Central & South America

24 hours in Sao Paulo, Brazil

São Paulo, one of the largest cities in the world
São Paulo, one of the largest cities in the world

Going to São Paulo has never been on my bucket list, per se, but I have always been curious about this massive city, home to at least 17 million people. Knowing many people who have recently moved over there, taking advantage of a growing economic market, I kept hearing more and more positive things about Brazil’s financial and business capital.. so on a recent trip to Rio de Janeiro, I decided to take a little detour and spend 24 hours in São Paulo. And delighted to have done so.

We flew overnight from London and landed at Guarulhos airport quite early in the morning. First hurdle – how to get into the city. Risk a cab? Well no, pre-pay and pre-book one at the central airport booth. May be slightly more expensive, but you know where you are going. Safety is an issue and as you know, I am not one to take unnecessary risks.

We were told, by knowledgeable friends and business colleagues that, basically, there were “3 places to stay” – the Fasano, the Unique and the Emiliano. It was a very difficult choice, but we settled for the middle option – the Unique, and indeed it was!

Hotel Unique, São Paulo (Photo by Hotel Unique)

After a much-needed power shower and a strong Brazilian coffee, we were ready to enjoy what this giant city had to offer us. Time was ticking, and I knew what I needed to do… shopping and eating!

I had prepared for this trip – big time! Brazil, for me, equals bikinis which, in turn, equals Cia. Maritima. Brazilians know their swimwear (and worry not, they have what they call the “European cut”) and I found out that there was an outlet not “too far” from the hotel. The receptionist laughed when we asked her if it was as good as it sounded and confirmed my suspicions. I wasn’t disappointed – a $20 cab-ride later and 6 bikinis and 2 swimsuits, from the current European collection (Brazil is a season ahead of Europe) for the price of 2, seriously 2, swimming costumes, I was ready for Rio.. or was I? For the hard-core shoppers, the address can be found here.

By this time, I was quite hungry, but not sure what my stomach could take. I think overnight flights are quite strange in that sense and remembered a suggestion.. Hotel Fasano. I had booked a table there anyway, and knew it was “the place to be” for lunch, but wasn’t sure if I was in the mood or not.. I am glad we went.

Hotel Fasano, São Paulo - no one does understated luxury like Brazilians

Brazilians have amazing food, but are also very very good at looking after their fab bodies, so a light buffet lunch was just what we needed. It wasn’t a buffet in Vegas terms.. it was a selection of wonderfully presented salads, cheeses, fruit (oh my God) and desserts. That and a diet coke and I was immediately awake and ready for an afternoon at nearby Oscar Freire street.

Havaianas flagship at Oscar Freire, São Paulo

Havaianas flagship at Oscar Freire, São Paulo

There is something about Brazil.. and amazing shoes. I “had” to stop at the flagship Havaianas store, would be rude not to… but I wasn’t ready for Schutz. We are talking serious shoe-lust, love, whatever you want to call it!

Schutz at Oscar Freire - truly love at first sight

It hasn’t happened *that* many times, being surrounded and wanting to actually buy 10 pairs of beautiful shoes. I was so excited, I can’t tell you. I looked at the price tags and was in heaven. $50? Seriously? All of a sudden Mr. O looked worried but then started laughing. I didn’t understand, and honestly didn’t care – I work, I earn, I can buy my own shoes.. then he asked.. have you seen the price tags? yes.. they are great aren’t they? Well, yes.. but that is 1 payment of 6 or 10. What? Word of warning, don’t be fooled. It is “normal” for people in Brazil to spread payments over x months on their credit cards (interest free and all).. and the prices advertised reflected that.

I didn’t know where to look – the sales lady was very excited and I had to disappoint her. So I bought a pair.. and went back for another later on. (Want to laugh? One of the pairs of shoes is too small for me. Only realised that last week). Oh well.

