The Bare Minimum Travel Guide to Sao Paulo, Brazil
Sao Paulo, For us, is all about the people, All About the Arts, and all about the party
- Landscape - I'd call Sao Paulo a beautiful city for its people and its art, but definitely not for its looks. Sao Paulo is a true concrete jungle, with limited green space and just buildings, buildings, buildings. Gray, tan, brown, black and sky for as far as the eye can see. It's drastically larger than NYC, where we are from - honestly, almost 2x the size! You don't come here for the landscape.
- Art - If you follow us on Instagram (@andrewRmcdermott and @adMcdermott), you'll know that we like art. Street Art, Urban Art, Graffiti, Arte, on and on and Sao Paulo does this better than any place we have ever seen.
- Nightlife - In Sao Paulo, this means 1am-9am, for the record. If you didn't pack your big girl pants, you're going to miss out on seeing how Paulistas (People from Sao Paulo) like to have a good time. And boy do they know how! Be prepared for this, you'll have some of the most fun nights of your life with Paulistas!
- People - Sao Paulo is not a tourist city, so the people that you interact with are mostly locals, and often transplants from other areas of Brazil. They are incredibly sweet, generous, fun, and outgoing. We love the people here, they truly make this an amazing place to visit. We also love that it's always a local vibe, a far contrast from Rio de Janiero (all tourist all the time).
Here's the skinny;
Where to stay
Vila Madalena - safe, clean, great options for every meal of the day, and nightlife until 5am. Not touristy at all. Easy to get a cab and take it anywhere. Close enough to 2 metro stations if you're into that sort of thing. We stayed on Girassol and Purpurina, it's hilly, which reminds us of when we lived in San Francisco -- it has a really similar vibe to SF (people, places, things, art). There's a great restaurant on Rua Harmonia called St. Etienne. It's a local favorite and is delicious!
Use Airbnb to book your place to stay, it's way cheaper than a hotel and the hosts are awesome.
Things to eat/drink
#1 Go to Bar Veloso. If you go to Sao Paulo and miss this - you're nuts. It's in Vila Mariana, you can take the metro and it's a short walk from the Ana Rosa station.
- Eat the Coxhinas (Chicken croquette. Better than Holland, Better than France.) - The Mohlo de Pimenta (hot sauce) that they serve with it is legendary. (FYI, Catupiry is a Cream Cheese, you'll see it on the menu in all of the friend appetizers at like every single restaurant in Brazil.)
- Eat the Pasteis (like a mini Jamaican beef patty or Hispanic Empanada) Carne (beef), Quiejo (cheese), and other flavors.
- Drink the Caiparinha here. It's the best we've had in Brazil - they have daily specials on the fruit combinations, go crazy.
Bella Paulista Restaurant - Go there at 3:30am after a long night out on Rua Augusta or Centro. 24 hrs, their burgers...and really everything is exactly what your drunk body needs. You're welcome.
Estadao Lanches - Get the Pernil sandwich (Roasted Pork Leg). It's amazing!!! They've been open since 1968 and this place used to be the local 24 hour hangout for Journalists that work for the old Sao Paulo Newspaper - Estadao. This place is legendary.
De Bruer (Vila Madalena) - If you're a beer snob, then you probably annoy me, but I digress, this place is for you. All of the gucci craft beer that you can drink and it's all 100% Brazilian. I was shocked that the whole craft beer thing was so popular here. The beers are awesome (so says my wife, she likes all that IPA, hoppy crap), I had a few of the "Hot Lager" (the only lager they serve) which was indeed awesome. Bonus points because the owner here is super cool and speaks perfect English.
- Drink Caipirinhas - the national drink. They make them MUCH stronger in Sao Paulo than in Rio de Janiero. Pounding 2-3 of them is plenty here.
- Eat Feijoada - basically black bean stew and magical meets - a national dish
- Eat any beef (carne) anywhere - Brazilians do beef way better than Americans
- Drink Brahma, Bohemina, Antarctica Original Beers (they come in 600mls - which is a long neck bottle.) Draft beer is rare in Brazil and for some reason, they love drinking out of tiny glasses. Why not just get a bigger glass, and pour less???? I'll never know.
- Eat “Churrasco” - which is basically grilled meat - you chose your meats. Brazil is amazing at making simple meat preparation delicious.
Places to go
- Ibirapuera Park - It's like a religion here. All of the locals that we know go to the park often to relax, walk, people watch, picnic, and go to the great museums. The museums were all designed by Oscar Neimeyer, and world famous architect. The buildings alone are worth exploring for their beauty. Take a taxi, metro doesn't go close.
- Beco do Batman (Batmany's Alley) - Amazing street art / graffiti. Really, mind blowing. Just TONS of it for several street blocks. Bonus points because it's in a great neighborhood, Vila Madalena so easy to go shopping, eat, or drink within a few blocks. Must-see if you like art, or have a pulse.
- Rua Augusta (East of Avienda Paulista) - Nightlife strip. Tons of restaurants and Bars - all "local"
- Avienda Paulista @ Jardims - The Main shopping districts. Malls and the like, tons of tourists (the only touristy area in all of Sao Paulo), so street performers, music, all fun. GREAT people watching
- Rua Aspicuelta and Rua Fradique Coutinhao intersection in Vila Madalena. Tons of bars and restaurants around here. Several of them have live music blaring out to their open sidewalk seating. You can hear them from a block or two away. This is a major nightlife hub, tons of people - hipsters, biz professionals, industry people, everything.
- D-Edge - The "best nightclub in South America" -> awesome music, great scene.
- Street Parties & Temporary Events -> Video example of how this movement is taking Sao Paulo by storm. If you're into the young, hip scene, definitely try make it to one of the outdoor parties. Great music, great fun! Video: http://vimeo.com/112056065 And here's our favorite: Free Beats (Instagram @FreeBeats) - by @MissionSabotage and @Skolbeats (Skol Beats Factory) Check out if they are open while you're there.
- O do Borogoto - If you didn't go to Rio de Janeiro for some Samba, don't miss out on it here! This is the local favorite - there are also many local options downtown.
The more Portuguese you know, there better off you’ll be. Far more people speak English in Sao Paulo than they do in Rio de Janeiro, however it's still well below 50%. If you spend time in "trendier' areas, it's likely that more people will speak English. We have had a TON of luck with that by staying in Vila Madalena. Generally speaking - in Sao Paulo, the people are more forgiving of your "English-Only" than they are in Rio and other areas of Brazil
Greetings (not perfect spellings, just how you pronounce them)
- Hello - Ola (Oh-la)
- Goodbye - Tchau (Chow)
- Good morning - Boa Dia (Boa-Jia) - the D in the middle of a world sounds like a J
- Goodnight - Boa Noce (Boa Noich)
- Chicken - Frango
- Beef - Carne
- Linguica - Sausage
- Water - Agua
- Beer - Ceverja
- Catupiry - Cream Cheese (trust me, you'll see it everywhere and wonder what it is)
- One - Um
- Two - doo-iche
- Thank you - Obrigado (I’ve said this 1,345 times…)
- Please - por favor
- Check please - Por favor a conta (or Voce Pode me dar a conta)
Read our Sao Paulo Blog Posts for more details and have an amazing trip!! Contact us if you have any questions!