São Paulo is a bustling metropolitan city, with loads to see and do, but my gosh is it expensive!! We wanted a bit of luxury in terms of our lodgings while we were visiting, and chose the fantastic Guest Urban Hotel. Unfortunately, due to the lack of kitchen, we had to eat out at every meal which really did a number on our budget. As damage control, we tried to choose activities that were free or low cost during our time in the city. We still had a brilliant time! Whether you are staying for a day or a month, here are some great free things to do in São Paulo.
1.) Free walking tour
Sao Paulo Free Walking Tour do a fantastic tour of the central district on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 11:30. The tour takes you around some of the most famous and historically important buildings in the city centre. It lasts around three hours, with a lunch stop, and you get a great insight into the history of São Paulo.
2.) Municipal Market
The municipal market in downtown São Paulo is an explosion of colour contained within a huge, beautiful neoclassical building. The sheer volume of food on sale is mind boggling. There are a few restaurants upstairs and cafes hidden amongst the stalls, in case your stomach starts rumbling at the sight of all the tastiness around you.
3.) Avenida Paulista
If you are in need of anything, you will find it on Avenida Paulista. A mixture of old and new architecture, there are museums, cinemas, shopping, accommodation and the headquarters of several banks on the street (which is why it is now considered São Paulo’s financial district), as well as having enough going on on the pavement to make it enjoyable to just people watch.
4.) Batman Alley (“Beco do Batman”)
Originally named after a picture of Batman appeared on one of the walls in the 80s, this small street is now covered head to toe in gorgeous graffiti. Although there is graffiti everywhere you turn in Sao Paulo, the sheer concentration of art in this alley is astounding, and not to be missed. Apparently the murals are repainted every few months or so, so even if you have been before its definitely worth a revisit.
5.) Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo
One of the more modern buildings on Av. Paulista is the Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo. Filled with over 8,000 pieces from all over the world, the museum also hosts talks and performances of dance and music. The building itself is a fantastic design, floating above the public square below it. Admission is free on Tuesdays from 10am-6pm.
6.) Flagship Havaiana Store
If you love the thought of Havaianas being as cheap as £5 a pair, this is the place for you! Every design you can think of is in this flagship store, along with Havaianas clothing range – which is strangely expensive. Just wandering round this store is a delight in itself, admiring all the colours, styles and decor in the shop.
7.) Vila Madalena
This is the neighbourhood in which to see and be seen. Super hip Vila Madalena is THE place to be of an evening, especially at the weekends. People spill out of restaurants and bars lining the roads onto the street, and the music from each establishment competes to be the loudest. During the day, it’s a nice place to wander, taking in the street art and drinking coffee.
8.) Martinelli Building
At 30 floors tall, the Martinelli Building was the tallest building in Brazil for a while after it was finished in 1934. It might not be the most beautiful cityscape, but from the roof top, you can look out over central São Paulo. They open the building up to a certain number of visitors every half hour from Monday to Friday, 9:30 til 11:30am and 2:00 til 4:00pm.
9.) Ibirapuera Park
Located just outside the main tourist area, Ibirapuera Park is a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of the city. A large park that is open all the daylight hours (and the majority of the night), you will find locals and tourists alike lounging on the grass eating ice cream, walking and chatting, or gazing at the dancing fountains.
10.) Rua 25 de Março
Known for its cheap goods, you can buy anything from Rua 25 de Março. So long as you don’t need it to last, and you’re not too fussed about counterfeits. If you’re not into things breaking five minutes after you’ve bought them, it’s still a wonderful place to soak in the atmosphere – just don’t bring your valuables.