Saturday and Sunday on the Praça Dom Orione in the Italian Bixiga neighborhood is a small antiques/flea market. On Sunday on the Praça da Liberdade (next to the Liberdade Metrô stop) São Paulo's Japanese residents celebrate their heritage with an outdoor market featuring excellent and inexpensive Japanese cuisine, plus Japanese crafts and knickknacks.
Parks & Gardens
Adjacent to the Pinacoteca, the Parque da Luz is well worth a look. Inaugurated in 1825 as the city's botanical garden, the garden was then outside of the city limits, and locals at the time wondered whether it was wise to set aside such a large piece of land. Nowadays the park's lovely old trees contrast with the modern sculptures from the archives of the Pinacoteca that dot the park's walkways. Note that the large numbers of solitary ladies admiring the statuary are actually working girls; they're so discreetly dressed and nonaggressive they're easy to overlook. The park is heavily policed and safe during the day. It's open Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 6pm.
Opposite the MASP is the green refuge of the Parque Tenente Siqueira Campos, often known by its old name of Trianon Park. The park is thickly planted with Atlantic rainforest vegetation, laced with walking trails, and dotted here and there with children's play areas. It's a wonderful green refuge from the bustle on Avenida Paulista and is open daily 6am to 6pm.
Just for Kids: Take a Break at Siqueira Campos -- Just opposite the MASP on Avenida Paulista, the lush Siqueira Campos Park has several small play areas featuring swings, teeter-totters, and slides. It's a fun and quiet refuge from the bustle of the city.
The Praça da Sé, in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral, has recently been lovingly restored. Two files of imperial palms enclose a flagstone-covered courtyard with a sundial at the center. People stroll through this area, slowing or stopping to give an ear to the ever-present street preachers. Keep an eye for pickpockets.
Between the Praça da República and the Praça da Sé lies the city's newest and most interesting square, the Parque Anhangabaú. Running an eight-lane freeway over the top of the Anhangabaú River that once flowed through Centro was probably not one of São Paulo's better planning moves, but the city recently made amends by covering a 1km (1/2-mile) stretch of the freeway with this beautifully landscaped urban plaza. In the daytime it's occupied by pedestrians, sun-tanners, lunch-break idlers, and clusters of folks listening to street musicians.
In Centro, Praça da República is suffering from a renovation that has turned the top third of the park into a construction site. The remainder appears to have been occupied by camps of squatting homeless. The whole scene is best avoided.
Some Spectacular Views -- The pedestrian-only Santa Ifigênia Viaduct runs from one side of Centro to the other, high above the Parque do Anhangabaú. At the midpoint you get a wonderful view of São Paulo's old downtown.
The best view of São Paulo is from atop the Banespa Tower, Rua João Brícola 24 (tel. 011/3249-7428). Ascending to its 35th-floor observation deck, you get an incredible view -- high-rise towers, 360 degrees of them, filling every inch of land for as far as the eye can see. It's open Monday through Friday from 10am to 5pm, and better yet, it's free. Bring ID to show the door guards.
Built in 1965, the 42-story Edifíçio Itália, at Av. Ipiranga 344 near Praça da República, features a 41st-floor restaurant and piano bar, the Terraço Itália (tel. 011/2189-2929; www.terracoitalia.com.br), which offers a great vantage point from which to view the city. (The food's not great -- stick to drinks or tea.) Cover is R$10, and there's a R$15 drink minimum. It's open Monday through Saturday from 3pm to midnight, Sunday from noon to 11pm.