The city of São Paulo is in many ways Brazil’s version of a big object hidden in plain sight. A megacity with a population of over 11 million (over 20 million if one considers the metropolitan regions), it is a major center of commerce, culture. São Paulo is 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 a beach. Therefore, it is no surprise that that is where they usually end up for their end of the year holidays – even the foreigners who have made São Paulo home.
Although beaches and rainforests are definitely not São Paulo´s landscape, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty to offer here during the festive seasons. This is especially true given how most 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 occupying too little space in São Paulo. When a good chunk of these people are gone, it’s like a breath of fresh (albeit smoggy) air.
The end of the year is the time I can walk slowly through the city and enjoy the different sights and sounds. Each neighborhood here has its own unique character and it´s wonderful to be able to admire the architecture or find a nice hidden restaurant without having to weave in and out of hundreds of people on a city block.
Additionally, with fewer people, there is less traffic and the subway and buses are not as crowded. Get yourself a bus pass and easily ride up and down São Paulo and enjoy the wonderful concrete mess.
2. ENJOY A GOOD RESTAURANT
São Paulo has some of the best restaurants in Brazil and has even been recognized internationally as a city which is growing in its restaurant culture. In fact, the São Paulo based D.O.M. is ranked in the top ten restaurants in the world. The city has even attracted big names like Jamie Oliver, whose restaurant is now open for business.
But while the dining may be fine, the waiting periods are not. The end of the year is when you can finally get that table you’ve been wanting and enjoy a good meal with your friends or loved ones.
Some of the fancier places may be out of my wallet´s reach, but I always enjoy checking out the restaurant which friends had to recommend during the year. São Paulo may still have a ways to go to catch up to the top restaurant cities, but it also does not disappoint with that it has to offer. The end of the year is my time to go food hunting.
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, such as this one, of which establishments stay open.
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 number of people that transit through it on any given weekend take a bit away from its charm. It’s very 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 welcome respite from the sea of tall buildings surrounding one from side to side. Two of my favorite 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 posh supermarkets and emporiums that may cater to some homesick yearnings 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 also enjoy street food fairs; the food is reasonably priced and there is usually some live music to go along with it. In the last few years, Food Truck parks have popped up all over the city. They are a great place to hang out and meet new people.
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. I prefer sitting in an emptier theatre and dealing with fewer lines to get into my movie.
Again, the focus is mobility, although one can enjoy these activities year-round, the end of the year provides an 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 easier to explore and get to know. Then, when everyone is back from their getaway spots you won´t feel so lost inside the megalopolis.
This is only a basic guide, of course, 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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