We carried on down the street and loved most things we saw. But we were tired, and was time to head back to the hotel, have a swim, a little lie down, a cocktail and dinner.

Could you say no to this? I couldn’t and glad I didn’t!
The stunning rooftop pool at Hotel Unique, São Paulo

Of course we then had to say yes to the wonderful caipirinhas and stayed for dinner, and drinks and a bit of fun. I will never forget the view of the São Paulo skyline, from Skye, the name of the restaurant and bar.

The unforgettable view of the Sao Paulo skyline from the SKYE Bar

If this was part of the best of what São Paulo has to offer, I shall be back next time I venture over this amazing country. Next day, we were off to Rio for a week. Not bad at all, it is all I can say.


Mrs. O

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View Comments (66)


  1. Ryan Biddulph

    June 15, 2014 at 3:57 am

    Nice pictures Ana! Must be quite exciting there now with all the World Cup goings on.

  2. Yeity

    April 6, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Whoa, what’s up with that price scheme. Dodgy as.

  3. Learn English

    March 21, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    Great post about a city I love — thanks very much! I’ll definitely be following some of your recommendations : )

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      March 22, 2013 at 10:50 am

      Thank you! Sao Paulo was a nice surprise indeed!

  4. Ad-lib Traveller

    February 6, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    Great post Ana, you certainly sold Sao Paulo to me. Heading to Rio in a few days and this is the next stop on our list. I wasn’t keen but friends were so we’re just there for 2 days – I can’t wait now! You summary is brilliant, can’t wait to experience it all.

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      February 7, 2013 at 8:28 am

      So pleased! Sao Paulo is a hidden gem – lots to do and see!

  5. Pingback: Best Travel Blogs 2013 « 101 Holidays blog

  6. lola

    November 5, 2012 at 11:12 am

    i like the sound of that bikini place! i really want to go to Rio at some point. BUT first i need to go on a diet! HA
    lola recently posted..go Greek next summerMy Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      November 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm

      The bikini place is fab!

  7. Jaillan

    October 10, 2012 at 1:20 am

    This post so reminds me of my time in Sao Paolo which sounds very similar to your trip! We were also told that the two best choices of hotel were Unique and Fasano, but the Unique is more my style, with its urban contemporary cool and flashes of colour versus the Fasano’s slightly more old world dark woods and refined, understated elegance, so I too was glad I chose it. We also went to the Fasano, to the bar for after dinner drinks and live music so we got the best of both worlds! The shopping as you say is a revelation and I still have shoes and dresses that I continue to wear 5 years later, and which were unbelievable value – mine were all from stores with a single published price, but I have seen the installments pricing in other places, including Portugal and been bemused by it. Your photo of the Fasano really looks like Figueira Rubaiyat, the restaurant in the Jardins area where you dine indoors under a 300 year old fig tree, which I can imagine would be right up your street as well. I think it’s great you’re encouraging people to visit this underrated city, I can’t wait to return!
    Jaillan recently posted..Ten Essential Arabic Phrases To Transform Your TripMy Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      October 10, 2012 at 10:17 am

      Hi Jaillan, thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. No one usually hears great things about Sao Paulo and I was so surprised, I thought it was right to. Of course I did a little bit of research and glad I took the time to. I think next time I head to Rio, I will also stop by. Very chic, i thought 😉

  8. Mrs D

    August 11, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    OMG! shoes! Looks amazing! Did you find any Melissas at all? They’re a lot cheaper in Brazil and I have friends who bought loads of Vivienne Westwood models ridiculously cheap!

    • mrsoaroundtheworld

      August 12, 2012 at 10:45 am

      I did actually, the shop was really cool!

