Until Singapore Airlines started flying to Sao Paulo in late March this year, Brazil, as a destination, has been rather inaccessible to many Singaporeans. The flying time takes more than 20 hours, with a stopover at one of the European cities.
For most travellers, the preferred holiday destination in Brazil is, undoubtedly, Rio de Janeiro (See Biz Daily’s coverage on 21/22 April 2010). However, Sao Paulo, the economic powerhouse of the country and the world’s sixth-largest city, has its own merits and attractions. Sao Paulo may lack the beaches that Rio is famous for, but its museums, theatres, shopping and dining are among the best in Brazil and that is something that the locals or Paulistas, as they are known, are immensely proud of.
Taking into account the size of the city, planning one’s itinerary is important if one has limited time to enjoy this sprawling metropolis. Biz Daily provides some recommendations.
Ibirapuera Park (Avenida Pedro Alvares Cabral)
This is a gigantic park that typifies the character and soul of the city. Paulistas can be seen running, walking, biking or merely taking in the sights and sounds at the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Modern Art Concerts. There is an open air concert every Sunday. Admission to this park is free.
Patio de Colegio (Patio de Colegio 84)
As you tour the downtown area to admire the colonial buildings and the imposing Catedral Metopolitana (largest church in Sao Paulo), make a stop at the Patio de Colegio. When the Jesuits first arrived in 1554, they established a village that eventually grew to be Sao Paulo. Almost a hundred years later, the mud huts gave way to a large building and a church, which is known today as the Patio de Colegio (Portuguese for School Yard). It is now recognised as a landmark of the foundation of the city. The Patio de Colegio is home to a library of over 20,000 religious and historical books. There is a small café inside that serves coffee, of course, and local snacks.
There are many interesting museums to visit in this city. If time is not on your side, do not miss the two favourites of most tourists.
Football Museum (Praca Charles Miller, S/N; Estadio do Pacaembu)
The Football Museum was inaugurated in September 2008 by Brazil’s most famous football son, Pele. If you are a football buff, this is a must-go-to place. It covers the history of football in depth and you get to be acquainted with all the Brazilian football heroes. Since Brazil won the World Cup five times, there is one room devoted to photographic and video exhibits of the World Cup years.
The Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo (Avenida Paulista, 1578 Bela Vista)
The Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo (Sao Paulo Museum of Art), located at Paulista Avenue, is recognised for its collection of Western art that is regarded as the finest in Latin America. It also displays Brazilian art, prints and drawings in a concrete and glass structure supported by two lateral beams over an extensive freestanding space.
Sao Paulo is a haven for shopping especially for things and fashions that are distinctively Brazilian. The Jardins neighbourhood is full of high end fashion boutiques. For international styles and brands, make a beeline for Rua Augusta or Alameda Lorena.
There is also a quirky neighbourhood called Vila Madalena. This is an upper middle class area, which had been given a new lease of life and now hosts an eclectic mix of bars, restaurants, art galleries and shops that sell fashion apparel and accessories. These shops are in terraced houses along narrow streets. The main attraction for tourists as they drive through is the graffiti-covered alleys, unofficially known as the gallery of street graffiti. Many of the drawings are clearly the work of artists, not vandals. It is of little wonder that this is the place for artists, writers and intellectuals to hang out today.
Central Market (Rua da Cantareira)
Central Market (Mercado Central), which opened in 1933, is the place to go to savour the ethnic cuisine and food culture of Brazil. Even the beautiful stained glass windows inside this airy and clean building of more than 300 stalls highlight this. They depict the different origins of food products and scenes of coffee plantations and cattle farms. The first impression that strikes you is this colourful array of food products displayed in different sectors. There are fresh fruits and vegetables, spices, nuts, wine, meats and the popular bacalhau (salted dried codfish). Even the King of Norway came to see the bacalhau stores in 2005. While there, head for the Hocca Bar. It is more of a food restaurant, noted for its pastel de bacalhau (codfish turnover) and the mortadella (filled with Italian cured sausages) sandwich. Be prepared to wait for these delicious snacks; eat them while standing and admire the stained glass panels of the market. If you’re hungry for more, then troop upstairs to the mezzanine floor where there are more restaurants to choose from.
Dining at Figueira Rubaiyat (Rua Haddock Lobo, 1738)
The city has many wonderful restaurants, but one that literally “towers” over the rest is the Figueira Rubaiyat. This huge restaurant takes its name from the imposing centennial fig tree, which is also eight metres across, standing in the centre of this highly-acclaimed dining place. Its specialty is meat, which comes from the owner’s private cattle farm, so quality is assured. It also serves pretty good fish dishes and has lovely desserts. Service is impeccable. Our group concurred that the food was fantastic despite the steep prices.
Getting there: Singapore Airlines flies three times weekly to Sao Paulo.