São Paulo is a challenge if you’re in a hurry. At first glance, it’s a city of traffi c jams, tall buildings and endless concrete with no green space—not much charm at all. Or you can pause and amaze yourself with the treasures you’ll find. From great restaurants to museums, a buzzing nightlife to fine art, there’s lots to get absorbed in. Just make sure you leave with plenty of time between places…remember the traffic?
1. Spend an Afternoon with Fine Art. Brazil’s Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP) has the most extensive collection of Western art in the southern hemisphere. The 1968 modernist building designed by famed Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi is art itself. Open daily (except Mondays) 11:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m. Admission: 15 reais ($7.40).
2. Stroll Down Avenida Paulista. On weekdays, Paulistanos rush to work down the avenue that is the symbol of São Paulo and the city’s principal artery. On weekends, things slow down and you can enjoy Trianon Park, as well as boutique shops, street artists, skaters—and even clowns.
3. Try a Brigadeiro. Brigadeiros are popular ball-shaped chocolates, which were taken to another level by Maria Brigadeiro, the first boutique of its kind, which opened three years ago. There are 40 flavors, from traditional milk chocolate to dulce de leche, cashew and cachaça. Open Monday–Saturday 9:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m., Rua Capote Valente, 68, Pinheiros.
4. Stroll Through Praça Benedito Calixto. Benedito Calixto Square is a hot spot on Saturdays, when you’ll find antiques, handicrafts, avid collectors and resellers of Brazilian music bargaining for records, and stands serving treats like tapioca and acarajé (peeled blackeyed peas deep-fried in dendê—palm oil). Eat while listening to chorinho, old-school samba. Located in Pinheiros.
5. Party on Vila Madalena. Vila Madalena is classic São Paulo nightlife. The neighborhood is full of restaurants, shops, and lots of bars and clubs. Among the most notable places is the Astor, with an upstairs restaurant and the downstairs Sub-Astor, where you can quaff German-style beer or, if your taste runs to martinis, the fresh fruit Melona-Tini. Rua Delfina, 163, Vila Madalena.
6. Visit the Museu da Língua Portuguesa. The Museum of the Portuguese Language is located in the Estação da Luz, a beautiful metro station worth seeing in its own right. The museum displays work by Portuguese-language writers, such as Bahia’s Jorge Amado. Across the street, visit Pinacoteca to see works by Brazilian artists Tarsila do Amaral and Lasar Segall.
7. Go Classical. Housed in a beautiful building, Sala São Paulo is home to the Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo (OSESP), where you will experience the best of Brazilian classical music. Purchase tickets up to 60 days before each show through online ticket retailer Ingresso Rápido.
8. Explore the Japanese Connection. For a sense of how Japanese immigration has influenced life in São Paulo, pay a weekend visit to Liberdade neighborhood, where Japanese-Brazilian residents host a weekly street fair. Japanese dishes vie for space alongside Asian-Brazilian fusion cuisine. Metro stop Liberdade.
9. Take in the Views. The Altino Arantes Building, a.k.a. Banespa, was completed in 1939, and its observation deck is still one of the best spots for views of the city. The elevator ride to the top is free, but don’t forget to bring a valid ID to sign in with building security. Rua João Brícola, 24.
10. Shop Till You Drop. Brazilians like to shop, and São Paulo boasts arguably the greatest shopping Mecca on the continent: Daslu. More than 60 ultra-posh designers are showcased. Rua Dauro Cavallaro, 1 in Morumbi.