  9. Juan

    July 29, 2012 at 5:12 am

    Great to hear you enjoyed this city I’ve been happy to call home for the past 15 months! Unfortunately your stay is not that out of the ordinary, as most people only stay for a day or two before darting off to the coast for postcard Brazil. Most people, though, find that SP is well worth an extended stay once they’ve fully experienced it. Give it another shot, I’m sure you will too 🙂
    Juan recently posted..9 REASONS YOU SHOULD LOVE SÃO PAULOMy Profile

    • mrsoaroundtheworld

      July 29, 2012 at 10:38 am

      Thank you Juan. I am really sure I would and promise I will stay longer next time!

  10. Suzy

    July 14, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    How funny about the shoe prices! I guess it’s good you didn’t go crazy without Mr. O to tell you other otherwise. It sounds like a great trip.
    Suzy recently posted..Wine Tasting Back in Time in MallorcaMy Profile

    • mrsoaroundtheworld

      July 22, 2012 at 7:46 pm

      Suzy, it could have gone SO wrong.. seriously! I still don’t know eactly how much they cost.. and not looking at credit card statement!

  11. Arianwen

    July 1, 2012 at 11:10 am

    I’ll be heading to Brazil next January as the end of a big trip to S America. I hadn’t factored Sao Paulo in, but perhaps I’ll stop by for some bikini shopping before I head home!
    Arianwen recently posted..Essential toiletries for long-term travelMy Profile

  12. Francesca

    July 1, 2012 at 3:41 am

    All the fashion talk is lost on me 🙂 But still, seems you got a fantastic deal on the swimsuits. I do know luxury and beauty when I see it, and I definitely see it in your photos! Those hotels look amazing.
    Francesca recently posted..Michigan’s Lakeshore Harvest CountryMy Profile

    • mrsoaroundtheworld

      July 1, 2012 at 9:51 am

      Thank you, Francesca 🙂 The hotels were fab – and there is something about Brazil, lux and understatament, a perfect combination

  13. Pola (@jettingaround)

    June 30, 2012 at 7:00 am

    Years and years ago, I had a pen pal from Sao Paolo… Your post serves as a reminder that I should put the city higher on my bucket list. Oh, and did you say shoes?… 😉
    Pola (@jettingaround) recently posted..Mexican Connection – Interview with writer Robin BayleyMy Profile

    • mrsoaroundtheworld

      June 30, 2012 at 10:28 am

      True true – and re: shoes, it goes for anywhere in Brazil 🙂

      • Pola (@jettingaround)

        August 6, 2012 at 3:37 am

        My favorite shoes boutique in Chicago carries Corso Como, I guess their from Brazil. I didn’t know 3-inch heels could be this comfy… 😀
        Pola (@jettingaround) recently posted..Photo(s) of the Week: Mountains in Boulder, ColoradoMy Profile

        • mrsoaroundtheworld

          August 6, 2012 at 7:36 am

          Brazilians know a thing or 20 about shoes indeed. I hope, one day, they develop a corresponding international reputation as Italian shoes for example.

  14. Fergus

    June 30, 2012 at 1:36 am

    This looks awfully nice, but I think we need to remember that a huge proportion of Sao Pualo’s population live in favelas and slums. I’m pretty sure it’s got the largest slum population in South America. While travellers and the affluent Brazilians can enjoy these things you’ve visited, many residents live in inhumane conditions.

    • mrsoaroundtheworld

      June 30, 2012 at 10:27 am

      You are absolutely right and actually was very conscious of that. One thing I never did, or wanted to do, was go and see the favelas as I had an experience in South Africa which made me feel like a voyeur. Not good and unfair. Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Really appreciate it.

