The city of São Paulo is in many ways Brazil’s version of a big object hiding in plain sight. A mega-city with a population of over 11 million (over 20 million if one considers the metropolitan regions), it is a major center of commerce, culture, and quite simply one of the most important cities in Latin America. Yet, when most foreigners think of Brazil they imagine tropical forests, and sipping Caipirinhas on the beach, so it’s no surprise that that is where they usually end up for their end of the year holidays – even the ones who have made São Paulo home.
Although beaches and rain forests are definitely not São Paulo, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty to offer here during the festive seasons, especially since mostly everyone is away and the city becomes more manageable. Here are five things I love to do in São Paulo during the holidays.
1. TAKE A WALK THROUGH THE CITY
Since most people do enjoy going to the beach for the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year’s, I take advantage of a city which is operating at half capacity, or perhaps I should call it the right capacity. There are simply too many people in São Paulo occupying too little space – when they are gone it’s like a breath of fresh (albeit smoggy) air. The end of the year is the time I can walk slowly down Avenida Paulista and enjoy the different sights and sounds. I can also head down to areas I love like old city downtown, or the Japanese influenced Liberdade or the Italian Bixiga neighborhoods – there is more time and walking space to admire the architecture and details of these unique spots in the city. Additionally, with less people and traffic, the subway and buses are not such a hassle. Get yourself a bus pass and easily ride up and down São Paulo to enjoy the wonderful concrete mess – and without all the people making it messier.
2. ENJOY A GOOD RESTAURANT
São Paulo has some of the best restaurant in Brazil, and has even been recognized internationally as a city which is growing in its restaurant culture. The Sao Paulo based D.O.M. restaurant is ranked in the top ten in the world, and the city has recently attracted big names like Jamie Oliver whose restaurant is now open for business. But while the restaurants may be fine, the waiting periods are not. The end of the year is the time that you can finally get that table you’ve wanted and enjoy a good meal with your friends or loved ones. I always enjoy checking out a new Italian or Mineiro restaurants which friends have recommend during the year. Though there is still more variety needed in restaurant choices, São Paulo will not disappoint with what it already has to offer. Of course one must consider that some of these restaurants do close their doors for Christmas and up to New Year, but usually someone will publish a list of which ones will stay open such as this one.
3. GO PARK HOPPING
São Paulo’s Ibirapuera Park has been named one of the best urban green spaces in the world by The Guardian. Indeed it is a splendid place, but the amount of people that transit through it on any given weekend take a bit away from its charm. It’s easy to get clogged up on the main strips which are occupied by joggers, rollerbladers, bikers, skaters, and walkers. When the city is empty, the park is empty, and that means more time to appreciate the delicate beauty of the nature one can find there. But wait, Ipirapuera is only one of the more than 100 parks you can find around the city. Some are very large and others small, but they mostly all offer a welcomed respite from the sea of tall buildings surrounding one from side to side. Two of my favourite parks are The Vila Lobos Park and The Aguá Branca Park. You can read my blog post about Aguá Branca Park here.
4. GET COZY AT HOME WITH SOME FOOD AND DRINK
Since São Paulo is a business center, it receives a lot of business tourists; therefore, it has a wider selection of international products than many other cities in Brazil. There are many fine supermarkets and emporiums that may cater to some homesick yearning for foods or drinks you may not have had in a while. The end of the year is the best time to do some special grocery shopping at a relaxed pace and then sit at home watching a movie and filling up. For me, some pancakes or french toast for breakfast are usually in order, but that’s only after I sleep in for as long as my little heart desires.
5. GO CULTURAL
São Paulo has a large number of galleries, museums, theatres, music bars, and community events, which operate year round. Take advantage of this more laid back time of the year to go to them! A quick search through Catraca Livre or Guia da Semana will pull up various leisure options around the city, and many are free and well organized. I enjoy street food fairs; the food is reasonably priced and there is usually some live music to go along with it. Going to the movies is also pleasant at this time of the year; São Paulo not only has huge state of the art multiplexes but many small beautifully constructed art house cinemas. Again, the focus is mobility, although one can enjoy these activities year round, the end of the year provides and opportunity to enjoy them without traffic, lines, and huddled masses.
There is no denying that São Paulo is a very stressful city during its usual hustle and bustle workdays and frantic weekends. It is a city that simply does not stop, unless you are stuck in traffic, in which case you will remain stuck for quite a while.
But, São Paulo has its silver lining – during the holidays, while everyone is away, it can be explored and enjoyed freely. This is only a basic guide, but I hope it inspires some of you who will be stuck in the city for the holidays to get out and make the most of it. If you have any tips or suggestions about things to do in São Paulo for the holidays, please share below.
P. Ray 2015
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