São Paulo is not the easiest place for a tourist to navigate around. Let’s face it, it is an absolute beast of a city!
If you’re following a guide book then I guess you’re going to find the well trodden tourist spots easily enough. However if you’re wanting to go off the beaten track and experience an alternative São Paulo, this blog post should come in handy. You see, I’ve made it my business in 2014 to find fun things to do….whilst spending as little money as possible!
Last year I wrote a post called ‘Top 10 finds in São Paulo in 2013‘ in response to a blogger who’d written a ‘Top 10 Must-Visit in São Paulo’ list. They’d been in the city for all of about 48 hours and were recommending some of the cities expensive bars and restaurants to their unsuspecting readers. Some of these were places I’ve visited, had an exquisitely bland time in, paid a fortune for the pleasure and then vowed never to return. And that was when I hit upon the idea of writing a similar list for someone visiting on a budget.
São Paulo might be an expensive city, but this doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot to have a great time here. What I’ve done in this post is compiled a list of the things I’ve discovered and enjoyed in 2014 that won’t break the bank.
So without further ado, here goes…
10) Nossacasa Confraria das Ideias
On my first visit to Nossa Casa, my friend and I were greeted by the transvestite hostess on the door. We were told that to enter we had to show our ID, give our names….then tell her that she had fabulous legs. After doing all three, we found ourselves walking down the hallway of this renovated house to the bar, from where we could see a group of naked revelers on the dance floor…dancing like nobody was watching!
We’d gone there for the Sarau Erõtico event, which translates as an erotic soiree. To be honest, I’m still not sure what an erotic soiree is, but I know that at Nossa Casa you can expect to hear a lot of erotic poetry being read by some very naked people! This event proved to be one hell of an eye opener for a Downton-Abbey-loving-Brit like myself!
As you may have already gathered, Nossa Casa is a VERY unique place. The venue prides itself on its freedom of expression, thought and behavior; so pretty much anything goes here (I should point out though that it is certainly not a sex party!). Entry is reasonably priced, so too are the drinks, and Nossa Casa plays host to a variety of different events each week. For more information on upcoming events, check out the Facebook page.
Nossacasa Confraria das Ideias- Rua Belmiro Braga, 202
9) Free Beats
A few Sundays ago my friends and I were in a park for a picnic that had been organised by Free Beats.
As I arrived in the park I saw that people had thrown down rugs, were sharing out food….and many were up dancing to the electronic music being spun by the DJs. On more than one occasion I was even up dancing, waving my cheese sandwich in the air like it was a glow stick!
Free Beats is a collective focused on utilizing São Paulo’s open spaces to offer free concerts and access to culture. I’d previously been to a party thrown by these guys in the Vale Do Anhangabau, where I’d been impressed by the Brazilian music, electronic music and break beats being played against the backdrop of the spectacular Teatro Municipal building.
Going into 2015, I’m looking forward to seeing what else these guys have up their sleeves. To learn more about Free Beats, take a look at their Facebook page.
8) Bar do Biu
After an afternoon spent strolling around Benedito Calixto’s Saturday afternoon flea market, you’re probably going to have worked up a bit of an appetite. As luck would have it, just a few minutes walk away is Bar do Biu. Admittedly it doesn’t look like much from the outside, however once you’ve stepped inside the bar and into restaurant area its rustic charm instantly becomes obvious. The decor is very homely and there are always mouthwatering smells coming from the kitchen. The restaurant specialises in food from the north east of Brazil and dishes range in price from 15 to 60 reais (the more expensive dishes feed 2 people).
In a city full of expensive restaurants, gems like Bar do Biu are pretty hard to come by.
Bar do Biu – Rua Cardinal Arcoverde, 772/776
7) Vai Vai
Until this year, whenever someone told me that they were going to a carnival rehearsal I just didn’t get why they’d want to. I imagined some Jayne Fonda-type aerobics instructor with a Madonna head piece screaming orders at the dancers. I also imagined a crowd of spectators stood along the sidelines, awkwardly watching on. So I was pleasantly surprised by my first visit to Vai Vai, which was absolutely nothing like this at all.
The rehearsals give those taking part in the carnival parade the opportunity to learn the lyrics, music and moves they will be performing at the big event. For everyone else, it’s a time to party! At a carnival rehearsal you will find a lot of people enjoying the atmosphere, dancing to the music and also soaking up the energy from the performers. Actually, these events can get quite rowdy….so be prepared to dance your ass off!
There are a lot of other samba schools that open their doors for their rehearsals, however as Vai Vai is both fairly easy to get to and a whole lot of fun, it became my school of choice for 2014. For more on Vai Vai, here is the Facebook page.
Vai Vai- Rua São Vicente, 276
6) Made By…Feito Por Brasilieiros
Last year São Paulo really impressed me with the number of big name artists performing for free in the city’s parks. This year it has been the art exhibitions that have surpassed my expectations. Before I go on, I should say that I’d never really classed myself as much of an ‘art exhibition type’ guy. Paintings rarely inspire much in the way of excitement from me and I find contemporary art quite pretentious. Or at least, I thought I did.
