Teatro Municipal in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Stop to take in the Teatro Municipal. (Photo: Marriott International)

Weekend Getaways

Spend a Weekend Soaking Up the Sights, Sounds and Culinary Delights of São Paulo

São Paulo has hidden depths and cultural wonders just waiting to be discovered. South America’s largest city is heavily influenced by immigrants — including members of the largest Japanese, Lebanese and Italian diasporas in the world — making it a true fusion of cultures, which is reflected in its wealth of architectural styles, cuisines and more.

With sushi in the Japanese neighborhood of Liberdade, Asian and European dishes in Jardins and the citywide Sunday night pizza tradition, São Paulo offers endless options for foodies — including the establishments of Brazil’s award-winning chefs.

There are also pockets of nature nestled within the urban landscape, including the popular Parque Ibirapuera. And on Sundays, pedestrians and cyclists reign, as many roads are closed to traffic. From graffiti and art galleries to live samba music and warehouse clubs, the adventures you can have in São Paulo are only as limited as your imagination.

In this itinerary, you’ll find three days packed with the best meals, sights and activities. As always, check for travel guidelines and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Discover the Historic Sites of Centro 

Aerial view of Teatro Municipal in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Teatro Municipal is the best place to catch a show. (Photo: Marriott International)

Your exploration starts in Centro, a neighborhood that’s bursting with São Paulo’s city and state institutions. This area comes alive with activity during the week: Join the office workers for coffee and a pastry at the Café Martinelli-Midi, located in a 1920s neoclassical building with panoramic views. From there, a number of significant buildings are within easy walking distance: the São Bento Monastery, an architectural marvel on top of a hill that’s been the focus of many paintings; Pateo do Collegio, the city’s oldest building; and the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, a bank turned art institute.

Arrive early for lunch at laid-back A Casa do Porco, where chef Jefferson Rueda has caught the attention of global food critics for his homage to the humble pig. For some downtime, settle in with a good book and take in the art deco architecture at Mário de Andrade public library, or flip through records in the Galeria do Rock shopping mall. Seeing the city from above during the daytime is a must, so head to the 42nd floor of the Edifício Itália and admire the sea of skyscrapers stretching into the horizon.

In a city that lives and breathes music, you’ll want to jump in a cab and cruise over to nearby Casa de Francisca (it’s not recommended to walk around Centro at night) to kick off an evening of good food and live music. Bonus: It’s inside a grand 1910 mansion that’s been restored to its former glory. Foodwise, there are some standout seafood options, like arroz de mar, ceviche and tiradito (a Peruvian take on sashimi). Feel inspired to have a go on the mic yourself? Hop in another cab to the close-by Japanese quarter Liberdade for karaoke at Tequila’s.

Saturday: Park Life and Retail Therapy in Jardins and Pinheiros

Aerial view of Ibirapuera Park in Sao Paulo, Brazil
The many parks around São Paulo serve up a break from the city’s energy. (Photo: Marriott International)

Early risers and dog walkers can be found pounding the pavement (well, winding pathways) in Parque Ibirapuera as early as 5 a.m. There’s no need to be up that early (hey, jet lag happens), but São Paulo’s version of New York City’s iconic Central Park is a green oasis worthy of your time. Start with fresh juice and toasted hazelnut bread at PÃO in the park’s Bienal building while deciding which museum you’ll grace with your presence — the park is packed with them. Key among them are the Museu Afro Brasil (and its more than 6,000 pieces of work documenting the contributions of African communities to Brazilian culture) and the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo (MAM), which has a can’t-miss sculpture garden. Both are housed inside stunning modernist buildings designed in the 1950s by star architect Oscar Niemeyer. Bike rentals — you can find the orange Bike Itaú stations near park gates 4, 6, 9 and 10 — also make for a fun, easy way to take in all the park’s highlights.

It will be lunchtime before you know it, so look no further than Selvagem, an open-air restaurant half hidden amid the park’s foliage, where seasonal Brazilian ingredients are the star of the menu. Then get ready for some pampering at Aigai Spa — one of the city’s most tranquil spots for a massage and lounging by the pool. If that’s not your speed, head straight to Rua Oscar Freire, the city’s most upscale avenue for designer shopping. It’s also the location of the city’s Havaianas concept store, where you can customize your own pair of the world-famous Brazilian flip-flops.

For dinner, you’re off to the Jardins neighborhood, a district known for its dining as well as shopping, with excellent restaurants on every block. For something contemporary, head to Maní (with its Brazilian, Asian and European dishes from award-winning chef Helena Rizzo), D.O.M. (with its tasting menu highlighting Brazilian ingredients) or Ema (with its long list of seafood options). More hearty, traditional dining can be found at Tordesilhas, which features dishes from the southeastern state of Minas Gerais, or Jiquitaia, which offers homestyle cooking and a great list of cachaças (a distilled Brazilian spirit made from fermented sugar-cane juice).

Sunday: Museum Mile and a Pizza Tradition

Close up of decorative wooden fruit
There are vibrant colors to be found around every corner. (Photo: Marriott International)

In a city that teems with about 6 million cars, Sunday brings a breath of fresh air (literally) as many of the city’s avenues are closed to automobiles. In their place, you’ll find walkers, cyclists and skaters. Make the most of these open streets on Avenida Paulista, a long, wide avenue (and the first in the city to be paved back in 1891) that takes on a Carnival-like vibe each Sunday thanks to buskers and bands. After grabbing breakfast at the hip Café Habitual, plan for an afternoon visiting a few of the half-dozen art museums and cultural centers that earned Avenida Paulista its “Museum Mile” moniker. Start at the Instituto Moreira Salles, a glass-front structure that hosts photography exhibits and great views of Avenida Paulista, and finish up at Japan House São Paulo, a museum with exhibits showcasing Japanese toys, miniature sculptures, the art of ramen and much more. Take a break at Aizomê café, which serves traditional Japanese cuisine like sushi, sashimi and tempura.

Pick up a bicycle at one of the Bike Itaú stations (there are about 10 along Avenida Paulista) and cycle over to the Minhocão — a hulking viaduct that closes to traffic on weekend evenings, making it a fun place for skaters, bikers, dog walkers and artists to cruise around or simply hang out. Grab a fresh coconut from a street vendor and enjoy the sunset, which can be seen over the rooftops of Centro at any point along the highway. People will often hop off their bikes and congregate for the show.

Now listen (well, read) up: There’s only one kind of food you should be having for dinner on Sunday in São Paulo, and that’s pizza. The entire city leans into this tradition, which was established when hundreds of thousands of Italians emigrated to São Paulo at the turn of the 20th century. Head to Carlos Pizza, which is known for its wood-fired pies and flavorful crust; upscale Foglia Forneria Artigianale Italiana for sourdough pizzas; or Speranza in the traditional Italian neighborhood of Bixiga for a more old-school experience. There’s nothing quite like the perfect slice to finish up the perfect weekend.