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Though Rio de Janeiro gets the credit as the cultural heart of Brazil, a stop in São Paulo on a South American cruise won’t disappoint travelers looking for a buzzy, cosmopolitan, and simultaneously artsy city. São Paulo is more than Brazil’s financial district, though its bustling industries certainly deserve their soaring skyscrapers. It’s also a foodie paradise that offers nearly every kind of cuisine. The romantic, colonial-style historic district and some of the best art and cultural institutions in the world are traveler favorites.
On one of our São Paulo cruises, don’t miss museums like the Pinacoteca or the Museu de Arte de São Paulo, both of which embody the city’s art scene. Stop to peer at Edifício Copan, one of the city’s oldest and most beloved buildings. Sports lovers have to check out the Museu do Futebol, a museum completely devoted to soccer and the way the sport has shaped Brazilian culture. Stand in awe of Brazilian soccer prodigy Pelé at a dedicated exhibit, or take a guided tour to learn more about the sport than ever before. Coffee enthusiasts have to tour the Museu do Cafe, which even includes barista classes and samples of the area’s signature espresso.
Art lovers will find plenty to fill the hours during São Paulo cruises, like the Museu de Arte, which is internationally renowned for its collections of European art and Italian Renaissance works, including Van Gogh and Picasso.
The action happens along Paulista Avenue in São Paulo. The avenue comes alive at night, when bars and nightclubs thrum with activity. Parades and festivals in São Paulo often congregate around this central drag, and on the weekends, there’s no shortage of leisurely walkers, bicyclists, and street artists enjoying the area. Walk around and experience the energy of São Paulo for yourself here.
Obsessed with soccer star Pele? So are many Brazilians living in São Paulo. So obsessed, in fact, that they made an entire museum dedicated to the rich tradition of futbol in Brazil. Tour exhibits honor the last century of the sport, and you can even test out your kicks to see if you have what it takes to be a star athlete. It’s a perfect afternoon activity for families and soccer fans alike.
São Paulo runs on coffee, and a third of the world’s Arabica bean crop passes through the port city on its way to suppliers around the world. At the Museu do Cafe, you’ll sip strong espresso and take a guided tour of the history of coffee in Brazil. Look ahead and sign up for a barista class while you’re there to discover techniques of coffee production and the art of latte and espresso drink creation.
When you cruise to São Paulo, Brazil, you can’t miss the city’s vast greenspace and art park. It’s centrally located to many of the city’s most famous museums, too. Runners, rollerbladers, and cyclists roam the park. Rent bikes, walk, or set up a picnic in the park during your time here. It’s a great place to relax after museum hopping and is home to many sculptures and modern art installations.
This Gothic cathedral is a symbol of São Paulo and attracts millions of visitors per year. Stare up at the beautiful stained glass and learn about the history of the cathedral on a guided tour which details the construction and subsequent destructions of the cathedral since the 16th century. For a spooky afternoon tour, don’t miss the crypt below, where Christian luminaries and important Brazilians are buried.
Similar to Miami’s colorful Wynwood neighborhood, Beco do Batman is a street art district in São Paulo where you can tour the area’s famous open-air gallery. Snap a pic and stroll the winding alleyways before stopping for lunch in the neighborhood.
Hop over to the Municipal Theatre of São Paulo for an opera or ballet during your time in the city at this historic theater. It’s one of the biggest cultural and architectural attractions in Brazil, so don’t miss the chance to see a show during your São Paulo cruise.
Tabuleiro Do Acarajé
Address: R. Dr. Cesário Mota Júnior, 611, São Paulo, Brazil
At the family owned and operated Tabuleiro Do Acarajé, they serve up a Bahian classic called acarajé for both locals and tourists to enjoy. Acarajé are deep fried beans shaped into rounds. They’re the ultimate comfort food, bar and beach snack, and popular street eats, so don’t miss out on trying them while you’re in Brazil.
Suri Ceviche & Bar
Address: 488 Rua Mateus Grou, Pinheiros São Paulo, Brazil
There’s one big reason tourists and locals flock to Suri, and that’s for the unbelievably fresh ceviche they serve here. Order a pisco sour at the bar before trying mains like whitefish with corn and potato, grilled mullet, or filet mignon on a romantic night out in São Paulo.
Marilia Zylbersztajn Confeitaria
Address: R. Fradique Coutinho, 942, São Paulo, Brazil
Craving sweets while you’re in Brazil? At Marilia Zylbersztajn Confeitaria, pies, cakes, and pastries are expertly prepared and will sate any sweet tooth. Chocolate pies, lemon cakes, and fig tarts are best sellers. Handmade caramels by pastry chef Marilia Zylbersztajn are the perfect snack to bring back onto the cruise ship.
Address: R. Bandeira Paulista, 446, São Paulo, Brazil
Not only does this cafe offer the ideal afternoon pick-me-ups like espresso and strong coffee drinks, it also boasts some of the city’s best empanadas. Enjoy a crispy, flaky afternoon snack whether they’re filled with vegetables or classic grilled meats.
The language spoken here is primarily Portuguese, though some shopkeepers and those who work in tourism know English. You might hear the city’s nickname, “Sampa” while you’re in town. Sampa happens to be one of Brazil’s best cities, known for creative endeavors, museums and the arts, and incredible food.
São Paulo is also known as the financial heart of Brazil, where commerce and big industries are welcomed. São Paulo was settled in the 15th century by Jesuits, and the city has retained much of its colonial and Gothic architecture and influence even in modern day. Today, over 12 million people live in the area, and the city is a melting pot of immigrants and people from all over the world that call São Paulo home.
The port of Santos is one of the busiest in Latin America. It’s known for major exports like Arabica coffee, which comprises a huge portion of the world’s coffee. São Paulo has plans to expand its commercial port to accommodate even more cruise vacations. A complimentary shuttle will take you from your ship to the cruise terminal, which is well-equipped with goods and services for travelers, from cafes and shops to free wifi and a currency exchange desk.
There are a variety of ways to get around the city, from the well-oiled machines of the bus and train systems used by millions of local residents to car rentals for you to explore São Paulo on your own two wheels. Taxis are very common here, and you shouldn’t have trouble flagging one down, even during peak times. Just be sure to watch the meter, since most taxi drivers swear by their meter. Uber is also available in the city now. Bike rentals are popular for tourists because the city has dedicated bike lanes all the way from the downtown historic district to the beach.
Santos’ shopping complexes are some of the biggest in area, like Praiamar Shopping Center, which also has plenty of restaurants and cafes plus a movie theater for patrons looking to rest their feet from all the retail therapy. Comercio Street is the main drag for commercial goods in Santos. It offers boutiques and souvenir stores in a cobblestoned, historic setting.
The Brazilian real is the official currency of the country, and US dollars are sometimes accepted in São Paulo as well. You’ll also find that credit cards are commonly used in major establishments and restaurants. Tipping is similar to the United States. Leave 15-20% for your servers, bartenders, and tour guides.