São Paulo is getting a facelift. It is easy to understand why Brazil’s largest city of 12 million people, was once known as a commercial city catering solely to business people: because that’s exactly what it was.
Over the past few decades, São Paulo began to slowly reinvent itself, making it more livable for its citizens using its natural resources, and began subtly courting tourists with its global spin on São Paulo’s distinctly Brazilian culture. It worked. São Paulo transformed itself from a flyover city into a destination in its own right. Leisure tourism is up 50% over the past 5 years thanks to São Paulo’s urban renewal that touts medical tourism, Michelin starred restaurants, bustling nightlife, and world-class museums.
If you only had time to visit Avenida Paulista (Paulista Avenue), you’d get a good representation of São Paulo all on one street. Visiting on a Sunday, the Avenue is closed to cars, so you can hop on a bike down São Paulo’s most famous thoroughfare. Otherwise, take a stroll town this storied street, which depending on the time of year, plays host to the Gay Pride Parade, and the Sylvester Road Race, and on any given day it’s not unusual to spot a political protest. This commercial corridor headquarters financial institutions, and features both street and retail shopping. Spend some time in the areas buttressing the Avenue, Parque Tenente Siqueira Campos (Trianon Park) that mimics a tranquil rainforest just off the Avenue on one side and MASP, South America’s most famous fine arts museum on the other. MASP is home to many famous European artworks, but also features a large collection of impressive Brazilian and Afro Brazilian pieces as well.
Vila Madalena, arguably São Paulo’s chicest and coolest neighborhood is famous for its eclectic street art, graffiti and art galleries, but was once little village owned by Portuguese farmhands and accessible only on foot or by horse. Now easily reached by public transportation or ride share, you can wander through Batman Alley to see some of the neighborhood’s famous murals and street art, then pop into Bar Samba https://www.yelp.com/biz/bar-samba-são-paulo for some of the city’s best Samba dancing. If you’re looking for retail therapy, there are some lovely boutiques here that feature artwork and crafts from local Brazilian artisans.
Looking for shopping, Rua Oscar Freire (Oscar Freire Street) is one of South America’s most elegant shopping districts featuring high end local and international designers, restaurants and ice cream parlors. The best kept secret, there were a few international bookstores, which are increasingly hard to find in the Americas outside of an airport, and each had copies of our #ForeverFlotus’ book “Becoming.”
I hopped off the plane craving some Brazilian rice and beans, and couvee (Brazilian’s version of collard greens), but I quickly learned that traditional Brazilian fare is harder to find here, because this city has a gastronomic identity all its own.
Casa de Porco https://acasadoporco.com.br (House of the Pig) a 2017 and 2018 Michelin starred restaurant is consistently voted one of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, and for good reason: it’s a carnivore’s dream. The Brazilian born chef creates a mixture of dishes from the entirely of the pig; and I’m talking about cooking up everything from the rooter to the tooter, and the innards, and the skin; imagine your Granny’s cooking with a Y2k flair. Think pork sushi, or pig’s feet stew, everything you can imagine and more that can be made from the pig, is. If you abstain from meat like I do, there are plenty of vegetarian options created to mimic the pork dishes. The veggie options and the craft cocktails were quite good, making it easy to accompany your flesh eating friends to this restaurant, because this is a dining sensation for pork eaters that truly should not be missed.
If you’re up for a little jaunt outside the city, hop in a rideshare, which are insanely inexpensive, hightail it to Restaurant Mocoto, an unassuming little shack about 30 minutes outside of the city center, that houses a Michelin starred restaurant https://mocoto.com.br/en/. Helmed by Chef Rodrigo Oliviera, who is super easy on the eyes, this eatery is one of the World’s Best 50 Restaurants. The restaurant, started by Rodrigo’s father in 1974, is now a gastronomic must and features signature dishes of feijoada (on Saturdays), tapioca cheese cubes with pork, homemade pork sausages flambéed with cachaça, along with poetry inscribed walls and Brazilian artwork, along with a caipirinha bar featuring over 100 varieties of cachaça. If you can’t make it to São Paulo, Chef Rodrigo will be opening a stateside location in West Hollywood later this year!
Your visit to São Paulo wouldn’t be complete without trying these typical dishes:
Mortadella Sandwiches- these are huge stacks of mortadella sausage (roughly a half pound) which must be folded in half to avoid the obvious density of a half pound of meat, provolone cheese, sourdough bread, mayonnaise and Dijon mustard.
Feijoada- The national dish of Brazil, is a black bean stew served with various cuts of meat and pork sausage served on Saturdays. Head over to one of Boteco São Bento’s locations for this famous dish.
Pão de queijo- the famous Brazilian cheese bread which can be eaten for breakfast or just as a snack. You’ll find them on every street corner or deli and many restaurants throughout São Paulo.
People flying down to Brazil for medical procedures is nothing new. Think the “Brazilian Butt Lift.” São Paulo is undeniably the leader in medical and healthcare services in Brazil, and has the most accredited private hospitals in Latin America. Aside from the typical butt lift, breast implants and the various cosmetic surgeries readily available, including facial fillers, you can easily obtain eye surgeries, fertility treatments, dental treatments and implants, bariatric surgeries, even chemotherapy at a fraction of the cost of the treatments available in North America. Plan in advance by doing your research for the more invasive procedures. https://www.health-tourism.com/medical-tourism-brazil/sao-paulo/ However if you are just looking for a little “refresher,” the hotel concierge can easily refer you to an outpatient clinic or stop into one of the many “clinics” available for a quick touch up, such as Espaco Pop Beauty http://espacopopbeauty.com.br.
Where to Stay:
Renaissance Hotel and Spa is a four star hotel featuring one of the best locations in the city. Located just off Avenida Paulista, this hotel offers a spa featuring vegan products, the largest fitness center in the São Paulo hotel community, several bars, a sushi bar, a world class restaurant Terraco Jardin and walking tours offered by the hotel. Looking to book a restaurant, tour or otherwise, let the hotel’s “Navigators” sort that for you. https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/saobr-renaissance-sao-paulo-hotel/
How to get there:
LATAM offers non-stop flights daily to São Paulo from several North American cities, with more cities added monthly. LATAM is in the middle of a rebranding push and its evident they are making their mark in this market. Latam offers VIP lounges, new fleet of planes with bright, and spacious cabins with onboard entertainment https://www.latam.com/en_us/