About São Paulo
I would have never thought I’d say 36 hours was not enough time for visiting São Paulo. I personally am not a big city enthusiast, but always feel like I should explore for a day at the beginning or end of my wilderness trips. We planned to arrive mid-day, stay overnight and then leave the following evening.
GOL moved our flight from Cuiaba to São Paulo from 8am to 4am which gave us extra time (which we originally didn’t want) in the giant metropolis. São Paulo is the 9th largest city in the world, the most populous city in both the Western and Southern Hemispheres, and has the 11th largest GDP globally.
The city of sky scrapers is home to the largest populations of Arabs, Italians, and Japanese outside of their homeland. Our visit to Brazil’s economic and cultural hub was surprisingly pleasant.
Where to Stay
With a little help from a friend and some naiveté, I managed to book a hotel, Meliá Paulista, on Paulista St. While the hotel was nothing to write home about it was located in a fantastic location, especially for a Sunday. Though I think probably could have found a nicer place just a few blocks off Paulista in the Garden District.
Places to Visit in São Paulo
Paulista street is an eight lane road that is shut down to traffic on Sundays! Locals walk their dogs and roller blade through the street. Others join Zumba classes or cycle along the bike path. Vendors sell their wares while food carts sold kabobs. The street entertainment was incredible with different acts on every corner. Street performances included slack liners, bands, musicians, dancers, and comedians. We were easily entertained and could have spent hours just lounging around the area, especially in the afternoon when the activity really picked up.
We, however, were on a mission to see other places. As such, we walked to Liberdade, a Japanese district. If we had to do it over again, we might have taken the subway, but the 1.5 miles downhill didn’t seem too bad earlier in the day, and we got a glimpse of other places along the way.
São Paulo Cultural Center
São Paulo Cultural Center, a modern building along the way, was a popular place for many, especially teenagers. Dancing, studying, and even competitive chess playing were just a few activities taking place as we walked through the Center.
Upon arrival in Liberdade, we wandered the packed street while window shopping. Occasionally we popped into a Japanese store or market just to see the products. Our visit to Liberdade would not have been complete without tasting the street food.
We started out tasting a sweet, black bean pastry. I think I liked the sweet black beans in Guatemala better, but these were still good. What we really wanted was a giant dumpling that we saw a few people balancing on thin paper plates as they squeezed through the crowds. We finally found the tent on the corner.
Fortunately, a local overheard us talking and told us about the ticket process as otherwise we would have been standing among the hordes of people for quite a while. Once we pulled our ticket, we had to figure out how to order. We didn’t even know what was in this giant dumpling called a Guioza. Ruth found someone who spoke English who told us there was only one option! Then he told us what 886 sounded like in Portuguese so we would be ready when our number was called. There were also some electronic signs displaying the numbers, but they were slightly delayed.
The Guioza was worth the wait, and it was very fun local experience. After our snacks, we trudged back to Paulista Street and enjoyed seeing more street performers as we headed back to our hotel. Our 4am flight time was catching up to us.
Casa das Rosas
We did stop at Casa das Rosas before we kicked our feet up for a short rest. Now a cultural center, this 1935 French style mansion was once the home of the Ramos de Azevedo family. It is one of the last remaining mansions on Paulista Street which was once lined with them. Had we been in the mood, it would have been a nice place to stop and enjoy a drink on the garden patio. Frankly we were just too tired and not very hungry.
After our rest, I managed to talk Ruth into walking to a Japanese restaurant in the Garden District. Jam Jardins was one of the few nearby nice restaurants open on Sunday night. We arrived when it opened at 7pm, but it didn’t take long to fill up. My sushi was hit or miss, likely because I didn’t know the best dishes to order. Ruth’s salmon was fantastic. The staff, service and atmosphere were excellent. I would definitely go back.
The next morning we visited three more places before we checked out of the hotel and went to the airport early (a must for Ruth). There are a variety of free tours of the city offered, and I considered one, but there would have been little time between ending the tour and heading to the airport, so we enjoyed a leisurely morning visiting Beco do Batman, Parque Ibirapuera, and Parque Trianon.
Beco do Batman
Beco do Batman is a short street or alleyway full of graffiti art. Many of the surrounding streets and buildings are also well decorated. Some of my personal favorites were a dog, an abstract face, Pelé, and a pupil in the eye of a tree. I understand there is a city tour of all the graffiti around town, and I would have loved that.
From Batman Alley we Ubered to Parque Ibirapuera. In fact, we Ubered all day. The fees weren’t bad, but the traffic was atrocious! Anyway, Parque Ibirapuera is to São Paulo as Central Park is to New York City. Parque Ibirapuera isn’t as big as Central Park, but it followed the same concept. There were shaded pathways for runners and cyclists, bridges over lakes home to black swans, fountains, museums and more. We enjoyed a wonderful stroll through the park before we snagged a taxi that was waiting at a stand on the west side of the park.
From Parque Ibirapuera we returned toward Paulista Street to visit a smaller park called Trianon. It was very close to our hotel and we passed by it a few times yesterday though never made it past all the vendors into the entrance. This park was a little slice of paradise smack dab in the busy city. It would be a great place to take a break from working life and enjoy a sack lunch in some tranquility.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by São Paulo. I would definitely layover there again and aim to take a free tour and visit the historic district. I’d also try to be there on a Sunday as Paulista street wasn’t nearly as fun on Monday…full of cars! We had a wonderful trip to the Pantanal and to the giant metropolis. ETB