Sao Paulo was the last stop after a crazy-awesome month in Brasil. I arrived with low expectations as I’d been told it was a boring city full of office blocks, but left suitably impressed. Below is a summary of how I spent my day as a Paulistano.
Getting in & around
To quote the hallowed source of truth that is the G.I. Joe animated cartoon – “Knowing is half the battle”. Save yourself time and money by flying into Congohas Airport (CGH) instead of Guarulhos (GRU) if possible. The former is significantly closer to the heart of the city where most visitors would base themselves. I stayed at Melia Paulista which is at the top end of Paulista Avenue, a bustling thoroughfare lined with shops – a bit like a busier and bigger version of George St in Sydney and to a lesser (tram-less extent) Swanston in Melbourne. The hotel is close to the Consolacao and Paulista Metro stations which come in handy if you have plans to venture out further.
My month in Brazil was thankfully free from any of the horror crime stories that you may hear from others who have been. I put my positive experience down to being extremely careful – even more so where I was travelling by myself, like in Sao Paulo. That’s not to say I took the sheltered tourist route of staying in 5 star hotels and leaving only to visit fine dining restaurants and clichéd tourist attractions by cab – quite the contrary in fact. I did not catch a cab or train the whole day – the complete itinerary below was completed on foot as I find it’s the best way to truly experience a city. Just remember to be smart about only walking down main streets (that are busy with traffic), only check your phone/map at a ‘safe’ location like inside a restaurant or bank branch and generally speaking just be more vigil. Anyway enough serious talk – now onto the good stuff!
Rua Jose Maria Lisboa, 1397
I started my day with an amazing breakfast at Benjamin Abrahao, a padaria located in the charming neighbourhood of Jardins. Padarias are the Brazilian answer to boulangeries and this gem in a quiet part of town is the perfect place for a lazy weekend breakfast – sit on the upstairs terrace, disconnect for a couple of hours while helping yourself to all the sweet & savoury pastries, hot cooked food and coffee that you like. I arrived with a ‘eat & run’ plan in mind given my very tight schedule but once I was there, found it very difficult to leave and ended up staying a couple of hours reading a book and sipping coffee. Despite being a buffet, quantity did not come at the cost of quality – so try everything if you can!
When you finally find the will to move, it’s time to check out Sao Paulo’s version of Central Park. Located just outside the city, it’s a spot of tranquillity for Paulistanos and a nice place to hire a bike and do a lap of.
There’s museums for the culturally inclined, playgrounds for the kids, basketball courts and football fields for the sporty and a massive lake in the middle for those who just want to chill.
Liberdade & Downtown
Sao Paulo is home to the largest Japanese population outside of Japan and Liberdade is a touristy acknowledgment of that. I didn’t really experience anything worth spending much time on but it’s worth a slight detour to ‘have a look-see’ as you work/walk your way through downtown. A good route would be to make your way up Praca da Se, passing by Catedral da Se de Sao Paulo and then continuing on to Rua Boa Vista until you hit the Sao Bento area and Sao Paulo’s equivalent of Wall Street/Martin Place (can’t believe I just mentioned Wall Street and Martin Place in the same sentence).
Rua da Cantareira 306
A must visit for any foodie, the Mercadao Municipal is a bustling food market filled with all sorts of local produce. Wander down the aisles and help yourself to samples of fruit that you can’t find in Australia (or wherever you’re from for that matter). At the end of it all make your way upstairs to Hocca Bar – the home of an epic mortadella sandwich that’s pictured above-right. If you love your heat as I do then you’ll slather yours with the mustardy-looking hot sauce that’s in the bottom-left of the same picture. Be warned, the queue here is as epic as the sandwich even during off-peak times so be prepared to wait for a bit or order takeaway and wait for a seat at the bar counter overlooking the kitchen. There are other stalls serving the mortadella sandwich but Hocca is the most iconic.
Museu de futebol
Estádio do Pacaembu
A must visit for any and every lover of the round-ball game. One can easily spend hours here watching countless videos of the greatest plays and players of all time. Interactive exhibits include taking a penalty against a virtual goalkeeper – but most just use it as an opportunity too punt the ball as hard as they can to see what they can register on the speed camera. The fan shop at the end was a tad disappointing though – I imagined a haven of football-themed junk and me leaving with a sack of useless football-themed junk that I’d never have any use for but #seemedlikeagoodideaatthetime – it turned out to be a small and very normal gear store.
Bar do Biu
Rua Cardeal Arcoverde, 772/776 – Pinheiros
Find your way to this fully legit and unpretentious bar in the Pinheiros district that’s run by the mother-son team of Dona Edi and Rogerio Gomes. I ordered their signature Baiao de Dois (above-left) which is a combination of jerked beef, bacon, sausage, queijo de coalho (traditional north-east Brazilian cheese), rice and black eyed peas (seriously fighting the urge to insert a pun here) after initially mis-ordering a similar dish (above-right). Believe me when I say that the 2 dishes above probably feed 3-4 normal people and I probably wouldn’t have finished everything were it not for the fear of disappointing Edi and Rogerio who had extended the sort of warm Brazilian hospitality that underpinned the world cup. If I had my time again I would have gotten my order right and tried the feijoada as well which looked amazing.
Bacio di Latte
Rua Osca Freire, 136
If you’ve still got room in your gastronomical locker, and keen on ending your trip on a sweet note, make a slight detour to Bacio de Latte on your way back to the hotel. The gelato here would comfortably sit in the top quartile in Australia, which is no mean feat given how lucky we are to have some of the best gelaterias. I can’t remember what flavours I had to be honest, but suffice to say both didn’t last very long in the cup.
…and that should bring you to the end of one helluva’ day – all that’s left to say is “Valeu!“