Discovering São Paulo, Brazil

São Paulo is one of the world’s largest cities and the largest city in South America. It’s also home to huge Japanese and Italian populations (a result of immigration in the early 20th century as São Paulo was an important part of the coffee industry). The city is known for its variety of food, nightlife, and culture, including art and museums. It’s also a great place to experience Brazil’s indoor and outdoor markets and see some very cool architecture thanks to Oscar Niemeyer’s work here.

As a lover of architecture, visiting Edificio Copan in the center of São Paulo was high on my list during my last visit to this lively city. However, what really struck me while standing outside Copan was this fun street art behind us. It seems to be a new version of the Brazilian icon Carmen Miranda.

São Paulo’s streets come alive with street art. From murals and graffiti to whole facades of buildings painted with beautiful scenes, the creativity and color exhibited in the city’s outdoor work reflect the vibrancy of the Brazilian people. According to street art experts, the city is one of the world’s best for the development of this form of art. To see some of the city’s best examples, head to the Vila Madalena area (which is fun to visit anyway). The best examples are found in Beco do Batman (Batman’s Alley), off Rua Harmonia just before Rua Luis Murat.
R. Herbart, 47 - Lapa, São Paulo - SP, 05072-030, Brazil
After hearing so much about the huge Municipal Market in downtown Sao Paulo, I was excited to visit a slightly smaller version in Lapa, one of Sao Paulo’s central districts. I wanted to see not just the array of food but also Brazilians going about their daily routines. The market didn’t disappoint.

Like their European counterparts, Brazil’s indoor markets serve as a one-stop shop where people can eat, drink coffee, and buy fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and even gifts. During my two visits to this market, I watched as salted cod and huge Kalamata olives were chosen for a Sunday feast. I tasted cheeses and bought fresh fruits. I waited while my in-laws picked out party decorations. I watched vendors busily working and yelling to each other. I also watched vendors stop and interact with my children, and I chatted with old women about my kids--Brazilians love kids and enjoy conversation.

For a slice of Brazilian life and a close-up view of Brazilian food, this locals-only market is worth a stop.
Praça Benedito Calixto - Pinheiros, São Paulo - SP, 05413, Brazil
Anyone who has been to Brazil knows that the country has fantastic open-air markets, known as feiras in Portuguese. They often feature a combination of handicrafts, antiques, live music, dancing, and street food. The market on Saturdays at Praça Benedito Calixto in São Paulo is no exception, but this one is almost unknown to tourists. Older Paulistanos (as Sao Paulo residents are called) sell beautiful antiques that reflect the city’s cultural ties to Europe. Artisans sell colorful woven clothing, handmade leather shoes, jewelry made from açaí seeds, baskets and mobiles made from recycled magazines, and much more. In the center of the market is a square of food and drink vendors, selling food from Northeastern Brazil, dried fruits, coconut water, and other typical Brazilian street food. In the early afternoon, live chorinho music begins and the square soon fills with people dancing. This outdoor market is much more than a place for people to shop—it’s a place for people to relax and have fun. The market runs every Saturday 9:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. The streets surrounding the market have many good restaurants, and the neighboring street of Teodoro Sampaio is known for its shops selling traditional Brazilian musical instruments. There are parking garages nearby; the market can also be reached by bus or by subway (Clinicas station).
Av. Paulista, 1578 - Bela Vista, São Paulo - SP, 01310-200, Brazil
São Paulo has a thriving culture scene that can be seen in its museums, craft fairs, graffitti, and artsy shops. If you spend a Sunday there, be sure to head over to São Paulo’s main avenue, Avenida Paulista, for a three-part cultural experience. First, the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (São Paulo Museum of Art, or MASP) is well worth a visit. It houses Latin America’s finest collection of Western art, including pieces by Picasso, Rembrandt, Monet, and other European masters. The museum also houses excellent temporary exhibits. If you’re hungry, you can eat at the museum’s cafeteria or wait and get snacks at the nearby crafts market. As you leave, spend some time perusing the huge antiques market that takes place every Sunday under the museum. Then cross the street and wander the “feira,” or crafts market, for typical Brazilian crafts (some of which are quite expensive) and good street food. Finish up with a stroll in the adjacent Parque Trianon, where musicians often play on Sundays. MASP is open 10-6. Admission is about $8 and $3.50 for students. Parking is available in lots and garages on side streets, and the metro station is Trianon.
Av. Pedro Álvares Cabral - Vila Mariana, São Paulo - SP, 04094-050, Brazil
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.
I love exploring the markets in São Paulo. There are many, some big and some small, but my latest discovery is the big one on Sundays in Praça da República in the center of the city, very close to the famous Italian and Copan buildings. This lively market takes place around one of the city’s historic buildings. Artisans sell their work, and there’s a nice selection of handicrafts, jewelry, and other typically Brazilian goods for sale. There is a large food area with tables, live music, and vendors selling traditional Brazilian street food, including the specialties of Bahia. If you take the subway, get off at the Republica station. The market takes place during the first half of the day on Sundays.
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