I believe São Paulo is filled with contrasts and my relationship with the city has always been divided between love and hate. It’s not easy to be paulistano and face hours of chaotic traffic, absurd climatic variations and the urban chaos on a daily basis. But as soon as I move away from the city I desperately miss the accent we insist doesn’t exist, the street food, all the 24/7 options, the neighborhood’s identities, the fast pace, urban art, foggy weather, skyscrapers, metros and of course, all my friends who stayed there.
In 2016 I moved to Panama City with a one-way ticket. A couple of months later I went back home to spend Mother’s Day there (how cute am I?) and only then I realized how much I missed São Paulo. I even missed the cold weather – ’cause living in a ever-lasting Summer can be exhausting, too. Who would know?
I made a huge effort to try and fit everything I wanted to do in just a few days: see all my friends, visit all my favorite spots, eat in some restaurants and still have some trips in between. I sure failed, but by doing so I came to realize there just so much to do there! So I came up with this list of things I miss the most about São Paulo which are, I believe, the best the city has to offer. Some of these attractions are very popular and some may be out from the regular travel itinerary, and they all make me love São Paulo even more ♡
1. Vila Madalena
When I left the last metro station at the green line I was really nostalgic regarding my old neighborhood. Vila Madalena has an unique, bohemian and laid back atmosphere. I just love it so much!
You can easily spend an afternoon there enjoying the brand new Parque da Vila (an open, urban park), taking pictures at Beco do Batman or just having good food in one of the many restaurants at Harmonia St. Or you can spend your evening there just pub crawling, and if that’s the case I recommend you start with Mercearia São Pedro, very close to the metro station, with cold and fair-priced beer and rodízio de pastel, a traditional Brazilian.
2. Augusta Street
Augusta is a place where you can see everything and to walk around this street should be considered an anthropological experience. If it’s a sunny afternoon, you should just seat in one of the bars with chairs outside and watch as life happens, tasting a nice beer. At Augusta you can also find clubs, different restaurants, beauty shops, cool shops and food trucks. Whoever says paulistas love the mall clearly doesn’t know Augusta Street!
3. Gelato Stores
You eat very well in São Paulo and I could make a post just about great restaurants that are worth a visit. It was in São Paulo that I got to know gelato, a typical Italian ice cream and solid evidence that they really know what they are doing at the kitchen. My very favorite gelato spot is Casa Elli, at Alameda Tietê.
Fun fact: during my trip to Italy I had, let’s say, around 34 gelatos and, by the end of each one, my boyfriend would say: I prefer the one from Casa Elli. Yes, it’s THAT good!
Other great gelato options are: Bacio di Latte, with more than 20 units in the city, including shopping malls and airports; Frida & Mina, in Pinheiros;and Stuzzi, with units in Vila Madalena, Campo Belo and Fradique Coutinho, inside the movie theater Cinesala. Speaking of which…
4. Street Movie Theaters
I just recently visited my first street movie theater and found out how amazing they can be. Besides having more B-side movies, I loved their proposal of rescuing our relationship with movie theaters, so different from the “fast food” experience we get from catching a movie at the mall. I loved and recommend it!
I visited Cinesala, a beautiful cinema with some couch as a chair that make you so comfortable you even forget you’re not home. A friend of mine also recommended me: Espaço Itaú de Cinema, Reserva Cultural, Cinesesc and Belas Artes – and I wanna check them all!
5. Ibirapuera Park
One of the most important parks in Brazil doesn’t have metro acess, but it’s quite easy to get there by bus coming from Brigadeiro Luis Antônio Avenue. The Ibirapuera Park is usually packed on weekends so, if you get a chance, prefer to spend some random weekday here. There’s lot to do: picnic, walk with your dog, roller skate, see one of the exhibitions from one of the many museums, like MAM, eat some açaí and even visit their planetarium (just make sure to check the opening hours).
Still talking about parks, you should check Independência Park, at Ipiranga and the Botanical Garden, close to Jabaquara metro station.
6. Rock Gallery
The famous Galeria do Rock is one of the most important places from my youth (gee, do I sound old!). Besides all the cool record, jewelry, poster, shoe and any other rock-related store, the gallery is meeting point for friends in a building full of identity downtown. I can’t even explain my relationship with this place, but it’s one of my favorite places in the city and I always have a great time there!
Did you know that São Paulo is the city with the biggest number of Japanese people outside Japan? And the coolest Japanese neighborhood in São Paulo is Liberdade, where you can find basically everything: a giant costemic store, craftwork supplies, geeky things for your house, besides a traditional karaoke and many restaurants. The neighborhood is beautiful and very traditional – even the traffic lights are customized in a way that will make you feel in the other side of the world! During the weekends, you should check the Feira da Liberdade, a street fair with delicious food and lovely little gifts.
8. Centro Cultural São Paulo
The Centro Cultural São Paulo is a cultural center right in front Vergueiro metro station and the kind of place you can go just to sit, sip some tea, read a book and think about life. Besides being this awesome space, there you’ll also find a library, different exhibitions, theater, dance and music shows, cinema, workshops and even a LP catalog. So many cool things combined! I remember that one time I caught a play in their basement – scary and incredible!
9. Livraria Cultura at Conjunto Nacional
I enjoy book stores so much that it seems unfair to talk about only one, but the Livraria Cultura at Conjunto Nacional really deserves a special place in our hearts. Besides being the biggest Brazilian book store, it is a real paradise for book lovers. The store is very close to Paulista Avenue, has a nice atmosphere and puffs available. A place that welcomes people who love to read already has our true love.
10. Paulista Avenue
Paulista Avenue is probably the most important symbol of the city, besides being a cultural and financial center. It is virtually close to everything in the city and it’s really easy to get there: it might be the place with most metro stations in the whole country. It’s surprising what you can find at Paulista: poetry reading in front of MASP, street artists, unique pieces of art. And now, on Sundays, Paulista Avenue is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., transforming itself in a real urban park. Great experience!
While I finish this list I can only say that I miss home so much and I’m sure that there is, indeed, so much love in São Paulo!
What about you, what’s your favorite corner in Sampa?