The bright lights, the flash of colors going past you, the constant movement—all are aspects of Brazil’s national sport: shopping. In Sao Paulo, Paulistanos have ample training ground for this with 70 shopping malls, nearly 30 street fairs, tons of boutiques, and the most famous fashion street in Brazil. The first mall in Brazil was built in Sao Paulo, and now the city’s also home to the largest mall in Latin America. Unsurprisingly, mall culture here is strong and clothing designers often debut their collections in Sao Paulo, making the city Brazil's tastemaker.
Should you venture outside the malls, especially to the bulk and bargain buying areas in Brás district or Centro’s Rua 25 de Marco, be aware of your belongings. Though security has increased in the last few years, pickpocketing is still common, especially around Christmastime. However, don’t let this stop you from venturing down the ruas (streets) to experience another side of the fashion industry in Brazil, especially if you’re looking for well-priced electronics and fun souvenirs.
Rua Oscar Freire
This 1.5-mile-long street in the heart of the Jardins district is the Rodeo Drive of Brazilian fashion, a very see-and-be-seen locale. Both Brazilian and foreign fashion brands have their flagship stores here, including Alexandre Herchcovitch, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Benetton, and the flip flop brand Havaianas. Designers frequently debut new pieces and lines here. Stroll along the tree-lined street shopping as you please, then grab lunch in one of the gourmet markets, traditional Brazilian restaurants, or stylish coffee shops nestled between stores. Check out Alameda Lorena, the street parallel to Rua Oscar Freire, for more big-name designers and dining options.
Shopping Pátio Higienópolis
A classy mall with premium brands, Shopping Pátio Higienópolis has around 250 shops, a gym, a movie theater, a food court, and a large outdoor patio area with 140 different kinds of plants. Find well-known brands like Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Lacoste, Sephora, and Carolina Herrera, as well as an aromatherapy store and a shop with products for alleviating allergies. Clientele consists of Sao Paulo socialites, students from the nearby Mackenzie University, and the occasional celebrity (Zac Efron was once spotted here). Built to resemble Modernist mansions in the area, Shopping Pátio Higienopolis’s six floors lie beneath a large glass dome. The mall occasionally hosts art exhibits as well.
Galeria do Rock
Metalheads, punk rockers, goths, b-boys, and skaters—this mall is for you. The six floors of Galeria do Rock (Rock Gallery) house skate shops, tattoo parlors, record stores, and a stage for alternative music shows. Find rare vinyls at Baratos e Afins or browse the fake Vans sneakers at MadRats. The third and fourth floor contains shops full of popular band T-shirts from The Who to Iron Maiden, most of them for the equivalent of $10 or less. Located in Centro, the area around the mall can be sketchy. Take an Uber if you don’t want to walk from the Metro.
If you want to buy cheap, decent quality clothing, go to Brás. Merchants from all over Brazil come to stock their stores from wholesalers here, but individual shoppers can find bargains too. Go to Rua Maria Marcolina and Rua Oriente for jeans, lingerie, and athletic gear. The two wholesale malls—All Brás and Total Brás—carry bikinis, onesies, dresses, tops, pants, and much more. (The malls are also the best place to go to the ATM or use the bathroom.) Rua Monsenhor Andrade holds the Feirinha da Madrugada (early morning fair) with more than 2,500 stalls of clothing, accessories, toys, and electronics beginning at midnight and lasting until 4 p.m. from Monday to Saturday. Bring cash as not all vendors accept cards.
Rua 25 de Marco
Stretching from Sao Bento Monastery to the Municipal Market, Rua 25 de Marco buzzes with shoppers buying toys, electronics, household furnishings, jewelry, perfume, purses, and shoes. Home to tons of tiny shops, street vendors, and three shopping malls, you'll be able to find last season’s iPhone here or haggle over the price of a costume for Carnival. Quality products get mixed in with cheap ones, meaning you’ll need to closely examine each item before buying.
Head to Armarinhos Fernando, one of the most famous stores in the area, for clothing accessories, beauty products, and school supplies. For phones, tablets, and gaming equipment, try the multi-story Galeria Pagé. Get there early to beat the inevitable crowds (some of the malls and larger stores open at 7 a.m.). While most stores are open Monday to Saturday, many aren’t on Sunday.
The oldest mall in the city and one of the first malls in Brazil, Iguatemi carries Brazilian labels alongside many international brands. Go here for beachwear, luxury attire, and amazing food options for all budgets. Shop Brazilian tastemakers, like sustainability champion Osklen for sneakers, swim trunks, fitted shirts, sleek dresses, and graphic tees, or Cris Barros’ for comfy, creative dresses and comfortable yet elegant flats. For a lower budget (but still stylish) option go to Farm for what could only be described as disco beach chic—think bell-bottoms, sparkles, and billowing pieces. Round out the experience by catching a movie in the IMAX theater or grab a gelato at Davvero.
To buy books from the largest book store in Latin America,
go to the Conjunto Nacional location of Livraria Cultura. Housed in a former
movie theater, it contains 2,500 titles in both English and Portuguese. The
three floors offer bean bag chairs for patrons to sit and read, and a wooden
dragon sculpture winds through the floors, making for an inviting and imaginative
aesthetic. Find titles of prose, poetry, sociology, language learning, and more,
or head to one of the satellite locations of Livraria Cultura also in Conjunto
Nacional for books on art, comics, and cinema commentary. Feeling tired? Grab a
coffee and pastry from V.Cafe located in the center of the store.
Feira da Liberdade (Liberdade Fair)
For cheap souvenirs mixed with delectable street food, go to the Liberdade district. The Liberdade Fair offers handicrafts, art, and food of Japanese, Taiwanese, Chinese, and Korean origin. Two hundred stands display Japanese-style lamps, bonsai trees, candles, sculptures, leather goods, kitchen appliances, and trinkets for sell. While browsing, snack on street food like takokoyaki (octopus balls), yakisoba (fried noodles), tempura, and pastels (Brazilian pastries). Taking place in Sao Paulo’s Japan town every Saturday and Sunday, find it next to Liberdade Metro station from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Full of hip shops, fun fashion, and hybrid stores, Pinheros district has good boutique shopping and a famous fair. Pick up Alexandre Herchcovitch’s designs or find unique vintage pieces at À La Garçonne. For frames, look no further than Livo Eyewear for sophisticated geek glasses or elegant sun shades. Pick up vegan shoes at Insecta or, at the other end of the spectrum, Cutterman sells gorgeous handstitched leather wallets, stylish backpacks, overalls, minimalist canvas shirts, and sketchbooks. Catch the handicraft and antique fair at Benedito Calixto Square on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. to pick up clothes, toys, furniture, silverware, and vinyl sold throughout the 300 stalls.