What to do in São Paulo: 5 markets worth a look

24 May 2013

While in São Paulo for a few weeks, we struggled to find exciting things to do. São Paulo is a business city. As opposed to Rio, people are there to work, not play. Monuments and sights are few and far between. Markets are always a safe bet for some local flavour and animation. Here are our top 5 recommendations if you are travelling to the city.
We stayed in São Paulo, Brazil for over 3 weeks (for business reasons). It is a huge city with some 19M inhabitants in its metropole which spans almost 8000 square km. It is also
  • the world's 7th largest city;
  • the largest city in the southern hemisphere;
  • and the 10th most expensive city in the world.
São Paulo is not Paris or London. There aren't monuments or attractions at every street corner. Car ownership is the largest in Brazil (at one car for every two persons). A lot of people, cars and noise. It doesn't make for the most child-friendly place. Pavements are rough (as in many other Brazilian cities) and letting a 2-and-a-half-year-old walk in the city district full of business men walking somewhere fast is never a good idea.
We found our refuge in local markets. Markets are always a sure way to see some animation and experience a bit of the city like the locals. There is always something to see, touch or taste for little ones and the grown-ups too.

Mercado Municipal Paulistano 


Also called Mercadão (big market) by the locals, it is the main covered food market in São Paulo attracting tourists and locals alike. Opened everyday, it is housed a huge building built in 1933. You can find fruits, vegetables, meats and fish as well as Mediterranean products (e.g. Portuguese salted cod or chorizo). The large mezzanine with Spanish, Portuguese, Brazilian, Italian and Japanese restaurants was one of our favourite place to have lunch. You can grab delicious pasteis, feijoada or the world-famous mortadella sandwich (half a pound of mortadella, anyone?) and watch the busy market. For us, Europeans the market was a fantastic opportunity to see and taste fruits we didn't even know existed (and even less be able to name them).

The area around the market is the Arab area of the city and close to the historical centre of the town. Don't be scared by the millions of people on the street. The small street vendors and numerous wholesale-style shops attract people from all around Brazil. We walked around all the way to the city cathedral for a true experience of the city (outside of the business and wealthy districts).

Feira de Artes, Cultura e Lazer da Praça Benedito Calixto


Praça Benedito Calixto

Much less known to the tourists, every Saturday, the square welcomes stalls with books, records, antiquities. It is a really friendly and small market, felling miles away from the large Mercadão. A couple of buildings surrounding the square have stalls from crafters selling clothes and other handmade items. There is a lovely church around the square too. The area feels a lot more middle-class and artistic (a lot of musicians and music shops in particular). 

feijoada time

Our favourite restaurant was also on that square: Consulado Mineiro. Just make sure you arrive early for a table on the pavement to watch the market. the restaurant serves specialities from Minas Gerais (a region of Brazil): hearty country-style food in generous portions: feijão tropeiro, tutu, picanha and feijoada.

On the Avenida Paulista, the Champs-Elysées or 5th Avenue of São Paulo, there are three little markets worth a look on a Sunday.

Feira de antiguidades do MASP


MASP is the funny building housing the museum of art of the city. Below it, every Sunday is the largest antiquities market of the city. To be fair, this wasn't one of our favourite. Some nice things but feeling too regulated and too organised. If you are into antiquities, it is worth a look though.

Feira de artesanato (Avenida Paulista)

Across the street from the MASP and in front of the gates of the interesting Trianon park, there is a small market selling arts and crafts. A lot of tourist-aimed items but also some genuine handmade carpets, jewellery, etc.

Shopping Center 3

I am not sending you to a shopping center. But I couldn't find a name for that small market. It is housed inside the closed shopping center on Sunday. Vendors sell mostly clothing. There are some lovely handmade and local designers selling their own pieces. Cute kids' clothes and summer dresses to look like a local when you hit the beach later.

Finally, this is not a market, but if you are after some real Brazilian arts and crafts, it is worth going to Ponto Solidario (Rua Jose Maria Lisboa, Jardim Paulista). Don't be scared by the house-looking exterior or the guard at the gate (you get used to it in Brazil). The space houses a large collection of arts and crafts mostly made by indians and local artists around Brazil. Fairly-traded items, from wooden objects to ceramics, necklaces made out of seeds, fabrics, etc are there to be bought safely while knowing your money goes to the real people. At the back, there is a fascinating tiny little museum about an indian tribe (I can't remember the name of) of the Amazon.

We have more useful addresses for São Paulo on Everplaces


  1. Please do your research properly. São Paulo is not even in the top 20 most expensive cities in the world. See 'Forbes List' & 'Telegraph UK: most expensive cities in the world'

    1. It may not be anymore but it was when we went and when this was written: http://business.time.com/2011/07/14/top-10-most-expensive-cities/

  2. sheesh Daniel, hat a troll you are, no thanks, nothing - just a bitch - and u are the one who should have been doing the research.

    what a loser, you must not have many friends..and thanks annabelle.


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