We were lucky enough to meet some friends in Sao Paulo who took the time to advise us and show us around. Best guides ever! Thank you Glauco and Mathilde!
Here is how we spent our 2 days in Sao Paulo:
Brunching in Vila Madalena
Vila Madalena is known as the artistic neighborhood of Sao Paulo, although it has turned more and more hipster over the past years. The streets that are going up and down the hills are lined up in blocks. Along with the little houses it reminded us some cities and neighborhoods in the USA. You will find plenty of cute shops, restaurants and coffee places around. However, the “hipsterisation”of the area means that it is not the cheapest anymore…
Vila Madalena and Jardins
Those 2 districts are situated next to each, Vila Madalena and Jardins, make up for a lovely walk (you may have to go up and down the small hills). Keep an open eye for all the beautiful street art, explore the different shops showcasing many local brands, and try to resist the temptation offered by all the little restaurants and coffee shops around! We definitely enjoyed our day, and we would recommend to anyone to stroll around the boulevards and the little streets.
Complete change of decor in the Paulista Avenue, the economical heart of Sao Paulo. This is mainly a business and commercial street, very few residential buildings are still standing around. You will find many international shops and malls with all the worldwide recognized mainstream brands.
Keep an eye for fancy rooftops bar-restaurant and actually head for the one on top of the SESC building (N. 119): it’s free to go up and enjoy the view; if you feel like a break, the cafeteria is very affordable and the view is impressive.
Avenida Paulista used to be lined up with beautiful villas that were slowly replaced by high business buildings. A few are still standing like the Casa de Rosas that you can visit for free; it displays exhibitions and hosts several events. The visit is free of charge, and definitely something that should be done when visiting the city.
The old city center
A walk through the city center is a suite of surprises. Be aware: homeless people are everywhere. It is not the safest neighborhood but don’t be afraid to go wander around by day as you will see police crew all around. We did feel a bit uncomfortable, but once you realize how things work, you get into the flow of the city.
The contrast between old abandoned buildings and bright renovated administrative buildings is striking. The contrast between busy business men in suits and homeless people trying to finish their nights or just talking and joking around is another startling vision. Our image of the city center is one of contrasting and opposing visuals.
The heart of Sao Paulo, or the point zero, is in front of the beautiful Metropolitan Cathedral of São Paulo, a relatively modern structure. Don’t hesitate to visit it: the stained windows are beautiful and the pillars are massive! We were surprised by the absence of paintings, especially on the ceiling, which is not very common in the Cathedrals we have recently visited across Europe.
If you are looking for more animation during the day, then go towards the Mercado Municipal passing by the street 25 de Março: this is one of the cheapest commercial spot in the city and it is always very busy! When we say busy, it is literally packed with people selling and buying. You can find anything you wish in this market.
Enjoying free visits around the city
There are 2 main things you want to look for: the SESC (Serviço Social do Comércio), like the one on Avenida Paulista, and the Cultural Centers sponsored by big companies (mainly banks), like the Banco do Brasil in the city center. Those places usually displays exhibition that have free access!
On Avenue Paulista a beautiful building recently opened to promote Japanese culture. It displays different exhibitions (free), a small coffee and a shop. When we were there there was an exhibition on taste and odor with a wall of perfume and different gummy bears to try from strawberry or grape to wasabi or soya! There was also a demonstration of traditional archery where people from the audience could participate.
Oh and the toilets have Japanese technology with heated seat and co, so plan your break there! 😉
The Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo (MASP) is free on Tuesdays and Wednesdays!
The last floor displays the permanent collection of the museum with a beautiful collection of masterpieces, mainly paintings, displayed in a unique manner: in a single room, aligned on crystal frames. We even managed to recognize the style of some of the painters, without seeing the description on the back. It was a very good experience.
The other floors proposes temporary exhibitions. At the time of our visit it was “Afro-Atlantic Histories”. The exhibition reviewed, through art, the history of slavery and the flows between Africa, Europe and Brazil and questioned the evolution and the position of descendants of African slaves in Brazil.
Savouring Brazilian delicacies
Having lunch in the Mercado Municipal
Plan to get to the city center around lunch time so you can have a break at the Mercado Municipal. Wander around the market to observe the different types of fruits, cheeses and hams that are beautifully exposed. Many sellers will give offer you to taste free samples. Yummy!
Then head to the first floor and sit at one of the restaurant. We went to Hocca Bar, famous for two specialties in particular: pastel de bacalhau (codfish) and pastrami sandwich! Note: you will be strongly offered beer in a continuous manner, be firm at refusing if you don’t want some otherwise it will keep coming!
Enjoying a delicious dinner
To celebrate the reunion with our friends we went to one of their favourite restaurant: A casa de Porco. As the name indicates it is all about pork! Non pig-eaters, skip that part!
This restaurant is very popular so you should try to get there early if you want a chance to get a table! The setting is beautiful: a cozy room with an open kitchen in the back and a lot of funny pig-based decoration.
You can select appetizers among several options that all looked delicious… so if the choice seems hard, ask for the degustation menu! Everything we had was delicious! For the main dish we would recommend to go for the Mr. Pig set: delicious grilled pork with a choice of traditional side dishes.
Snacking in a lanchonete
What is a lanchonete? Simply a warm snack (“lanche”) place! You will find some everywhere and it is the best way to eat cheap and generally tasty food! Among the main options you can find different types of “salgados” (savoury snacks): pastel, joelho, empada, esfirra, bolinho, pao… Basically a pastry, baked in a different dough and shape and filled with either minced meat, cheese, ham, etc…
If you are hungrier you can also find some more consistent dishes like sandwiches or meat served with the traditional Feijoada (rice and beans).
The best part of the lanchonetes? They usually have fresh fruit juices, in particular orange juice, for a great price! So good, we couldn’t skip it!
Thanks to the recommendation of our friends (again) we had the opportunity to enjoy a very nice concert evening organized by Casa de Francisca. This institution, existing for more than 10 years, has relocated in 2017 in the beautiful Palacete Teresa (more like a big apartment) and is showcasing artists from multiple background every night from Wednesday to Sunday. The program is available week by week. You may want to book and arrive slightly in advance to be able to get a seated table. Then, before the concert you can enjoy a good dinner there!