    • rodrigopintosp

      June 30, 2012 at 10:30 pm

      Fergus, I don’t quite understand your point of view. All big cities in the world have problems and it’s up for its citizens to work towards solving them. Or should a visitor to Paris feel ashamed of enjoying the Eiffel Tower and a nice French champagne because there are immigrants in the Banlieue living in poor conditions, too?
      It’s fairly possible that SP has the largest slum population in South America simply because cities in SA do have slums and SP is the largest city in the region. Relatively to its population, it has fewer people in such condition as Rio, for example.
      Brazil has many social problems and perhaps the greatest of all is the gap of income between the higher and lower social classes. It’s a country that had slavery a mere 124 years ago. And nevertheless, it’s improving, slower than we wanted, but improving: life expectancy grew 25 years in average in just 50 years and in the last 10 years 40 million people moved from poverty to middle class.
      I totally get Mrs. O’s point of being uncomfortable with “favela tours”, but I believe that partnering with local social organizations can bring real benefits for the community and the visitor alike. NGOs such as Casa do Zezinho, are a great example of the path we need to take towards bridging this social gap. I include a link to a story about this organization that is really worth the read if anyone’s interested:

  15. Paula Cristina Neto

    June 29, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    sorry, not Melissas, I mean Schutz (Brazilian shoes make me very excited)
    Paula Cristina Neto recently posted..#FriFotos Street VendorsMy Profile

    • mrsoaroundtheworld

      June 29, 2012 at 11:16 pm

      i know what you mean. I actually went to the melissa flagship and it was amazing, but I dont like the shoes!

  16. Paula Cristina Neto

    June 29, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    you manage to put together 2 of my fav items : bikinis and melissas… what a great and very well enjoyed 24 hours!

  17. Rosa

    June 29, 2012 at 7:55 am

    Love this article! Can you please give me more info on the Regina hotel? thank you

    • mrsoaroundtheworld

      June 29, 2012 at 8:45 am

      Hi Rose, it is the only place I didn’t visit, so actually can’t say a word about it. So sorry 🙂

      • rodrigopintosp

        June 29, 2012 at 3:56 pm

        Rosa, I am unfamiliar with a hotel named Regina in Sao Paulo, but the top 3 hotels in the city are Unique, Fasano (mentioned my Mrs. O) and Emiliano – with its wonderfully decorated rooms, top floor spa with a view to the city and helipad for VIP guests: http://www.emiliano.com.br

        Other great 5 star properties in the city include Tivoli Mofarrej and L’Hotel, all in the central Jardins/Paulista district.

        • mrsoaroundtheworld

          June 29, 2012 at 4:14 pm

          That is the name! I am doing some research for rome and everything is regina emiliana and got totally confused! Absolutely right, Rodrigo! But again, I didn’t visit the property!

  18. the lazy travelers

    June 28, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    we have yet to explore south america and i feel like that’s been the theme of the posts we’ve been reading this week! sao paolo sounds amazing.
    the lazy travelers recently posted..thirty days to paradiseMy Profile

  19. Kieu ~ GQ trippin

    June 28, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    I am obsessed with havaianas! Last time I was in Rio, I bought 4 pairs of flip flops. lol. Too bad we didn’t have extra time to visit Sao Paolo – looks like a great place.
    Kieu ~ GQ trippin recently posted..6 Months of Travel and Fall 2012 PlansMy Profile

    • mrsoaroundtheworld

      June 28, 2012 at 3:16 pm

      Hi Kieu, it is a great place indeed! And Rio.. well, no comment! That is heaven!

  20. Leah Travels

    June 28, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    What a totally different vibe from Rio. I’ve been told that people from São Paulo kind of turn up their noses to people living in Rio because it’s seen as a “beach” place and not a proper city. It this is São Paulo, then consider me a fan. And the shoe porn? {Sigh…}
    Leah Travels recently posted..Melodies and Travel MemoriesMy Profile

    • mrsoaroundtheworld

      June 28, 2012 at 3:17 pm

      Completely different, you are right, but a nice pleasant surprise. But there is something about the beach…

  21. D.J. - The World of Deej

    June 28, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    OK so I could care less about the shoes, but are you familiar with my love of hotel rooftop pools. I’m drooling right now…
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..Copperhead at Innisbrook Golf ResortMy Profile

    • mrsoaroundtheworld

      June 28, 2012 at 2:02 pm

      I can imagine – this pool was pretty cool 🙂 the shoes were for the ladies 😉

  22. The World Wanderer

    June 28, 2012 at 4:44 am

    Wow! Brazil has always been on my list, but now I’m thinking I need to get there sooner rather than later. Bikinis, shoes, how can you go wrong! And, the views and pictures of both hotels are absolutely breath-taking. I think I’m in love!

