From talking to people who have travelled in South America and Brazil, and also from the many other travel blogs I’ve read, it seems only a handful of people visit São Paulo. Its just another big city but without the sexy charm of Rio, right? ‘Concrete Jungle’ is the term used and after seeing it, it seems this term was written specifically for this city. There are buildings upon buildings, upon buildings. But with a population of over 20 million people are you surprised? Thats almost the population of Australia! Its one of the most populated cities in the world with an extremely diverse mix of people, including the largest Japanese population outside of Japan.
The main reason we went wasn’t to look at the millions of buildings and be in a city that moves at a thousand miles an hour- we live in London, we came here to escape that! We met a friend from Sao Paulo 2 years ago in Australia on our outback trip and we wanted to visit her – also she was in dire need of a top up of her marmite supplies so we came to the rescue! We also wanted to find the hidden charm of São Paulo which we knew must be lurking there somewhere in amongst the concrete.
We booked in to Ô De Casa Hostel in a suburb called Vila Madelina which our friend, Fábia, had said was a nice area. We pulled up to the hostel in the taxi at 9:30pm and thought ‘Oh crap!’ There was banging house music and hundreds people spilling out from the bar area into the street. Being old and boring now we can’t deal with this. Yeah we like to socialise and have a few drinks but we just can’t be bothered with all night partying or clubbing anymore. However once we got inside and fought our way through the tightly packed bar with our backpacks on to the reception, we realised the hostel was through the back away from all the noise. The guy then says ‘its only a booking for one person right?’ Whilst looking at two of us standing there with our backpacks on. Oh for fuck sake! Here we go again. I show him the confirmation that says 2 people. ‘Oh it must have been an error on the system as its only booked one person and we are fully booked tonight’. Of course you are! Why do these things always happen to us? We offered to share a bed as we would usually do anyway, but as they had put me in a female dorm this was a no-go. In the end they managed to get Scott a bed in the staff room so at least we both had somewhere to sleep which was a relief, as walking around the city at that time of night with our backpacks on was neither appealing or safe.
The next morning Fabia came to pick us up from the hostel to show us around the city. It was great having a guide to navigate around this monster and also someone to drive us or we may have spent most of the day going in circles on the metro. First stop Paulista Avenue. This is the main street and also what she refered to as their ‘postcard shot’. I guess similar to Piccadilly Circus in London. There isn’t much to see there, but as it was a Sunday the road was pedestrianised and there was lots of little market stalls, musicians and dancing going on which gave the place a fun and lively atmosphere. We then went to a favorite bar of Fábias, as after 30 mins of walking it was definitely time for a drink. We ordered a beer and some coxinas and pastels which were the best I’ve had so far in Brazil! She taught us some swear words in Portugese and she was impressed with how much of the language we had picked up so far (still VERY basic! But she was impressed none the less).
After refreshments we went to Iberapuera Park, one of only 2 parks in the city, and what we were told was refered to as the ‘green lung’. It was really busy but with that nice lazy Sunday feeling with families, picnicers and skateboarders galore. The weather was lovely and we wandered around seeing the city from a different, less grey side. I also had my first taste or coconut water fresh from the source and wow, its so much nicer than the syrupy sweet stuff that comes in the bottle back home. It was a perfect relaxing Sunday and such a pleasure to catch up with Fábia after 2 years.
The following day we spent most of lying in a massive rooftop hammock soaking up the sun which was heaven! Its winter in Brazil but it was probably around 28° and perfect for tanning. We had a wander around Vila Madalena which is a very cool little area. There is loads of street art, cute little boutiques, loads of restaurants and bars playing all different types of music. Over the weekend the place was buzzing so if your looking for somewhere with lots happening I’d definitely recommend this area. I’d also highly recommend the hostel (Ô de Casa) as it was clean, staff are great and whether you want to party or chill out its got something for you.
From what we had read about São Paulo and also what we had heard from someone who used to live here; they have the best pizza in the world. Lonely Planet actually says its better than in Naples! So of course we had to judge for ourselves. We met up with Fábia again on our last night here and she took us to what she claimed was the best pizza place in São Paulo (we didnt realise until after we had been that this restaurant is also in the Lonely Planet guide as the best place to go!) We ordered 1 large pizza with 3 different toppings and also a calabresa roll (basically bread with sausage), which is there signature dish. The pizza was unbelievable. I’ve never been to Naples so I can’t compare, but it was delicious. But even better than the pizza was the wine. We ordered a bottle of Argentinan Malbec and its the first drop of red wine I’d tasted since arriving here; thats maybe the longest I’ve ever gone without wine in my adult life! Every drop was like liquid gold, and although not cheap, it was worth every single penny.
So yes, it may be a concete jungle with a population to make your jaw drop and a traffic problem that makes you sweat even to look at, but we had a great time in São Paulo. There is urban charm, an amazing party scene, bloody good food and an eclectic mix of people. And if you don’t fancy being in the midst of it all but still want to check it out, head to Vila Madalena which will give you a little glimpse into the city life.