São Paulo, a city of over twelve million people, is Brazil’s largest economy and is an effervescent city as far as educational, cultural and leisure opportunities are concerned,” says Demian Topel, of Experimento. Not only is São Paulo the most populous city in Brazil, it also has the twelfth largest population of any city in the world. With an ever-growing, diverse society, the city has the privilege of hosting many prestigious events each year, such as the Brazilian Grand Prix and São Paulo Fashion Week; it is also home to the largest Gay Pride parade in the world.
“Did you know that by 2015 the city of São Paulo will hold the amazing length of 400km of special lanes for bike users?” asks Susanna Florissi at Torre de la Babel Idiomas. “We have 263km already. That means you can cycle just about everywhere,” she says. Susanna also offers some vital information for those who aren’t fans of peddling: “Travelling from one city to another will have to be done by bus as train services are not good in Brazil.” Brazil’s train service is almost non-existent, apart from a few bleak exceptions, including a train out to Bolivia called Trem da Morte or the Death Train, so called because of its history in transporting yellow fever victims.
Food is an indispensible part of Brazilian culture, and some of the best and most varied cuisine on the continent can be found in São Paulo. Susanna says, “Any restaurant in Vila Madalena will offer excellent Brazilian food,” while Paula Semer Prado, from CI Experience Brazil, reveals her passion for the city’s delicious cuisine. “It is unthinkable to come to Brazil and not try a coxinha [fried snack filled with chicken breast and Catupiry cheese], pão de queijo [oven cheese balls], or a pastel [fried pastry filled with mozzarella cheese and delights such as shrimp or chicken],” she enthuses. São Paulo boasts a wide selection of restaurants and street food, available to every kind of student budget.
The city is the main financial centre of South America, however this impressive reputation can invite some unfortunate stereotypes. “Some say that people who live in São Paulo only think about working… we are hardworking, sure, but there are lots of other things to do besides that,” reports Anna Silva, from Casa Branca Idiomas. “Avenida Paulista is a hub for business entrepreneurs but it’s also a beautiful avenue. There is a subway that cuts through it, which makes commuting easy, and there you can visit Trianon Park and the São Paulo Museum of Art,” she adds.
In terms of nightlife, party-goers need look no further, as São Paulo offers some of the most diverse evening entertainment in Latin America. “You must try the famous caipirinha!” says Paula, highlighting Brazil’s national cocktail. She adds, “You can dance all night long in the big clubs, pubs and bars along Vila Madalena.” Demian also recommends the famous party quarter of Vila Madalena and maintains it is the perfect place where “visitors can interact with the local Paulistanos [locals who were born in São Paulo] and there is a large choice of bars.”
“If you are planning to come to Brazil, it is important to check with the Brazilian consulate if you need a visa,” says Paula, “and, if so, which documents are required.” She notes, “Cheap options for accommodation are student residences and hostels,” while Demian adds, “From premium hostels to five-star hotels, there are options for all budgets.” He continues, “For travel inside the city, the best option is the subway.” firstname.lastname@example.org
“For those who are looking for good food and a nice place to visit, Mercado Municipal is a place you cannot miss!” recommends Paula Semer Prado at CI Experience Brazil. “It is famous for bolinho de bacalhau [deep fried pasties] and sanduíche de mortadela [sandwiches made with Italian sausage] as well as a huge variety of fresh and colourful fruits and vegetables.” She adds, “If you are looking for Italian cuisine you must go to Bexiga neighbourhood where you will find several places to enjoy amazing pasta. If you are interested in Japanese food you cannot miss Liberdade neighbourhood, where there is one of the biggest Japanese colonies outside of Japan.”
Anna Silva from Casa Branca Idiomas is also a fan of this covered marketplace which specialises in fresh produce and dried goods, as she highlights, “Mercado Municipal is where visitors can buy all kinds of fresh fruit as well as a delicious codfish sandwich!”
Demian Topel at Experimento has heaps of recommendations for São Paulo visitors. “Brazil is ‘barbeque country’. We are the world’s largest exporter of beef!” he enthuses. “The city has endless options of ‘kilo restaurants’ that range from typical Brazilian to Japanese and Chinese cuisines. You pay for the weight of the food you eat. I would also recommend feijoada [made with black beans and pork], which in São Paulo is only served on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Last but not least, we have the best pizza in the world…” concludes Demian. The latter might have something to do with the fact that 60 per cent of São Paulo’s population has some Italian ancestry, and so, unsurprisingly, the city is the second largest consumer of pizza in the world!
Quick culture tips
“Although in São Paulo there is a large urban environment, it is great to go to one of the beautiful parks across the city, such as Villa Lobos, Ibirapuera and Trianon Park. It’s an amazing opportunity to spend time there alone or with family and friends, exercise, relax or practise sports,” says Paula Semer Prado from CI Experience Brazil. Visitors may also be invited to support São Paulo’s football team, which is the most succesful in Brazil, having won 12 international titles. It is also one of only five teams to never have been relegated from the top tier in Brazil’s football league.
Demian Topel from Experimento says that students should visit an art fair close to São Paulo if they want to experience some local culture during theit time away from studying. “The neighbouring city of Embu des Arts, around 28 miles from downtown São Paulo, has a very interesting fair of art objects from all over the country at the weekends,” he says.
Five things to do in São Paulo
1. Local festivals
“For those who like festivals and celebrations, the city hosts several seasonal festivals like Festa Junina, Festa da Archiropita, Festa de São Vita and many others, where you can find authentic food, great music and lots of cultural experiences,” says Paula Semer Prado, from CI Experience Brazil. São Paulo has a full calendar of festivals throughout the year, offering visitors a unique insight into the vibrant customs of Brazil.
2. Hit the beach
It is easy to forget about the beautiful beaches surrounding the region of São Paulo when there is so much to do in the city. Demian Topel from Experimento says, “The north shore of the state has wonderful, white sand beaches where the Atlantic Forest meets the ocean, starting at a two-hour drive from São Paulo city (Camburi, Juquehy and Maresias beaches, for example). They are easily reachable by bus as well.”
3. A wealth of museums
Check out the many fascinating museums and galleries of São Paulo, with quirky exhibitions running across the year. “There are a great number of museums with exhibitions all year long from great national and international artists, going from the modern Vik Muniz and Os Gêmeos to the great geniuses such as Leonardo da Vinci and Picasso,” says Paula.
4. Branch out
“São Paulo city is surrounded by smaller cities that are great tourist destinations and you can easily get to them by bus. You can find cities with a European touch in the architecture, cuisine and with much colder weather than the capital, like Campos do Jordão or Monte Verde. Or you can visit our beautiful beaches such as Guarujá, Ubatuba and Ilha Bela,” recommends Paula. Alberto Löfgren State Park is a must-see in Campos do Jordão, a great option for those who want to spend a day having barbecues and enjoying the lakes and forests with long hikes and bike rides. If hiking is what visitors seek, Monte Verde offers some fantastic treks along the great mountains that adorn the city.
5. Looking at the language
“Currently, the Portuguese Language Museum is the only museum in the world dedicated to only one language; in this case it’s the Portuguese language. Inaugurated in March 2006, the museum has three main halls: a temporary exhibition, a permanent exhibition hall and an auditorium,” says Susanna Florissi at Torre de la Babel Idiomas. In the permanent exhibition hall, visitors can discover the history and the development of the Portuguese language.