When I hear a Latin beat, my whole body begins to sway to the music and I dream of returning to Latin America’s greatest cities. Mexico City and Sao Paulo, Brazil are wonderful cities for a trip that gives you the best of Latin lifestyle. Sao Paulo is the largest city in Latin America and Mexico City is a close second. Both Mexico City and Sao Paulo are the financial hubs and economic powerhouses of their countries, attracting a huge amount of business and tourism from all over the world, but I love their lust for life and vibrant cultures. From countless museums, and cultural artifacts, to diverse and exquisite food options and a buzzing nightlife, Mexico City and Sao Paulo have it all on offer for every type of visitor. But which is my favourite for a cool and quirky city break?
Sao Paulo and Mexico City have a similar colonial heritage, which has had an influence on both the history of the cities and their present-day character. Both cities are also known for embracing a wide range of immigrants, adding to the huge diversity of art, music, food, and architecture in both cities.
With more than 150 museums to explore, Mexico City out-does Sao Paulo. The Museo Nacional de Antropología (Anthropology Museum) is one of my absolute favourites displaying a huge range of archaeological and anthropological artifacts.
Whilst it might not have quite as many, Sao Paulo is similarly known for its impressive museums and its historical architecture. The Modern Art Museum (MASP) is home to over 4,000 works and is modelled on the Museum of Modern Art in New York. While São Paulo Cathedral, said to be located in the exact centre of city, is an incredible neogothic temple which contains the crypt of the indigenous leader Tibiriçá.
But, if it’s street art you’re after Sao Paolo takes the win! It is home to some of the best street artists in the world, and their amazing works line the streets. I love to visit the infamous alleyway Beco do Batman to see the very best of them.
With nearly 2,500 skyscrapers Sao Paulo feels newer, innovative, and more bustling, in comparison to the much older metropolitan city of Mexico City. Mexico City’s high altitude also creates a slower pace of life, compared to busy and bustling Sao Paulo. However, both cities do have impressive green spaces, Ibirapuera Park in Sao Paulo, and Chapultepec Park in Mexico City, which are perfect for escaping the city hustle!
Restaurants and Food
Both Mexico City and Sao Paulo have an excellent selection of world-class restaurants, alongside an incredible range of affordable local eateries. There really is an enticing selection of tasty treats and fabulous feasts for every budget in both cities!
A few of my favourite fine dining top spots in Sao Paulo include Figueria, D.O.M and Nakombi, while the best high-end restaurants in Mexico City are Pujol or Hacienda des los Morales.
While both cities are considered foodie destinations, Sao Paulo has a wider range of high-end cuisine due to a vibrant immigration tradition, and you can find any range of dishes from all over the globe across the city.
If you’re looking for fine dining picks to suit every taste then Sao Paulo is the place for you, meanwhile Mexico City’s exciting and vibrant food scene is great for a range of options that won’t eat into your budget. In my hungry opinion I would have to give Sao Paulo 9/10 (for exquisite restaurants and world-renowned chefs), and Mexico City 8/10, (you can’t beat good Mexican food!)
Both cities become (even more) alive at night. The hustle and bustle of the day leaks into the night in Sao Paulo, whilst locals and tourists seem to surge back into the centre of Mexico City after a moment of quiet in the afternoon. Both cities have a wide range of bars, nightlife, and local and traditional activities.
Whilst Sao Paulo is officially known as Brazil’s finance capital, it is unofficially known as it’s nightlife capital! The bars and clubs on Rua Agusta are considered the main stretch for night life, but with such a large population, the options are varied and spread across the city. The Jardins District is best known for its swanky clubs and strong LGBTQ scene and is also where you’ll find the Skye Bar.
In Mexico City, the nightlife is as vibrant and diverse as the city itself. From traditional bars specialising in Mexican music, to supper clubs, speakeasys and night clubs, like Sao Paulo, Mexico City has a selection of night-time spots to suit every kind of visitor. For sundown views over the city, I like 41st floor Miralto Bar in the Historic Centre. Other great bars include Gin Gin and Fifty Mils, whilst nightclubs such as La Santa and Leonor are popular on the weekends.
Both cities have a lot to offer in terms of night life, but Sao Paulo seems to have a younger, and wilder feel than Mexico City. It’s diversity of clubs, and late-night bars are best for those with the energy to dance until morning, whilst Mexico City is much more laid back.
Both Sao Paulo and Mexico City have world-class hotels and a myriad of locally owned, high-end options. I like L’Hotel Porto Bay in Sao Paulo for comfortable elegance in an amazingly central location, while in Mexico City, one of my favourites is Villa Condesa, a beautiful converted mansion in the popular La Condesa area.
At the moment Sao Paulo is a better value because of the Real (Brazilian currency). Sao Paulo also goes for more ‘statement’ hotels like the Unique Hotel, whilst Mexico City goes for more bespoke luxury like the Four Seasons in Reforma.
Both cities have great accommodation options for every style and budget, but for its quirky and innovative lodgings, Sao Paulo once again takes the lead. However, I love the range of options in Mexico City, so the rankings are close with Sao Paulo 9/10 and Mexico City 8.5/10.
So which city comes out on top? On a numbers basis these cities rank incredibly close with Sao Paulo at a final score of 8.4/10, and Mexico City 8.3/10! The numbers don’t lie, it is near impossible for me to choose which of these two incredible cities. If I had to pick one for a city break at this time of year, I would have to pick Mexico City. It is dry season and not too hot, whilst Sao Paulo is humid and very hot this time of year.
However, year-round both these cities have so much to offer, and I would not recommend skipping either one. Every day is a fun day to visit Sao Paulo or Mexico City.