Sometimes in SP it's a matter of just looking to the tops of these very tall buildings to see some remnant of the past or some architect's incredible whim.
Just when you think this city of over 10 million people is going to swallow you whole, São Paulo turns around and charms the heck out of you. With its impossibly tall white buildings, friendly bus drivers, impromptu musical gatherings, and buzzing energy, São Paulo and the people that live there will change your life. Come to the metropolis for an amazing experience off the well-worn tourist path.
While it may not be the over-the-top chic, tree-lined portion of the city, "o centro" provides the architecturally curious with some amazing sights. Edificio Copan is a such building with a history as intricate as its design. A walk through the center of São Paulo is a taste of the incredible energy that pools into the streets of this city on a daily basis.
On any given day there is an outdoors market to be found in São Paulo. Packed with produce, meat, or colorful mounds of spices, each stand at the market provides a new sensory excursion. Vendors will shout the prices of their wares as you walk through. Stop by the Santa Cecilia Feira on a Sunday and make your way towards the stands at the end for a hot pastel and a caldo de cana with lime.
Most corner botecas and lanchonetes are your best bet for some quick and affordable food. These places also have amazing sucos, or juices, made from fruits that most people have never heard of. If you get a chance on a hot afternoon or during an early morning, try a suco de acerola, cupuaçu, or manga!
On a weekday evening the tables will fill with Paulistanos and travelers, rubbing elbows, sipping glasses of cold beer, and snacking on tasty food. Watch the world walk by on Avenida Paulista.
São Paulo is many things: a giant metropolis, a business capital, a giant landing pad to numerous helicopters... but it's also a place that millions of Paulistanos and other Brasileiros call home. The people here make all the difference.
Julice makes everything from baguettes to brioches, and serves wonderful lunches as well. Upon entering the restaurant, it's easy to be overwhelmed by the incredible selection of freshly-baked breads and sweets. Located on a quiet street in Vila Madelena, Julice is worth a visit.
On Sundays, the infamously busy "Minhocão" (a major highway overpass through the center of São Paulo) is closed to cars and open to all athletes, families, and other wanderers in São Paulo. If you're in the metropolis on a Sunday, walk alongside apartment buildings and marathon runners.
Pinheiros is a neighborhood fit to explore. Descending on either Rua Cardeal Arcoverde or Teodoro Sampaio and wandering inwards, one can find streets lined with music stores, tiny art galleries, street art shrines, and excellent restaurants. Certain venues in the area have live music at night on the weekends as well.
Isabela Raposeiras knows good coffee. Lucky for us, she's willing to share this wisdom at her incredible café and roastery, Coffee Lab. She sources directly from farmers all over Brazil and roasts the beans to perfection in this Vila Madelena café. Come to attend a class, experiment one of the many tastings on their menu, or just to have an excellent cappuccino (prepared in the Italian style). The people that work here are unpretentious and extremely kind. Filtered tap water is free. It's worth a visit to the website to see how great the philosophy behind this place truly is!
Behind this seemingly pedestrian rust-red bar facade is an incredible restaurant. Located in Pinheiros, Bar do Biu has a tradition of serving authentic and tasty food from the Northeast of Brazil. On a hot Saturday afternoon the place will be packed with people of all ages, enjoying an icy beer and generous plate of muqueca, or a Brazilian seafood stew. The plates are huge and the prices are very reasonable.
The Jardins neighborhood is known as a pretty chic part of the city, and rightfully so due to its legion of high-end clothing stores and fancy restaurants. However, its location can't be beat. A short walk away from Avenida Paulista, o Centro, and many metro and bus lines, this "bairro" is a strategic location for any visiter to stay. There are numerous hotels in different price ranges in this area. The architecture is intricate and unpredictable and the avenues are lined with trees, which can provide much-needed shade and green in this busy city.
Located on the bustling Avenida Paulista, the Livraria Cultura has multiple storefronts in the same shopping center. One store is dedicated to all types of travel, food, art, and design books. Another serves as a movie theater, showcasing the latest foreign and independent films. Finally, the main section houses the majority of the book collection, with numerous titles in business and literature in English as well as Portuguese. The DVD and music selections are also quite good. The creative interior decor makes for an interesting book browsing experience!
From Trianon to Ibirapuera, São Paulo has a fair share of parks to complement the otherwise urban landscape. Parque Buenos Aires is a beautiful spot to grab some fresh air and sun on a lazy afternoon. The park makes for wonderful people watching as runners jog laps around the perimeter, dog-owners socialize their four-legged friends, and parents bring their children to play on the nearby play structure. The statues, fountains, and trees are perfectly placed in this tiny block of green.
This bakery and deli is the ideal spot for a delicious pastry or a heaping New York style deli sandwich. If you're in need of something sweet, try the pão doce with chocolate and bananas or a decadent chocolate croissant. For something savory, order the roast beef sandwich with parsley paté on a sesame baguette. The huge portions for a reasonable price make Benjamin Abrahão an affordable place to grab a bite.
Right in the heart of Pinheiros, this restaurant is the perfect stop after a day of wandering through the tiny art galleries, ample music stores, and busy antique stands off of the nearby Rua Teodoro. The food is an imaginative and fresh blend of Peruvian and Brazilian influences.
Bar Balcão is a wonderful spot for a hamburger and a "chopp," or draft beer at the end of a long day. The Lychee capirinha is highly recommended by Monocle magazine, and the zig-zagged bar arrangement makes for interesting people-watching on a dimly-lit evening. By 10pm the place is buzzing with action, as those sophisticated Paulistanos stop by for a hard-earned drink with their friends.
Designed by Oscar Niemeyer and Roberto Burle Marx, this expansive park was meant to be an improvement to Central Park in New York City. Home to an impressive amphitheater, museums, water bodies, and lots of paths with some impressive landscaping, it's well worth a visit. Come for a stroll, jog, picnic, open air concert or bike voyage on a Sunday. Various food vendors are strewn throughout with agua de coco and snacks. It's best to check the website for events if you'll be visiting on a weekend.
Tucked into the trees on the quiet Rua Bela Cintra, PÃO offers a peaceful respite from the traffic on nearby Avenida Paulista. This cozy padaria has homemade breads, sandwiches, granola, and other treats for any traveler in need of a nice meal. The coffee is great too!
When it comes to bookstores, São Paulo does it right. There is an array of stores with excellent selections of titles in Portuguese, English, Spanish, and French. In addition, these spaces are inviting to the wandering Brazilian and tourist alike, with comfortable chairs waiting for anyone to plop down in while reading the latest titles and magazines. Livraria da Vila is an ingenius chain with stores throughout the city. The layout of each bookstore itself is an architectural masterpiece, and the food and beverages served at the adjoining café Santo Grão will leave you with plenty of good food and drink to accompany your reading.
With its comfortable seating, Parisian-style tables, and hardwood decor, Santo Grão Café on Rua Oscar Freire is the type of café that's impossible to leave. The list of coffee drinks is impressive, and the food delicious. Perfect for a french press, omelette, and newspaper on a lazy Sunday morning, the place attracts an international crowd. The knowledgable staff will help guide you as you select a coffee from their home-roasted selection.