A few months ago, my sister Hannah and brother-in-law Andy came to Brazil for about a week. When I met up with them in Rio, they’d already checked out the Falls de Iguazu, and the last leg of their journey brought them over to São Paulo. I was quite keen to show them around my adopted city…despite sensing they weren’t really all that excited about it, having been seduced by Rio’s beauty!
With the media descending onto São Paulo next month for the start of the World Cup, I invited Hannah to this blog to give her take on this city from a tourist’s perspective. For those of you who don’t know my sister, let me introduce you to her. As well as running a business with her husband, she is a freelance sports presenter who presented the swimming events at Aquatics Centre during the 2012 Olympics. She loves to travel, bake and exercise, and she actually met her husband on the Sky One TV show Gladiators back in 2009. She was a contestant on the show and he was working as a fitness instructor.
To be honest, it was never a city I ever thought I would visit when exploring Brazil. Before arriving, I imagined the highlight of my time here would come from exploring Rio, its beaches and the newly renovated Maracanã football stadium. As I was looking at our itinerary from the airport in the UK, I was wondering what there possibly could be to see in São Paulo other than the financial district, and the mass population of 22 million people. I was convinced it would just be overcrowded and similar to a lot of other cities, busy with no personal space.
Well…I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting at all!
What were your first impressions of the city?
Several minutes before landing in São Paulo, the pilot advised us to look out of the window. I remember being overwhelmed as I looked down onto the concrete jungle underneath. It seemed to go on for miles! This then made me wonder just how long our transfer from the airport to the hotel would take!
When driving towards our hotel I was genuinely surprised by the quirky buildings I saw, which contrasted in size, shape and architectural design. Actually, this was a side to the city I found intriguing for the whole time I was there.
What was the highlight of your time there?
The highlight of my time in São Paulo was going to a traditional samba club in the Vila Madalena district. Once inside the venue I was more than happy to watch the locals dancing extremely well, and to soak up the atmosphere with a caipirinha in hand! From there we took a taxi ride to a 24 hour restaurant (Estadao), and the taxi driver had a mobile karaoke in the car. I remember laughing so much as we belted out the songs, and at the same time being aware of the huge skyscrapers whizzing by us. I knew that this was a moment I wouldn’t forget!
I really enjoyed walking down Avenida Paulista one Saturday evening too. There we saw an array of street performers, including adrummer playing on several plastic buckets (incredibly well, it has to be said!). People were stood listening, drinking beer and talking to their friends on the street.
Then we were distracted by the naked protesters cycling along the streets. I found this VERY random! My brother assured me this was a one off, and people don’t usually cycle around the city without their clothes on!
Would you recommend the city to other foreigners?
Absolutely! I had a fantastic experience in São Paulo, which was in no small part down to visiting my brother who knows the city well. For this reason I saw the beautiful parks, local restaurants and some really unique, thriving areas. In order to get the most out of your visit I would recommend doing some thorough research into where you want to explore in the city…or even booking a guide for a few days to experience the ‘real’ São Paulo. It will certainly take you more than a day to view the best bits!
When I took my flight out of the city a few days after arriving, I left with a great impression of the place. I appreciated the diversity and utter randomness it provided! The Estadao restaurant was quite simply amazing, with so many people flocking into the place despite the early hour of the morning we were there. São Paulo seems to be a city that never sleeps!
I also felt like I caught a glimpse of what life here is really about for its residents when I survived a rush hour metro journey (admittedly, this would have been very daunting if I was on my own).
To sum up, São Paulo is fun, vibrant and it had a completely random edge to it! In fact, I’d say that if you go to the right places you will probably want to stay longer!
Have a question for Hannah about São Paulo? She can be found on Twitter @hannah1east
Would you agree with what Hannah said about the city? How was your experience here as a tourist?