    • mrsoaroundtheworld

      June 28, 2012 at 2:03 pm

      I was to.. Rio was quite something, so Sao Paulo was an appetizer. The food, btw, is incredible!

  23. Raul

    June 28, 2012 at 12:01 am

    (Re-reading what I wrote, I think I need to write about my times there!)

    • mrsoaroundtheworld

      June 28, 2012 at 7:06 am

      Please do! This was just a glimpse and you are right about food. Apparently, has the largest Japanese community outside Japan and heavily influences food.. and of, course, the churrasco!

      • rodrigopintosp

        June 28, 2012 at 10:49 pm

        Not only the largest Japanese community outside of Japan, but also the largest Italian community outside of Italy, too (almost twice as much as in NYC). If you love sushi, I highly recommend Sushi Yassu at the Liberdade Japanese quarter and the hidden gem Hamatyo in Pinheiros.

    • mrsoaroundtheworld

      June 28, 2012 at 2:04 pm

      And I would love to read about them!

  24. Raul

    June 28, 2012 at 12:00 am

    I went to Sao Paulo a few times for business over a dozen yrs ago. My stays were abt 2 weeks long each so I got to discover SP. At first what seemed like a high rise jungle, revealed all the awesome things that make this city tick! The hotels you mention did not exist or I didnt hear about them but they sound great! But the biggest discovery for me was how delicious food was in SP. Yes, Brazilian cuisine from various regions but also Italian, French, etc. I ate with delight!

  25. rodrigopintosp

    June 27, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    Hello Mrs. O! It was nice reading your post, its always fun to see positive experiences of travelers who visit our beloved city! It may have loads of problems, but it also has a lot of upsides that make this a thrilling metropolis: the cultural melting pot of people, tons of culture, amazing nightlife and food, etc. It may not be in everyone’s destination list, but most of the people who have the opportunity to see it a little bit more (usually a small gap in a tight schedule of business appointments) love it!

    • mrsoaroundtheworld

      June 28, 2012 at 7:08 am

      Hi Rodrigo, you are absolutely right. I can only do what I can – and promise to go back!

    • mrsoaroundtheworld

      June 28, 2012 at 2:04 pm

      Thank you 🙂

  26. rodrigopintosp

    June 27, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    Hello Mrs. O! I really enjoyed reading your post, it’s always fun to read impressions of travelers who enjoyed their visit to our city. As you commented, few people have Sao Paulo on their destinations list, but most of them who have a little time to enjoy its attractions (usually when they have a gap in a very tight schedule of business appointments) do have loads of fun!

  27. Raf Kiss

    June 27, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    Caramba, you went to all the right places… easy to last 24 hrs 🙂 All my visits to Sampa were hugely dominated by sitting in traffic jams… BTW, apparently somebody requested to disable the embedding of the “eye candy” movie 🙂

  28. Fiona

    June 27, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    Not a city I would have considered visiting before but you’ve really sold it Ana! And those shoes -wow!

    • mrsoaroundtheworld

      June 27, 2012 at 6:31 pm

      Thank you. I will go back – enroute of course. Apparently huge cultural scene and food is to die for. This was just a little taster, apparently 😉

  29. Emily in Chile

    June 27, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    I was really surprised by how much I liked Sao Paulo when I visited in Oct 2010. Sounds like you felt the same!

    • mrsoaroundtheworld

      June 27, 2012 at 6:04 pm

      I know. Very aware I saw a fraction.. will definitely go back for more!

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