Rio is a beauty, but Sao Paulo…. Sao Paulo is a city
World-class museums, art galleries, boutique hotels, Michelin restaurants, dramatic nightlife, eclectic architecture and crazy-good shopping! That’s what this unique city, the heart of Brazil, is all about.
However, there is one problem for weekend visitors: São Paulo is vast, so it is best thought of as series of neighborhoods. Below, I will go through a couple of the best ones and add tips so you can then decide on your own customized tour. I hope you enjoy!
It is a must to spend a whole day around Avenida Paulista….. Start at the unmissable MASP (The Art Museum of São Paulo) – a symbol of modernism architecture in SP – with its fascinating collection of European and Brazilian art. Check for the diverse temporary exhibits that it always hosts as well!
First stroll down Av. Paulista and then head to Casa das Rosas to capture the historical feel of one of the few remaining 19th century houses in the region. It is also currently the center for poetry and literature exhibitions. After that just cross the avenue and check out the recently opened Japan House. More than a cultural center, it celebrates Japanese education and technology with great exhibits that are quite interactive to suit the kids. If you eventually build up an appetite and fancy Japanese food, this is the place to try the best Japanese chef’s cooking in town. Junji, by Jun Sakamoto, offers the same great food but more reasonably priced than at his flagship restaurant.
Brazilian-like, style of food at Balaio. This ground floor restaurant is located at IMS – Instituto Moreira a Salles – a modern gallery focused on image, cinema and photography – also worth checking out! From IMS, head down to Rua Augusta, towards Oscar Freire Street and get lost amoungst the upscale neighborhood (Jardins), home for the best cafes, shops and restaurants. Sit and enjoy a café on Oscar Freire, Bela Cintra or Haddock Lobo and observe big city life. You can also shop ‘till you drop – pocket permitting! Don’t miss out Havaiannas flagship store, great for getting the latest styles and bringing something different home! If you haven’t eaten at any of the galleries restaurants, here is definitely the place. Italian, Portuguese, Greek, Spanish… name the kind of food, you will find it! For the night, head to Sky – the rooftop bar/ restaurant of Hotel Unique for great views and vibe, cocktail and food. Its worth making a reservation if you want to have dinner.
I like Sundays around Old downtown at 10 AM where the Benedictine Monks perform Gregorian chanting at Mosteiro Sao Bento Catholic mass. As even the non-Catholics public observers are thrilled and very much apprecitate the amazing resonating sounds.
While you are in Old Town, walk around and check out the building of the Municipal Theater of São Paulo, with its beautiful architecture inspired by L’ Opera de Paris of Charles Garnier, with Brazilian ornaments. If you are into theater, check their agenda and get tickets for a night concert.
Afterwards, head to Mercado Municipal de Sao Paulo. Also known as “mercadão”, it is located in another historical building. I love its interior with stained glass and natural light. It contains many diversified shops and stands selling fruits, spices and everything not to mention its mezzanine with food stalls and restaurants. Do try the famous mortadela sandwich and/or pastel de bacalhau, but don’t eat too much as you don’t want to miss another great food experience still in downtown!
It should be time to eat by now. Head to one of my favorite post cards of the city, Copan building, by Oscar Niemeyer and stop for a drink at Bar da Dona Onça, just on the ground floor, with tables spread along the sidewalk. You can also have a fantastic meal, but I suggest that instead you walk to ‘Husband’s Restaurant’, just down the street, A Casa do Porco (the pork’s house). They take no reservations, so try to get there for a late lunch, as waiting time might be shorter. Order some Porcopoca while you wait, through the window along the sidewalk – very peculiar! My suggestion here is to try the tasting menu the first time you go so you can test each of their delicacies, but feel confortable to order from the menu. Yes, their specialty is pork, but they will cater for vegetarians, as well.
If you don’t feel like pork, but still want to eat in the area you can either try a very traditional experience at Terraco Italia, the restaurant on the 41/42 floor of Edificio Italia – simply unforgettable views, good food, but a more ‘dated’ place, or Esther Rooftop – a French Bistro. At night, head to Vila Madalena, one of the most relaxed and cool neighborhoods of São Paulo and do what 9 in 10 Paulistanos do on a Sunday night – eat pizza! There are great places all over the city, but as we are at Vila ‘Mada’ tonight, my pick is Carlos. Now, if you really don’t feel like eating anymore, pick one of the Vila’s many bars (Piraja), cafes, or restaurants (Astor). In for a nightcap? Sub-Astor is the place.
You can try Vila Madalena during the day as well and then have the feeling of its streets filled with local brands and original shops, besides the fuss of restaurants and bars. I also recommend you do not try it on a Saturday night, as there is too much of a crowd.
Catavento Museum is an excellent option if you are with kids – very interactive, with themed rooms full of science and technology for the little (and big) ones to feel and experiment! A must if you have school aged children.
Fun for kids at Kidzania