However this year I’ve really enjoyed some of the exhibitions I’ve been to, with the most interesting of these being Made By…Feito Por Brasileiros. For five weeks in 2014 the Matarazzo hospital (which had sat abandoned for 20 years) opened its doors with the intention of showcasing a mix of art and installations. These were created by over 100 artists, both national and international, and the event was free.
Walking around an abandoned hospital and considering art in rooms that used to house sick patients felt….well, quite unsettling, but at the same time, incredibly inspired.
The hospital will soon be transformed into a cultural complex, hotel and restaurants; however I am interested to see what other venues and locations will be playing home to art collectives in 2015.
5) Praça Roosevelt
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 very alternative place to be.
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. If not, it is worth checking out the retro Lekitsch Bar which is decorated with old doll heads, TV sets and Playboy magazine covers. Personally I really enjoy drinking outside the bars in Roosevelt square on a Friday and Saturday night as this is where you’re going 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.
In the last few weeks I’ve had a guy sitting next to me dressed in a Teletubby costume (he told me he wasn’t involved in a play, he just likes wearing his Po costume), a lot of people who have randomly wanted to show me their English textbooks when they realised I wasn’t Brazilian, and then my favourite….a 50 year old woman carrying a bag full of cold beers she’d bought, hoping she’d find people to help her drink them!
Praça Roosevelt really does offer a little something for everyone!
4) Metanol FM na Rua
These guys first caught my attention when my friends invited me to Metanol FM na Rua, a free event that was taking place on a Sunday in the centre of the city. When I arrived at Rua Dom José de Barros I couldn’t help but notice that street they’d chosen was run down, covered in graffiti and not really an area of São Paulo I’d have imagined partying in.
For this reason though Metanol FM na Rua worked. The instrumental and experimental music they played really gave the place an energy that made me consider the area in a completely new light. I’m not sure if it was the street that complemented the music, or the music that complemented the street…but either way, Metanol FM na Rua was a great way to get a feel for the beauty and decadence of downton São Paulo whilst listening to some great music.
3) Butanatan Food Park
I came to know about the food park through the pictures posted on my friend’s Facebook walls and Instagram feeds. At night this place looks beautiful, and after becoming intrigued about the place, it wasn’t long before I found myself there to sample some of the street food from the stalls, food trucks and trailers.
Butanatan Food Park- Rua Agostinho Cantu, Butantã
2) Soulset Festa
This is easily one of the best parties happening in São Paulo right now. The only drawback is that the venue isn’t too near a subway station. There is a free bus that shuttles people from Butanta station over to Casa da Fazenda in Morumbi though, and once inside you will see that your journey has been worth it. Here, you can expect to find a well dressed crowd dancing to a choice selection of soul and electronic music, from early afternoon right the way through to 10pm.
Casa da Fazenda do Morumbi is a fantastic choice of location to throw this event because it is visually stunning….but then so too are the people in attendance (Who me? Shallow!?!).
Entry is 30 reais, beer is 8 and there are food vendors on hand for those who dance up a bit of an appetite…which is pretty easy to do because those DJs know exactly how to get the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands. If you appreciate music stretching from the Jackson 5 to Disclosure, Donna Summer to Ce Ce Pennison (and everything else in between), this is the party for you.
For more information, take a look at their official Facebook page.
Soulset Festa- Avenida Morumbi, 5594
1) Pari Bar- Selvagem
Pari bar is located within walking distance of Republica station, and it boasts delicious food and drinks at decent prices. The place really comes into its own come the weekend, where on Saturday and Sunday nights music is pumped out from the bar’s entrance to those who’ve spilled out onto the square directly opposite.
Pari bar also attracts some very colourful characters! Just a few weeks ago my friend told me to watch out because a man was swinging on a huge hammock he’d just set up behind me…wearing only a thong, some eye liner and a pair of stiletto heels. My friend was worried that I was in danger of being stabbed in the back by his footwear!
There is one event that really stands out for me as a highlight of Pari bar’s schedule (usually held on the last Sunday of each month) when the Selvagem DJs take to the decks. These guys are my favourite DJs in São Paulo right now and definitely worth checking out if you like funk, disco and MPB (here is the Selvagem soundcloud and Facebook page). I rarely miss this event. It is free, the music is guaranteed to be good and you can expect a really laid back, unpretentious atmosphere…in fact, it is the perfect way to unwind with friends after a busy weekend. Just watch out for the men in thongs and stilettos swinging from hammocks!
Pari Bar- Praça Dom José Gaspar, 42
Well this will be my last post of 2014, so I’d like to thank you for checking out What About São Paulo this year…and wish you all a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. See you in 2015!
What do you think of this list? Have I missed anything out? Did I get these events in the right order?