São Paulo was one of the cities I visited in Brazil earlier this year, but I almost didn’t go at all. I had been pestering people that had been to Brazil before, for the must see places. São Paulo never featured, or it was made fun of, in favour of places like Rio. The only reason I went was because a friend lives in the city and was around at the time. Having been there and experienced the city, I can honestly say that São Paulo should be on your Brazil itinerary. Don’t believe me? Here are some reasons why you should:
While São Paulo does not have much in the way of natural beauty, as it is not by a body of water. It does have one very important thing that will certainly make you love it, the Ibirapuera Park. This park is a thing of beauty, and it is MASSIVE. It is comparable to Hyde Park in London and other large city parks. This green space definitely makes a nice change from the never ending concrete buildings. It is sort of a cultural centre for the city as it features various museums and has performance spaces available. Ibirapuera manages to shut out the busy city and makes you feel relaxed from the moment you enter.
Another awesome park in São Paulo is Parque Tenente Siqueira Campos, or Parque Trianon as it is better known. This little oasis is much smaller than Ibirapuera, but it is ideally located. The entrance is opposite an art museum and is on Av. Paulista. The space feels more like you’re walking through a jungle as it has not been overly “fixed” and manicured. It is a great place to chill out in the centre of the city, so you are not too far from some tourist spots you may want to hit up. There is also a market that takes happens there on Sundays, so you can pick up some cool things.
The Museu de Arte de São Paulo, or MASP on Av. Paulista has a striking exterior. The building is made up of glass and concrete that is suspended in the air by two heavyweight beams. It is a surreal experience standing underneath the museum as you are very aware that it is technically ‘floating’ midair. The museum has a large collection of European art, as well as art from Brazil, Africa and Asia. You may be excused for spending a much longer time outside than inside, as the building is a piece of art in itself.
Like most cities, São Paulo has its fair share of museums. My absolute favourite was the Afro Brazil Museum. It is located inside the Ibirapuera Park, and is stacked with paintings, sculptures and photographs, amongst other things. This museum is dedicated to the history, art and culture of Afro Brazilians. Along with Salvador in Bahia, you learn more about the Yoruba people and their influence within those walls.
Another highlight was the Edifício Itália. It is a 46 storey building that houses the Terraço Itália Restaurant that gives magnificent views of the city. And I happened to be lucky enough to be in the restaurant’s bar during a lightning storm, and it just looked amazing. Plus the food, while pricey, is delicious and you get amazing views while you eat! I definitely felt out of place there while dining. I had only taken hand luggage with me for my month long tour of Brazil, and I was decked in loose trousers, a vest top and a scruffy bag. Couple this with the fact that I was caught out in the rainstorm before I managed to get in, and it’s a wonder how I got served at all!
São Paulo is the home of a friend that I finally got to meet after over a decade of friendship. I had the best time with her as she showed me the city like only a local can. For those trying to explore as cheaply as possible, it can be done! One day we went to the Mercado Municipal, which is an indoor market that sells everything from food to souvenirs. The exterior building is just so pretty to look at, and it gets better inside. This is the place to get the best, very nearly heart stopping, sandwiches in São Paulo. The combination of meat and cheese decked within two buns was too much for me to handle and I had to finish it over two days.
While this is not an exhaustive list, these are just some of the reasons why you should not be so quick to skip São Paulo. It’s a city filled with many hidden gems waiting to be discovered amongst the giant buildings!