São Paulo’s shopping possibilities are as varied as the city’s restaurants. In the wealthy southwestern Jardins suburb, shops are far more impressive than those in just about any other South American city, and the quality way above par. For visitors, there are no obvious souvenirs of São Paulo, as such, but the city is a good place to find the things Brazil generally does well – from cachaça and samba records to bikinis and flip-flops. Even if you’re not intent on a spree, the shopping centres and stores are worth a tour to experience the opulent surroundings, while at the other end of the spectrum the fine selection of markets provides exposure to both local colour and good food.
The main shopping streets in the centre of the city are near Praça da República, especially the roads running off Avenida Ipiranga: Rua Barão de Itapetinga, Rua 24 de Maio, and Rua do Arouche. South of the Mercado Municipal, Rua 25 de Março is another busy street, lined with hawkers selling everything from pirated CDs to Carnaval costumes. Most of the stores downtown are of the cheap’n’cheerful variety – they sell clothes, but you’ll rarely find the latest fashions.
South of Avenida Paulista is where the money is – and where all the best stores are. You’ll find lots of boutiques selling clothes and accessories from Brazilian, European and US designers, especially in the streets running parallel to and crossing Rua Augusta (most notably Rua Oscar Freire, Alameda Lorena, Rua Haddock Lobo, Rua Bela Cintra and Rua Dr Melo Alves). Although expensive, prices often compare well to Europe and the US. São Paulo’s shopping malls are hugely popular amongst the city’s middle-class as places to escape to and feel utterly insulated from their less-fortunate fellow citizens. Each centre tries to outdo the other, with mirrored walls and ostentatious fountains – you won’t feel closer to North America than this during your stay in Brazil. Shopping centres are usually open Monday to Saturday 10am to 10pm, and Sunday after lunch to around 7pm.