Your guide to the best things to see and do in São Paulo and around the country when visiting for the 2021 Brazilian Grand Prix on November 5-7.
There is so much to see and do in São Paulo, so we urge you to book some time out to discover this spectacular city either before or after the Grand Prix weekend. While its prettier sister Rio de Janeiro has sea, sun and sand, São Paulo is hugely cultural and fabulously foodie, with a thriving club scene. Comparable to New York as Rio is to LA, this sprawling city is architecturally fascinating: edgy and very design-focused with stunning graffiti art everywhere. Here are some must-see trips for your stay in São Paulo. If you’re going to travel this far, why not make a proper holiday of it? Internal flights to other must-sees in Brazil are cheap and plentiful, so we’ve also provided you with a little inspiration.
Best Places to Visit in São Paulo
- Visit Ayrton Senna’s grave: surely a must for any F1 fan – Senna’s grave is located under a tree just 100 meters from the entrance to the Morumbi cemetery in the south of the city. Typically, you’ll find his grave festooned with Brazilian flags and garlands of flowers. Go and pay your respects to one of Brazil’s best-loved heroes, and a motor racing legend.
- Mercadao – Sao Paulo Municipal Market: this undercover market stocks everything from spices to fruit, vegetables, nuts, sweets, seafood, flowers – you name it. The ‘mortadella’ sandwich is a local delicacy: layers of Italian meat with cheese, pickles, mustard and pretty much anything else you fancy. The Hocca Bar is a good place to head for as it overlooks the market. The Mercado is a great place to try other Brazilian delicacies, too: coixinhas (deep fried chicken and cheese balls), pastelle (pastries filled with meats and cheeses, also deep fried), feijoada (stewed meat, rice and black beans), Moqueca de Camarão (shrimp in coconut milk) and of course the national cocktail of Brazil: the Caipirinha. Enjoy! Check the location here.
- Rua 25 de Março, Centro: a fun place to shop for souvenirs, bargains and general tat. Its architecture is an attractive mix of nineteenth century European style with a Latin American influence, with plenty of gothic-style graffiti everywhere. A fun place to experience São Paulo’s street life by day, though this area can be a little dodgy by night. Location map here.
- Ibirapuera Park: a lush expanse of green in the middle of miles of concrete jungle, Parque Ibirapuera is a South American version of Central Park. Deeply cultural with performance spaces, monuments and museums – including a Museum of Modern Art and the Afro-Brazil Museum – this is a day out in itself. Rent a bike when you get there to make the most of it all. Parque Trianon is another little gem in the heart of the city if urban rainforests are your thing.
- São Paulo Cathedral: the largest cathedral in South America, São Paulo Cathedral can accommodate a whopping 8,000 visitors at once. Surprisingly, it was only completed in 1954 but takes inspiration from gothic and renaissance styles of architecture.
Things to do in São Paulo
- Samba: you can’t leave Brazil without having danced a little samba. Head to Vila Madalena – a trendy neighbourhood in the Pinheiros area of the city – and celebrate the end of the Grand Prix with a night of bar-hopping and caipirinha-drinking, before getting down to some sexy samba beats in the small hours.
- Churrascaria: we told you Sampa is foodie, so we can’t help making more than one food-related recommendation for your stay. An evening meal at a churrascaria is the Brazilian food experience: an indoor BBQ where waiters will come to your table offering juicy cuts of meat skewered on massive swords. You’ll be given a two-sided coin to place next to your plate: the red side means STOP… and you can guess what the green side means. Arrive hungry.
Best of Brazil
- Rio de Janeiro: recover from the adrenaline rush of the F1 weekend with a few days exploring Rio. There’s plenty to do, whether you fancy climbing Corcovado to meet Christ the Redeemer or hanging out on Copacabana beach. Bring your running shoes if you’re a fitness type, and join the Cariocas jogging along that iconic black and white tiled beachside promenade. Need to detox? Head for one of Rio’s hundreds of smoothie bars and order an Açaí. Pronounced a-sigh-ee, the native Açaí berry is a powerful antioxidant.
- Ihla Grande: with abundant white sand beaches, tropical rainforests and waterfalls, this island is possibly the closest you can get to paradise. Ihla Grande is a ferry journey from Angra dos Reis, which is a 2.5-hour journey from Rio – so tack a few days onto your Rio city break.
- Salvador: take in the Afro-Brazilian culture in the capital city of the state of Bahia. Here you’ll be enchanted by the colonial architecture, Mediterranean-style café culture, awesome seafood and an unrivalled passion for football. Salvador is laid back even by Brazilian standards, so here you’ll see a stark contrast to the commercial hubbub of São Paulo. Pelourinho is Salvador’s stunning cultural quarter – make sure you check it out.
- Paraty: Located midway between Rio and São Paulo, Paraty is a fabulous tourist destination with something for everybody: picturesque cobbled streets and whitewashed buildings, dense rainforest on its doorstep, and all the music, food, art and culture – not to mention nightlife – than you could possibly want for. A bus or train from São Paulo takes about half a day.
- Want to learn more? Check out Brazil travel guide: A local guide to the country on I Heart Brazil.