São Paulo is a funny one. It looks like New York with palm trees, it’s as big as London and has the hills of San Fransisco. It looks beautiful in pictures with its huge skyscrapers and gorgeous blue skies, but there one thing holding it back – there isn’t much to do! It has museums, restaurants, shopping centres and parks, but it doesn’t have much that is unique to São Paulo itself. However, this didn’t turn out to completely be a bad thing. We had such a long list of things we had wanted to do in Rio, that we were dashing about, packing lots in every day, but in São Paulo we just wandered the streets and soaked up the atmosphere of the hustle and bustle, ate food, drank beer and people watched.
We were only there for three full days, but I think that was enough. We managed to find enough things to do to fill those three days, but any longer and we would’ve been racking our brains. So here are five excellent things we did that I’d recommend to anyone passing through the South American metropolis of São Paulo.
1) Eat in Mercado Municipal
Situated in a huge Art Deco building (that feels a little like a repurposed railways station) São Paulo’s Mercado Municipal is a great urban market and an excellent place for a hungry belly. It’s open every day, and it was certainly busy the day we went. It’s got stalls with rows and rows of exotic fruit (which you’re given lots of free samples of), weird and wonderful baked goods, and fresh meat and poultry. Along with all the market stalls, the edges are lined with cafes and bars, excellent spots to stop and get some food once you’ve had a wander about. We had pastels, a traditional Brazilian fast food snack, which are deep fried pastry parcels filled with whatever you choose (usually with meat or fish, and always with cheese). I call them snacks, but they are about the size of a medium clutch bag, so they’re pretty much a full on meal. These greasy, but very tasty, pastries were a great start to the day along with a strong black coffee.
2) Go for drinks in Vila Madalena
Vila Madalena is the artsy bohemian quarter of São Paulo, with a completely different atmosphere from the rest of the city. The streets are lined with quaint cafes and intimate bars and trees are lined with fairy lights and people seem a little more relaxed. We picked a bar we thought looked cool, which had people spilling happily and lazily out onto the street, and spent the evening drinking beer.
3) Wander down Avenida Paulista
This is the Fifth Avenue of São Paulo. The avenue stretches for miles and is lined with impressive sky scrapers, fancy shops and nice bars. We spent the afternoon wandering from the top to the bottom, stopping off in Parque Tenente Siqueira Campos, a small and surprisingly quiet park full of palm trees, for lunch in the shade. Avenida paulista is a great place to people watch, and see the Paulistanos, São Paulo inhabitants, living their daily lives.
4) Soak up some culture at MASP (Museu de Arte de São Paulo)
Located on Avenida Paulista is MASP, a modern art gallery with Latin Americas best collection of Western art (although it is very euro-centric, it has plenty of Brazilian art too). It’s got more than 8,000 pieces from the likes of Monet, Cezanne, Constable, Goya, Rembrandt and Van Gogh (the list does go on and on), it is a very impressive collection indeed.
5) And then soak up the sun in the Parque do Ibirapuera
We spent a whole afternoon here, relaxing by the lake with a picnic and a couple of good books. It’s a nice spot to escape the noisy buzz of the city, whilst keeping the impressive skyline in eyesight. It’s got several monuments, museums and cafes, so a really nice place to spend a sunny afternoon.
We had a good few days in São Paulo, the weather was good and the people kind, but by the end of our short week, we were ready to move on. It’s an excellent stop over city, and it was a nice contrast to Rio, but not a the best tourist destination in itself.