Every year I go back to visit my parents, family and longtime friends in São Paulo – my Brazilian hometown. The business capital of Latin America, and Brazil’s most cosmopolitan metropolis, São Paulo might seem unwelcoming at first glance: a concrete jungle with bad traffic that lacks the charm and natural beauty of Rio. Many people still ask me why I like São Paulo. So, I’ve decided to list some of the things I like and make this city an unique, interesting, chaotic and vibrant place that deserves to be discovered.
A day in SP shouldn’t start without a breakfast in one of the amazing bakeries spread throughout the city. Paulistano’s (SP inhabitants) pride, and a must-visit for bread lovers like myself, the “padarias” offer all kinds of breads, delicious savory snacks (think of empanadas but more diverse), fresh squeezed fruit juices, and a good chat with the guy behind the counter. Ask for a “pão na chapa com requeijão” with “a média” (toasted bread with a type of cream cheese and a small latte)
Avenida Paulista and Neighborhood
Now that you’re ready to explore the city, I recommend to hop on the spotlessly clean subway and head to Avenida Paulista and neighboring streets in Jardins. This iconic avenue is the heart of the city and home to great restaurants, cultural attractions, hotels, financial institutions and shopping. My favorite spots are: MASP (Museum of Arts), Livraria (bookstore) Cultura and its great cafe, Cine Belas Artes, Rua Augusta, Atenas bar & restaurant, Spot restaurant, Riviera bar (for a good drink and excellent capirinhas), Rua Oscar Freire – one the most luxurious street in the city and a nice place for walking around. I always stop at Monama, a cute organic shop, to get an açaí in a bowl.
Centro da Cidade – Downtown
This part of the city still preserves some of its historic buildings. The European influence can be seen in the facade of some imposing buildings, from colonial Portuguese to Neoclassical architecture. I really like to stroll around and admire the grandeur of The Municipal Theater, catch some exhibition at Pinacoteca or at the beautiful Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil and stop for a coffee in its cafe.
The friendliness, spontaneity and warmth of Brazilians still surprise me (and I’m a Brazilian born and raised!) People down there love a chitchat and can easily engage in a conversation with you, even if you’ve just met. So you better learn some Portuguese before going to Brazil!
I love how casual, hospitable, open, optimistic and less stressed – than New Yorkers- Brazilians can be despite all the problems the country faces, and how much this positive attitude can a good impact and make any trip much more enjoyable.
Brazilian cuisine is delicious colorful and diverse, reflecting the country’s mix of native and Portuguese, Italian, African, Japanese, Lebanese, German (and many more) immigrants. Must try dishes: Feijoada (black beens stew with meat), Moqueca de Peixe (Fish stew) and Escondidinho (a distant cousin of Sheppard’s Pie). The pizza in São Paulo is nationwide famous, thanks to the Italian immigrants and paulistanos swear it’s as good as an authentic Italian pizza. Among snacks my absolute favorites are: pão de queijo (cheese bread), coxinha (chicken pastry) = love at first bite! Esfiha, empadinha and pastel are also delicious snacks that go very well with a cold craft beer. I recommend Colorado, Coruja Weiss and Coruja Pilsen.
For more recommendations on must try Brazilian dishes check out my post on Hubpages.