The locals’ guide to São Paulo

WT Writer
Oct 7, 2018
Cut a path through the crowds and discover the Brazilian heart and soul of this vibrant city that never sleeps



Family photographer Margit Ikeda always has an eye out for arts and culture packed places to visit in the city


Tell us about the arts and culture scene…

The cultural agenda is very intense, with everything from large-scale international events to low-cost alternatives. Plus, there’s a lot of museums, galleries and cultural centres dedicated to Brazilian art. The 33rd Bienal de São Paulo ( runs until 9 December and features 12 solo projects selected by chief curator Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, along with seven group shows. There’s also a fantastic photography exhibition, Irving Penn: Centenário, at Instituto Moreira Salles (IMS) Paulista ( until 11 November.

Where can we see the best art?

On Sundays, the famous Paulista Avenue transforms into a place where all kinds of people come to enjoy the day, with street artists performing all the way along. Plus, there are multiple cultural hotspots located there. São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP, is the most important museum in the city, with its modernist architecture by Lina Bo Bardi. Itaú Cultural ( is perfect for a dose of Brazilian culture, while Japan House São Paulo ( showcases the very best of Japanese design, and Sesc Avenida Paulista ( has great quality yet very affordable Brazilian art on display.

What are your favourite culture spots?

Ibirapuera Park teams nature with an impressive line-up of museums, including the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art (, Museu Afro Brasil (, and Oca ( If you have the time and energy, you can cross over to the Museum of Contemporary Art, University of São Paulo ( The buildings in the park itself were designed by Oscar Niemeyer, one of Brazil’s most famous architects, and if you’re lucky you can catch a music concert on a sunny day. 

[Main photo credit: Installation view of Wura-Natasha Ogunji’s exhibition. 33rd Bienal de São Paulo: Affective Affinities, 2018. © Leo Eloy / Estúdio Garagem / Bienal de São Paulo Foundation]



Personal stylist Flávia Machado knows all the best places to shop for vintage finds through to luxury labels


Backstage before the João Pimenta fashion show at São Paulo Fashion Week

1. The style scene. São Paulo is a very democratic and open city, and fashion follows this sentiment with a wide variety of brands, styles and price tags on offer. The city has hosted a semi-annual Fashion Week since 1995, and there are four major fashion
colleges attracting young talent from
all over Brazil. 

2. Must-shop neighbourhoods. Jardins is home to the upmarket Rua Oscar Freire, with lots of international luxury brands nearby. Pinheiros and Vila Madalena are more bohemian, with brands by famous Brazilian designers, such as Alexandre Herchcovitch, and an impressive collection of concept stores and boutique businesses that are worth checking out.

3. Top luxury malls. There are three luxury shopping malls that deserve your attention: Cidade Jardim (, JK Iguatemi ( and Iguatemi São Paulo. Stop for lunch in one of the rooftop restaurants at Cidade Jardim for brilliant skyline views.

4. Vintage finds.  While there’s no single neighbourhood or street that offers a range of vintage stores, I recommend four very interesting second-hand shops: Luxury Tap (Rua João Moura, 460) in Pinheiros and Pagu 2nd Hand Shop (Rua Oscar Freire, 129), Chic Boudoir (Rua Pamplona, 1405), and B Luxury Vintage (Rua Augusta, 2566) in Jardins. 

5. Homegrown designers.
I love Alexandre Herchcovitch, Gloria Coelho, Martha Medeiros, Adriana Barra and the label Osklen, which was founded by the designer Oskar Metsavaht.

6. Must-have mementoes. I’ve never met someone who doesn’t appreciate Havaianas. The flagship store at Rua Oscar Freire is the best place to buy them, offering hundreds of styles and colours. If you want a wonderful outfit, check out the work of Martha Medeiros. Hailing from Alagoas, in northeastern Brazil, she does a beautiful job with lace. There’s a shop in Jardins and also at Cidade Jardim.



Stroll through the city and unearth its best bits along the way, says Guilherme Sanches, navigator at Renaissance São Paulo Hotel


A dish by D.O.M: manioc farofa and mullet bottarga (left spoon) and Chibe (right spoon), photographed by Ricardo D’Angelo

Don’t let the concrete buildings fool you into thinking that São Paulo is grey.  It’s actually a canvas for colour and movement, with street art at every turn, as well as live music and exhibitions around the clock. 

The best way to get to know São Paulo is to walk around like a true Paulista as the city reveals itself in all its details. There are some fantastic walking tours available, like those by O Melhor de Sampa (@omelhordesampa), that will give you the confidence to continue exploring on your own. If you’re happy going solo, one of the first places to head to is the historic city centre. Stop by Pátio do Colégio, where the city was founded, and which now houses a museum. More must-sees are the Municipal Theater of São Paulo, a masterpiece by architect Ramos de Azevedo, and the iconic Cabo Mayor lighthouse. 

At weekends, head to the bohemian neighbourhood of Vila Madalena to wander through Batman Alley and the surrounding streets where an incredible world of street art, small galleries, and homegrown restaurants await. Finish up in a place like Armazém da Cidade, listening to live music and tasting a variety of dishes prepared by local chefs. 

My favourite corner of the city is Jardins, which is home to yet more art galleries and museums, as well as the most incredible restaurants, including D.O.M ( and Manioca (

Tokyo 011 is the newest hotspot in the city.  Located near the Baixo Augusta region, this nine-storey building ( has exhibitions, movie theatres and a funky karaoke venue. Hungry? There’s a marvellous restaurant inspired by the movie Kill Bill. On the top floor also you’ll find an open-air nightclub with an incredible view of the city centre. 

Inspired to stay at Renaissance São Paulo Hotel? Click here for the latest offers. And to see all the latest offers available in São Paulo, simply click here.