Mega Metropolises of the World: Spotlight on Sao Paulo

6 May

Sao Paulo SkylineBrazil’s perhaps among one of the most alluring places I’ve visited. It’s certainly a very fascinating nation; one of the most populous in the Americas and, no doubt, a formidable force to be reckoned with on a global scale as an emerging economy.

It was just about a couple years ago I first set foot on Brazilian soil and I’ve been enamored since. Admittedly, being a fairly massive country (the largest and most populated in South America) I’ve only really had the chance to merely scratch its surface, visiting the commercial hub, Sao Paolo and, perhaps the most popular of its cities, Rio de Janeiro. And with the World Cup set to kickoff in just over a month and Summer Olympics in another couple years, the nation’s star’s never shone brighter. It’s an electrifying place.

But this entry is solely about Sao Paulo. I wanted to purposely focus on this megalopolis as I feel it doesn’t get the sort of credit it deserves. Most vacationers to Brazil typically skip Sao Paolo or, at best, use it as a connecting hub to coastal draws. And while sometimes notorious for its traffic congestions and ubiquitous helipads, another more fascinating side filled with character and charm exist. I highly recommend it if you’re into sampling some of the best cuisine in the country and if you want to get a decent dose of Brazilian culture.
Sao Paulo Theater

Arrival in Sao Paolo is at Guarulhos International Airport (GRU). No metro service connects to the city center, so be prepared to hire a taxi. The journey into town is roughly around 45 mins w/ light to moderate traffic. English isn’t widely spoken, so it may be a good idea to learn some Portuguese common phrases prior to your journey to ensure your movements are just a tad more fluid.

Check into your hotel at uber-hip Hotel Unique which features rooftop Skye Bar & restaurant and, spectacular near panoramic views of the city. It’s truly breathtaking. Even if you don’t happen to be lodging at the hotel, I highly suggest making a night of dinner and drinks there (as my companion and I did), or try afternoon cocktails just before sunset so that you can fully take in the experience.
If you’d rather experience Sao Paolo like a local, like my companion and I did, I would suggest renting an apartment. In a world where apartment rentals via AirBnB has become extremely popular, it should be a fairly straightforward task to accomplish. Vila Madalena is a very charming neighborhood to the west of the city center and should make a good choice for a place to roost. You can make seamless connections to it via Metro (Vila Madalena terminus on Line #2/Yellow Line). Tons of restaurants abound; most of them quite superb.

Sao Paulo Metro

Sao Paulo Metro


Sao Paolo’s metro system is very easy to navigate and one of the better ones I’ve experienced. It runs efficiently and frequently (impressively so; more than can be said of several others in a metropolis of its size). It’s also very clean and safe. Of course with anything and wherever you happen to be, common sense safety measures supersede and thus ought to be exercised.

There is so much to do and see in Sao Paolo. First off, kill two birds with a stone by immersing in culture and getting physical. Head to Parque do Ibirapuera where you have a good selection of museums in the park to visit. Make a note not to miss the exceptional Museo do Afro Brasil. It features an impressive collection of works by Afro Brazilians, their history, culture and plight. When you’re done soaking up some culture, enjoy the sprawling park on rented wheels (bike rentals available for a nominal fee) or on foot. Or, you may simply choose to find a comfortable spot on one of the pristine lawns and enjoy a picnic.

After you’re through at the park and you still have the energy, hop on the metro and head to Sao Paolo’s commercial center on Avenida Paulista. There you can do a bit of shopping and perhaps grab a bite to eat. While on Paulista, pop by popular bookshop, Livraria Cultura and just further down the road on Avenida Paulista, check out Museu De Arte De Sao Paulo, MASP.

Ibirapuera Park

Ibirapuera Park


One of my favorite spots in town besides a few others mentioned earlier is Liberdade (Metro Stop: Liberdade, Line #1), home to one of the largest Japanese communities outside of Japan. A decent amount of other Asian populations also live here. It’s an experience on to its own and you can easily spend an entire afternoon there. Make sure you come with your appetite, lots tasty delights await.

From there, carry on to Centro, Sao Paolo’s downtown and take in the sites there. Don’t miss
Catedral da Sé de São Paulo, (Sao Paulo Cathedral) and nearby Sao Bento monastery. Cap off the afternoon at Sao Paulo’s massive downtown market, Mercado Municipal de Sao Paulo. A must.

On the surface, a city like this can be intimidating. With the right approach and attitude, however, you might just find that there’s a gentler, more endearing side to it beyond the overwhelming façade.

Boa Viagem!

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