This was my first trip south of the equator. We would spend half our time in Sao Paulo and half our time in Buenos Aires during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter to escape the brutal heat of Austin’s summer! My husband has been multiple times to Sao Paulo and absolutely loves it. I let him lead the way during our stay in SP. He knew the town well and we had friends to show us around.
We stayed at the Hotel Paulista Wall Street. It was a short walk from Paulista, MASP and tons of shops and restaurants. Our room was cheap, comfortable and had an amazing view from the balcony! Do some research on where you’d like to stay. There were lots of affordable options all over the city. This was a nice central location and near my husband’s office for the week.
MASP - Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo Assis Chateaubriand
Nearby and one of our first stops was MASP, Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo. Founded in 1947, it was the first modern museum in Brazil. It houses an extensive collection of art from all over the world which is presented in “crystal easels” allowing the viewer to follow their own path through the works and interact with each piece on a more personal level. It’s creates a visually striking room!
On Sundays beneath MASP antique dealers set up shop for the afternoon. This was perhaps my favorite thing in the whole city. Everything was super high quality and at great prices. We bought a beautiful oil painting of a rainforest scene. I highly recommend this to anyone! Even if you don’t intend to buy, it’s a great place to browse and people watch.
We had dinner at Do Culinaria Japonesa for an incredible sushi dinner. We ordered way too much and it might be the very first time I have left sushi on a plate!
The next morning, we hunted for breakfast. A typical Sao Paulo breakfast usually consists of pastries. If you have a gluten allergy like me, let me simplify the Sao Paulo breakfast for you: warmed pao de queijo and a cappuccino. So reminiscent of a Parisian croissant and café au lait I almost cried. I had this for breakfast almost every single morning. It was filling and oh so delicious!
Mercado Municipal is the old gastronomic hub of the city. We try and visit these food markets wherever we travel. It’s a cheap way to stock up on local herbs and spices and other things that can make the trip back to the states. It’s also a crash course in local cuisine. More importantly, they are always a great place to have lunch!
Hocca restaurant, on the second floor of the Mercado Municipal, is abuzz around lunch time. You might have to wait in line but it is worth it! They serve world-famous sandwiches: grilled mortadella, swiss cheese, sun dried tomatoes served on crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, white rolls that are hearty and satisfying!
After stuffing our faces my husband and I went downstairs and spent an obscene amount of money on fruit. Mangosteen was the clear winner but the buttery and sweet dragon fruit was also out of this world. Now I’ve had dragon fruit before in the states and have never been impressed. It’s usually mealy, bland and dry. I just never understood the appeal. Well, now I get it. And Atemoya! When ripe and local, it has the consistency of custard. I would never have tried it were it not for the brilliant sales tactics of the fruit vendors downstairs employing what I imagine had to be one of the oldest techniques in the books. Who can refuse a free sample? And once tasted, who can resist buying it all? This is what fruit should taste like! We also bought lychees and mangos and brought them all back to our hotel to enjoy for the week.
Liberdade Centro de Sao Paulo
Liberdade is a neighborhood in Sao Paulo with the largest Japanese population outside of Tokyo. Here you will find the best sushi in the city as well as goods, cosmetics, kitchenware and clothes from Japan.
We happened to visit during a festival so the streets were packed with vendors and people. We bought fresh cane juice and coconut water from a vendor and wandered the busy streets all afternoon.
Because of the Japanese influence, restaurants featuring sushi and Japanese-Brazilian fusion are common in Sao Paulo.
We were actually in Brazil for a specific reason. Dino’s good friend and colleague was getting married and we were so excited to attend a Brazilian wedding!
It was spectacular! The ceremony took place at a breathtaking little chapel. After a brief and touching service, taxis whisked us away to the decadent reception. Champagne flowed freely, canapés were passed constantly and a live band performed pop favorites. The buffets were outrageous - steaks and lobster, chocolate fountains and petit fours galore all decorated with thousands of white orchids. The reception didn’t start until 9pm and I was very worried about my stamina. I can’t party like I used to! Not to worry-ice cold guarana, a local energy juice (and an ingredient in Red Bull) was also passed around wine glasses. By midnight, I had to call it quits though. My husband dropped me off at our hotel and returned to the reception. At 3am the Samba school arrived. Drummers and bejeweled dancers kept the party going until 5am!
Dino has joked that Paulista Avenue, one of Sao Paulo’s main thoroughfares, is his church. Every Sunday it overflows with people. Street vendors sell their wares, food vendors grill meats and vegetables, men and women with portable coolers sell ice cold drinks and there is music everywhere. It’s a wonderful place to buy jewelry, gifts, clothes and art. It’s also a people watching paradise!
On our last day, we visited Parque Do Ibirapuera which was a great place to cool off and take in a bit of nature. At the end of the southern hemisphere’s winter, the trees were exploding with blossoms. There was tons of cool street art and little museums to visit as well.
That night we visited Skye Bar - a trendy bar & restaurant atop Hotel Unique. It has an amazing rooftop patio with pool surrounded by glass walls affording an epic view of the city. We ate at the adjoining restaurant for some delicious (if not a bit overpriced) Brazilian-Japanese fusion. The interior of the restaurant was almost as striking as the patio! Even if you don’t have dinner here, it’s a great place to grab a drink!
Dino has been to Sao Paulo a few times now. He likens it to New York City in the 80’s-grittier and more accessible than it’s current glitzier state. Keeping that in mind, it’s not the cleanest or safest place I’ve ever been. And I’m not going to lie-it’s not somewhere I felt I could wander about alone. But it has a lot to offer and I’m glad I got to explore it!