When I tell people that I really enjoy living in São Paulo, this comment can sometimes be met with a look of confusion by the Paulistanos I am talking to. “But why?” is the standard response I get!
Sure, there is no denying that this city can be pretty damn ugly, it is relentlessly fast paced and it is, well…so grey. But there is SO much more to it than this. There is an energy about São Paulo that I find infectious; it boasts some amazing restaurants and there is always something to do here, at any given hour of the night or day.
Yet reading these words back, I know that they don’t exactly do the city justice. Despite trying for a few years now, I’ve not been able to put my finger on what exactly it is that makes this city so special. So to help me explain why I’ve fallen for this concrete jungle, I’d like to share with you some of the places that I love – the places that I feel reflect what São Paulo is all about:
Photo Credit: folha.uol.com.br
When you walk through the doors of the Mercadão Municipal you are greeted by the smell of spices, counters filled with meat and mountains of fruits and vegetables. But this is also the case over at the Municipal Market -where any self respecting Lonely Planet guide would advise your average tourist to go. So what is it about this place that makes it different?
Well, recently the Pinheiros market has undergone a bit of a face lift. It is now home to some very reasonably priced restaurants courtesy of some of Brazil’s best known chefs. So you can pick up some top class cerviche at Comedoria Gonzales, buy food typical of the north East at Mocotó Café or grab some pizza at Napoli Centrale Pizza Napoletana. There are a number of produce stores set up by the world renowned chef Alex Atala too.
Mercadão Pinheiros is easily my favourite place to grab a bit to eat right now. Just last week I was eating lunch on the outdoor balcony area and I noticed a priest enjoying lunch with a friend, a group of businessmen sharing beer and a bearded hipster working on his laptop. The charm of this market is that it really feels like the understated sort of place that everyone can enjoy.
Address: R. Pedro Cristi, 31 – Pinheiros, São Paulo
Photo Credit: www.obaoba.com.br
Praça Roosevelt used to be a run down, neglected area of São Paulo that your average tourist would have been advised to stay well clear of. But since renovation work was completed on Roosevelt square in 2012, it has become a great place to hang out. Personally, I really enjoy drinking outside the bars in Roosevelt square on a Friday and Saturday night, when you’re likely to come across an interesting mix São Paulo residents. The beauty of drinking in this area is that you never really know who you’re going to bump into, or where the night could take you.
If your Portuguese is up to scratch and you enjoy plays, there are many small theatre groups performing in the back of the bars around the square. It is also worth checking out the retro Lekitsch Bar, which is decorated with old doll heads, TV sets and Playboy magazine covers.
Praça Pôr do Sol
Photo Credit: karolpinheiro.com.br
In my humble opinion, there is no finer place to watch the sun set in Sao Paulo than at Praça Por do Sol. This square has a fairly intimate feel to it, and on weekends is likely to be full of people – from dog walkers to groups of friends, couples to guitar players and beer sellers to capoeira performers. And when the sun eventually dips behind the skyscrapers that dominate the city’s skyline, you might just find yourself joining in with everyone caught up in the moment; applauding the suns departure from the city.
Address: Praça Ignez Guimarães Soares Pestana, São Paulo.
Photo Credit: www1.folha.uol.com.br
Estadao is an absolute gem in Sao Paulo’s culinary crown. Located in the centre of the city (not too far from Republica station) it is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is guaranteed to be packed over the weekend. I suspect this might have something to do with one item on its menu, the Pernil (pork) sandwich.
Costing less than 20 reais and literally cooked to perfection, this isn’t just great value for money, it is like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. (Admittedly though, it tastes even better at 5am after leaving a night club than it does at 6pm when you’re eating it sober!). The diner-like restaurant is just on the right side of chaotic with incredibly fast service and some pretty interesting-looking people eating here. Estadao comes highly recommended by, not just myself, but the unpretentious crowds you’re likely to find queuing for food at any given hour of the weekend.
Address: Viaduto 9 de Julho 193 | Triangulo, Sao Paulo
Photo Credit: www.mg.co.za
This 2.2 mile stretch of elevated highway has been described by some as a scar running through São Paulo. Many have called for it to be demolished and others would like to see it turned into a park (Similar to New York’s High Line). But right now, it retains the same purpose it had when it first opened back in 1970 – as a means for cars to snake across the city. Outside of the hours it is used by drivers (6.30am-9.30pm during the week, 6.30am-3pm on a Saturday) you’re likely to see this stretch of road being reclaimed by dog walkers, skaters, runners and also those simply out for a stroll.
With the highway running 5 meters away from people’s bedroom windows, it literally also offers a glimpse into urban life in the rundown heart of São Paulo’s centro district. Should you go for a walk on the Minhocão (The ‘big worm’ in English), you may well find yourself enchanted by what one New York Times journalist described as it’s “alluring combination of ugliness and beauty.”
Photo Credit: www.catracalivre.com.br
This site lay abandoned for decades, but when renovations were completed on it last year Mirante 9 quickly established itself as being a pretty big deal to the city’s cultural scene. Let me explain why. If you are on Avenida Paulista and fancy a quick coffee during the afternoon, Mirante 9 is home to Isso é Café. This place certainly offers a coffee with a different view of São Paulo! Drinks are fairly reasonably priced (my recommendation would be the batida de chocolate gelado -a mixture of chocolate and coffee served cold) and you will also find a bar area where you can buy cooked food and imported beer.
Should you go during the evening on a weekend/public holiday, this place takes on a whole different role. Mirante 9 often plays host to film and live music events. I’ve even been here when DJs have been playing to a very large crowd inside the venue. So large in fact, that a lot of people weren’t able to actually get inside. But don’t let a big name performer put you off visiting. On days like these, just outside Mirante 9 are usually plenty of beer vendors and crowds of people enjoying the atmosphere too. Actually, the area outside can arguably just as fun as the inside.
Address: R. Carlos Comenale (Behind MASP) – Bela Vista, São Paulo – SP.
Where do you think makes São Paulo special?