and definitely the best coffee in town. A quirky space with tons of seating and coffee roasting happening in the same room. They have strong wifi and it’s a great place to work all day. What to order: a coffee flight and the carrot cake.
King of the Fork
R. Artur de Azevedo, 1317 - Pinheiros | Website
An adorable coffee shop attached to a bike shop with a bright pink espresso machine. What to order: coffee, donuts, cakes.
R. Artur de Azevedo, 1315 - Pinheiros | Website
An adorable little shop in the Pinheiros neighborhood of São Paulo filled with eccentric jewelry, art, and travel books.
R. Mateus Grou, 540 - Pinheiros | Website
A design shop filled with ceramics, leather goods, jewelry, and art focused on highlighting Brazilian artists and designers.
R. Girassol, 314 - Vila Madalena | Website
Kimi Nii is a Japanese-Brazilian ceramist and she is super talented. Her pieces are some of the prettiest ceramics we’ve ever laid our eyes on. We wanted to carry all of them back in our suitcases.
Search for fabulous street art
Our favorite part of São Paulo is the never ending street art around every corner you turn. Walk around any neighborhood and you’ll find something beautiful to snap a photo of. Beco do Batman in Vila Madalena is a little area with a ton of street art that’s fun to walk around.
Visit the Tomie Ohtake Institute
Av. Brg. Faria Lima, 201 - Pinheiros | Website
Tomie Ohtake was a Japanese-Brazilian artist admired for her modern paintings, prints and sculptures. At the institute you can explore exhibits of her work and other Brazilian artists.
Tour Japan House
Av. Paulista, 52 - Bela Vista | Website
Japan House is part of larger project by the Japanese government to promote Japanese culture and art in the world. This cultural center in São Paulo is one of three cultural centers that will open - there’s already one open in Los Angeles and one opening in London later this year.
We spent a long weekend in a tiny Brazilian beach town called Picinguaba. The town is a tranquil fishing village that has only 250 residents. To get there it’s about a 5 hour drive from São Paulo. We stayed at the stunningly beautiful Pousada Picinguaba for 3 nights and didn’t want to leave. One day we hired a local fisherman to take us to a deserted island called Ilha dos Porcos (Island of the Pigs). We spent a blissful afternoon soaking up the sun without another soul in sight. We can’t recommend this detour from Sampa enough.
We wouldn’t recommend going all the way to Paraty just to see it, but it’s about a 30 minute drive from Picinguaba and a great place to stop and spend a few hours before you head back to the city. It's a colonial town with vibrant colorful homes.