São Paulo (SP) was my home for six months in 2010. It was a city that gave a twist in my life that even today I cannot describe, thankfully. I believe it was the most meaningful travel in the recent years and although it was an experience with ups and downs, I owe much to the land of drizzle (terra da garoa) in Brazil.
São Paulo is a city of loves and hates. Everybody knows that it is not an easy city to digest. I would never forget the words of a great friend when I was almost freaking out in this gray city: São Paulo é tudo de bom e tudo de ruim (São Paulo is all good and all bad). You can love it and hate it at the same time or you can have some hate days after days of love. It’s almost like a bad relationship which you cannot get out of it, and maybe that’s what makes it a captivating city. At the end of the day when someone asks me, I cannot say anything but “I Love SP”.
Being born in a big city helped me to identify myself with SP. I believe that with time, as in relationships, we learn to love places, and people with the good things and the bad ones too. You can’t help it. Nothing is perfect.
I made a list of things to do in SP that will show you more of the “all good” side of the biggest city in Brazil. Because it is well know that if you are passing by, you will hardly see the dark side of the city, so let’s stick with the bright side.
1. Go to the top of a skyscraper
You cannot miss the view from the top of a skyscraper. There are three options to capture this view of the city, all in downtown:
The Italy building, In my opinion, is the best viewpoint, the only problem is that it is only open for visitation from 15h to 16h during the week, a very limited space of time. But it is worthwhile (free entrance).
Banespa building (Altino Arantes): The third tallest building in the city and famous because was been inspired by the American Empire State Building. He is also open to visitors only during the week and to make it worse; the visit time is just 5 minutes because the place is not very big. For some people it may not compensate the waiting line time at the reception with the time on the terrace (free entrance).
Martinelli Building: This is the less known because it is not part of the tourist map of the city, but it’s a very cool place. The best part is that it opens on weekends until 13h. It is located in front of Banespa (free entrance).
2. Eat a bologna sandwich and a cod cake at the Municipal Market of São Paulo
They turned typical dishes in the city. You have to try it in your passage through SP. Besides visiting the market which is a historic place in town, you can stop in Hocca bar and get one of these dishes. I do not really enjoy Cod, therefore recommend the sandwich, it’s big enough to share with someone else. You can experience market fruit juices and fried pastel for a lower price.
3. Watch the sunset at the Sunset square (Praça Por do Sol)
Without doubt the best place in town to see the sunset. On weekends people flock to the park lawn to wait for the end of the day. Of course, like every gathering of people in Brazil, there are always drinks and food in good quantities. A great plan for a Sunday afternoon.
4. Riding a Bike at Ibirapuera Park
The Ibirapuera Park is the lungs of SP. The largest green area of the city is concentrated there. It is a perfect place to do sport, rest or picnic. On weekends there is a rental bike and rollerblading. Since it is a big area I recommend you the bike option.
5. Walk the Avenida Paulista
Icon of the city, Avenida Paulista carries the history, the commerce and culture of it. Walking along the avenue you can feel the city to meddle in your soul and possibly here is where you start to fall in love with it. The route is impressive, open, diverse, chaotic and unique. Here is everything together and mixed. The charming café places, the cafeterias, the hurried businessmen, the street artists, the pieces of art, the frantic traffic jams, and of course, the skyscrapers. The sky always at the end.
You can get off at the metro station Paulista or Consolação to start your walk.
You can start by Augusta Street, where bars, restaurants and designer shops adorn the sidewalks; I recommend you visit the Endossa Store, a collaborative design store.
Then, go to the Conjunto Nacional and visit the Cultura Bookstore, one simply indescribable place. Keep going and you will find a tourist information point in the park Mario Covas, After that the Art Museum of São Paulo (MASP) and in front of the park Tenente Siqueira Campos best known as Trianon.
You will also find the cultural center FIESP, the cultural space Citi, the Itau Cultural Institute, the Gazeta theater, the Fnac bookstore, and finally the house of the Roses. This one, in my opinion, is the most charming place of Avenida Paulista. It is a place with a good vibration, a building that preserves the history of the avenue, with beautiful gardens and a the terrace where you can read a book, or if you prefer, there is a café right next to chill.
6. Walk through downtown
SP downtown is amazing. It is a bit scattered, but you can walk through it. People will tell you to avoid going on weekends because it is alone and unsafe. But I preferred this time because it was less crowded and I could take good pictures. Nothing has ever happened to me. Although most shops are closed during the weekend there is always a handicraft Market or street food fair going on.
My recommendation is to start at the Praça da República (República metro station). There you will find the Copan Building, made by the architect Oscar Niemeyer, and the Italy Building. Walk down Rua Barão de Itapetininga until the Municipal Theatre, keep walkiing at the Tea Viaduct (Viaduto do chá), on the Anhangabaú Valley, take the Rua Direita (Right stree) that will take you to Praça da Sé. If you still have breath, you can go to the Pátio do Colegio and by the Boavista street you’ll arrive on 25 de Março (March 25th); considered the largest shopping center in Latin America. In the same area there is the São Bento Monastery, and the viaduct leading to Santa Efigênia (St. Iphigenia).
7. Entering a museum
São Paulo is well-known cultural city. The list of museums is endless, in addition to art institutes and galleries. Some of them charge a very low rate of visitation, others not so much, it’s worth checking the opening hours and the entrance fee before arriving.
My recommendations: the Portuguese Language Museum (Museu da Lingua Portuguesa) and the Pinacoteca, the Luz Station (Estaçao da Luz); The MASP on Avenida Paulista; the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo (MAM); the Afro Brazil Museum, The Ipiranga Museum; The Immigrant Museum and Pátio do Colegio. Find the complete list of museums here
8. Tour of graffiti in Vila Madalena
The street art is part of the identity of SP. It’s hard to walk without finding any intervention or artistic expression. However, in the neighborhood Vila Madalena is that graphite takes care of this by making it an open sky gallery. If you go, look for Medeiros de Albuquerque, Luis mural and Mateus Grou, near to the cemetery of SP. Besides the traditional Beco do Aprendiz (The Apprentice corner) and Beco do Batman (The Batman corner).
9. Jaraguá Peak
If you like eco-tourism, you cannot miss this tour. The Jaraguá State Park is an ecological reserve located in the highest region of São Paulo state. Besides making a trail 3 km to the top of the peak, you can see the immensity of the city. Dedicate a whole day on this tour. See how to get there by bus here.
10. Embu das Artes
Embu das Artes is a resort town in the metropolitan region of São Paulo. Known for hosting artists, there is concentrated all kinds of Brazilian handicraft. It is an ideal place to spend an afternoon on the weekend and buy souvenirs and typical food place. Here‘s how to get by bus
São Paulo, like any big city, ends up being a mixture of many cultures, and this is what makes it endearing. There is a little bit of everything for everyone, and has that air of contemporaneity where “things happen” all the time. Who lives in a big city will always have access to all kinds of entertainment, cultural, sporting, gastronomic, etc. event. You will hardly get bored for lack of what to do in this city. Several websites, like Catraca Livre, will tell you what you can do in SP without paying a dollar. The Tourism office also made the “map of sensations” which gathers the touristic points of the city by each of the five senses, making of your visit a sensorial experience, check it out, and fall in love with SP.
Versión en Español
Versão em Português