São Paulo also welcomes those who would rather not spend a lot.
Free shows and bargain shopping can make tourists very happy.
Anyone who thinks they need to spend a lot of money to have fun in São Paulo is mistaken. Cultural centers, workshops and theaters throughout the city often present exhibitions, plays and shows for free or for very reasonable prices. There’s no lack of bakeries and snack bars selling good and cheap food. And that’s before you get to Rua 25 de Março, famous for its great finds at modest prices (beware of pickpockets). Furthermore, it’s not necessary to take taxis or rent a car: the metro gets you to many attractions in Centro (downtown) and along Avenida Paulista. Remember to pick up your Bilhete Único as well, so you can get around the city easily by bus.
Start off your tour at the Páteo do Colégio (Pça. Pátio do Colégio, 2, tel. 3105-6899), the place where the Jesuits founded São Paulo, on January 25th, 1554.
Today, it houses the charming Café do Pateo. With a European-style garden, colonial tables and chairs and a rammed earth wall (remniscient of the original building), the café serves homemade cakes and snacks at good prices. Afterwards, head to the Catedral da Sé (Pça. da Sé, unnumbered, tel. 3107-6832) and check out the Italian organ with over ten thousand pipes inside. A few meters away, there’s the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (R. Álvares Penteado, 112,tel. 3113-3651), which usually has great free exhibitions.
Besides this region is crownded, it’s not a safe place to show valuable itens like cameras and smartphones. Many people could call your attention to ask for money, so put the higher amount of your money hidden and carry some sparechange in your pocket.
Beyond that, the interior of the building is a good photo opportunity. Another building connected to the city’s financial past is the Edifício Altino Arantes (R. João Brícola, 24, tel. 3249-7466). Better known as the Banespa building, it was the home to the defunct bank and is one of the city’s postcard images. On weekdays, there’s no charge to climb to the top of the tower and admire a really beautiful view of São Paulo. Before leaving Centro, head through Rua 25 de março, a street full of bargain stores. It’s the ideal place to pick up some souvenirs for family and friends without feeling a financial pinch.
Beware of the pickpockets
When you feel hungry, take the metro from Estação São Bento to Estação Paraíso. Just a few blocks from there you’ll find the Middle Eastern restaurant Tenda do Nilo (R. Cel. Oscar Porto, 638, tel. 3885-0460).
The vegetable esfiha made by sisters Olinda and Xmune Sper is among the best in the city. Using your Bilhete Único, you can grab a bus and in just a few minutes arrive at the Museu Lasar Segall (R. Berta, 111, tel. 5574-7322), where at one point the Lithuanian (and Brazilian naturalized) painter lived. It contains 3,000 works by the artist, who was one of those responsible for bringing modern art to Brazil. On the way out, admire some of the modernist houses landmarked by the government. If you want to get a quick snack, it’s just a ten minute walk to Rancho da Empada (R. Sena Madureira, 557, tel. 5579-5330) and choose among two dozen versions of the namesake savory pastries.
After the sun goes down, it becomes even easier to take advantage of the city’s cheapest cultural offerings. Both the Centro Cultural São Paulo (R. Vergueiro, 1000, tel. 3397-4002) and the Teatro do Sesi (Av. Paulista, 1313, tels. 3146-7405 e 3146-7406) have a varied lineup, with theater and concerts priced for the masses. Another recommendation is to check out what is going on at the various Sesc units, which also put on shows and exhibitions that are free or reasonably priced. The most visited are the ones at Paulista (Av. Paulista, 119, tel. 3179-3700), Vila Mariana (R. Pelotas, 141, tel. 5080-3000) and Pompéia (R. Clélia, 93, tel. 3871-7700). To close out the night, choose among the varied, always reasonably-priced Italian cantinas in the city. At the Innominato Osteria (R. Joinville, 56, tel. 5571-9839), the dishes always serve two. They have creative pasta dishes like mezzaluna di bufala with paprika and mushroom sauce.