Brazil’s biggest city can’t seem to shake its rep as a boring, crowded, all-work-no-play, dirty, industrial dump. All most people know is that São Paulo has a big international airport with flight connections to more desirable parts of the country. Most people don’t know what they’re missing.
São Paulo is the economic engine that’s driving the Brazilian boom, and as such, it’s the city where most of the money is. Paulistanos – as the city’s 11 million residents are called – do work hard, but they play just as hard, as evidenced by the thousands of gourmet restaurants, music venues, and nightclubs sprinkled throughout the city. A weekend in Rio is cute. A week in São Paulo is hardcore. But if you’ve got to change planes at Guarulhos anyway, you might as well do a quick stop-over; a couple days’ll do ya, and you’ll be glad you did.
WHAT TO DO
For the full-on dystopian chaos that São Paulo does best, hang out in the Centro (daytime only) near the Theatro Municipal or the Rua 25 de Março shopping corridor and watch the parade of kooky, real-life characters pass by. The Avenida Paulista business strip is all hustle and bustle during the day – check out the eclectic São Paulo Art Museum (MASP) or lush Parque Trianon just across the street. If crowds aren’t your thing, verdant Parque do Ibirapuera has thoughtful architecture and museums, the Museu Afro Brasil and the Contemporary Art Museum (MAC) among them. Funky Vila Madalena has art galleries and bohemian boutiques out the wazoo, while slick and sexy Jardim Paulista is but one of the city’s upscale stomping grounds.
WHAT TO EAT
São Paulo’s food is all about the immigrant communities that give the city its flavor: Japanese delights with a side of karaoke in Liberdade, Mediterranean goodies at Athenas on Rua Augusta, pizza at Braz or full-on Italian in the Bixiga neighborhood, and Saturday feijoada – Brazilian soul food – at St-Etienne in Jardins.
WHERE TO PLAY
Get your samba on at Ó do Borogodó or Bar Mangueira. Bourbon Street Music Club and the Orleans keep it cute for the jazzy-belles. Hip-hop heads roll to Clash Club on Tuesdays, Glória on Thursdays, and Joy Club on Fridays. For rock and/or house, hit the Baixo Augusta strip. Rua Frei Caneca is the gay strip, but lady-lovers do The L Club on Fridays while the guys hit The Week on Saturdays. Everybody ends up at down-and-dirty Love Story for the grimy after-hours.
WHERE TO STAY
CouchSurfing is huuuuuuuuuge in São Paulo, and a local friend is almost essential to get the most out of the city. Otherwise, there’s Airbnb.com (though they’ve been shady lately), inexpensive Formule 1 hotels, and the regular, overpriced international chains.
This guest post was written by Ernest White II from Fly Brother. You can also follow on Twitter @FlyBrother