A Sao Paulo introduction…
The biggest city in South America; the economic heart of Brazil; one of the three largest metropolises in the world: what Brazil vacation could miss out at least a little time spent in São Paulo? And with the Brazil Grand Prix coming up, chances are visitors to Sao Paulo will also want to spend some time away from the races.
With a population that has grown to over 20 million, São Paulo is predominantly a city of immigrants. Its ethnic diversity and industrial development has produced Brazil’s largest, most cultured and best educated middle class. Travelers to São Paulo will experience a dynamic city, with skyscrapers that spread across the city’s vast area; restaurants to suit every taste; and a nightlife that never stops.
48 hours in the city of Sao Paulo
With so many options it can often be difficult for visitors to know where to start. Enter the experts:
1 pm: FIRST TASTE OF BAHIA
Start off your visit in the verdant Jardims district with a delicious and authentic lunch at Brazil a Gosto, a wonderful restaurant inspired by the various flavors and recipes that Brazil has to offer try the popular Bahian snack Miniacarajé which is a fried pasty made from bean flour filled with the unique combination of shrimp, cashew and peanut purée, bean flour and okra, plus an extra side of shrimps and a green tomato vinaigrette.
2 pm: SWAN ALONG PAULISTA
After lunch, take a walk down Paulista Avenue. This is a must see for any traveler in São Paulo and is considered by locals to be the beating heart of the city. It is located in the northeastern section of Jardims, known as Cerqueira César. The avenue is lined with tall skyscrapers, shops, churches, restaurants, cafés, museums and hotels; there has been much commercial investment on the avenue to its centralized location. It has now become a symbol of the dynamic and entrepreneurial nature of the city’s economy making it well worth a visit.
While here, you can visit the excellent collection at The Museu de Arte de São Paulo. This has a fascinating collection of over 8,000 works by predominantly European artists of great fame (Rembrandt, Monet, Renoir, Picasso and Van Gogh to name but a few!) alongside a significant handful of Brazilian pieces as well.
7 pm: UNDERNEATH THE FIG TREE
For a delectable local dinner, head over to Figueira Rubaiyat. This fabulous old restaurant is built around the branches of a fig tree giving a magical touch to any meal here. No less magical is the succulent flavor of the meat served, particularly the beef which is considered the specialty and is raised in the owner’s own personal ranch.
10 pm: REACH FOR THE SKYE
Look up to Skye Bar for a clean and classy club experience – this smart venue is on top of the trendy Unique hotel (Av. Brigadeiro Luiz Antonio, 4700) and has a spectacular sweeping view of the city’s seemingly endless twinkling street lights. There is a very nice lounge and restaurant to share a drink with the eclectic group that converges here. Dress up smart, but not OTT.
10 am: CHILL IN THE PARK
In the morning, head down to Ibrupuera Park to freshen the head. This is one of the nicest spots in the city; the park is considered by Paulistanos as their equivalent of Central Park in New York. It is also a center of important museums and hosting cultural events. It is a picture of serenity containing pristine grassy areas, paths for running and cycling and a stage for outdoor theatre and concerts. There are also playgrounds, lakes and even a small wood for reading offering travelers a welcome break from the noise of the city. If you’re lucky, you might catch one of the free concerts organized by city hall at the weekends.
12 pm: MUSE THE MODERN
While at Ibrupuera park, visit one or more of the three important museums here. The Museu de Arte Moderna is perhaps the best; a space for some of the more modern artwork produced in Brazil. Their mission is to “collect, study, encourage and diffuse contemporary and modern Brazilian Art, making it accessible to the greatest number of people possible”: well worth a visit for travelers at Ibirapuera.
2 pm: COOL OFF IN VILA MADALENA
In the afternoon, delve into the cultural and artistic heart of São Paulo, with an indispensable look around the district of Vila Madalena. It is here that artists, actors, musicians and designers converge into the numerous galleries and studios of modern and contemporary art. Not only in these conventional mediums can the artistic flair of Vila Madalena be discovered – winding streets and alleyways are adorned with fabulous graffiti created by the most famous of Brazilian artists. Amongst the most visited sites are a record store with 80,000 vinyl and a “green building” which is designed using entirely sustainable concepts – a life form in the midst of a metropolis.
6 pm: A MEAL OF ETHNIC PROPORTIONS
After an afternoon of culture, head out for dinner in one of the many authentic ethnic restaurants that Vila Madalena and Pinheiros have to offer. You could try Japenese sushi at Kabuki, classic Italian food at Santa Gula, maybe some spicy Moroccan at Agadir or splash out on some Spanish cuisine at Don Curro. The sheer variety of restaurants here demonstrates the strong influence that the immigrant populations have had on the city.
9 pm: NIGHT ON THE TILES
As the night draws nearer, the famous nightlife of Vila Madalena and Pinheiros starts to heat up. Start out in one of the cozy traditional Brazilian bars with beer on tap before heading to whichever club takes your fancy. The district has something for everyone: from jumping dance clubs to sophisticated bars. The only problem here is deciding when to head to bed: the party here goes on all night.
10 am: IN THE CENTER OF A METROPOLIS
On Sunday morning after rush hour, drift over to explore the historical center of town. Although there are not many remains of colonial Brazil here, some sense can be grasped of the history and architectural development of the city. The Monastery of São Bento (Saint Benedict) is a mandatory stop, with 17th century architecture restored in the early 1900’s in a more Germanic fashion. The monastary is now home to around 40 cloistered monks who follow the routine of work and prayer. For a truly sacred experience, visitors should attend one of the daily masses.
A few blocks away from São Bento is the Praça da Sé, which is a wide open plaza containing the magnificent Catedral Metropolitana. Although the current cathedral building only dates to 1954, the site has hosted various churches dating back to the foundation of the city.
A picture postcard of Sao Paulo often includes The Viaduto do Chá (the tea bridge). This is a wide and long viaduct that became the first to be built in the city after it was inaugurated in 1892. It is named for the large crop of Indian tea that was cultivated in the Vale do Anhangabaú district of the city’s central zone in which the viaduct is located. Today it is a key artery in the city center, linking what was previously considered to be downtown (Rua Directa) with the now more significant area of Rua Barão de Itapetininga. It is lined with street vendors selling various trinkets. Beneath the Viaduct is the Parque Anhangabaú, a pretty park in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the center.
12 pm: REMEMBER THE ROOTS
Round off your 48 hours in Sao Paulo with a look at the oldest building in town, São Paulo Igreija de Sao Francisco de Assissi. Originally built in 1647 and renovated a century later, this is one of the few physical remnants of the Portuguese empire that remains standing. This baroque style church is actually home to two separate religious institutions; one is ran by the catholic church whereas the other is controlled strictly by laypeople. The churches play an important role in the community, organizing fundraising events to help to support poor people with food.
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Simon is a contributing writer to our travel blog.