Traveling. Possibly the greatest gift you can give yourself.
Traveling as a gift, one of the best acts of service you can do for anyone I would say.
I was blessed earlier this year by an incredible human that gifted me with a trip to one of the world’s largest cities, São Paulo in Brazil.
I never knew that this city is the 3rd largest metropolis on earth with an estimated 20 million people living there! I recently learned that there are about 1 million Germans living there, as well as sizable Chinese, Armenian, Lithuanian, Greek, Korean, Polish and Hungarian communities; and, most recently, growing numbers of Peruvians, Bolivians, Haitians and Africans. Plus, São Paulo also has the largest openly gay community in Latin America.
I travelled via our national carrier, South African Airways during a non-stop flight that lands you at Guarulhos International Airport about 30km from São Paulo. From the air, São Paulo looks like a monster. Enormous, intimidating and, at first glance at least, no great beauty.
For the average visitor, it can be hard to know what to do in São Paulo. It’s not the most tourist-friendly city because it’s spread out, parts of it are unsafe, and it doesn’t have one central location where all the action can be found, but I have learned and discovered so much about this city during my trip that I would love to share with you.
I could focus on the bistros and gourmet restaurants that make this city a world-renowned foodie haven, or that the city buzzes with underground bars and 24/7 clubbing scenes, or that I have never eaten better red meat like I have in São Paulo and that they make the best caprahinas.
But I much rather focus on the city’s culture and art scene.
When you arrive in São Paulo, the amount of paintings on the walls are overwhelming.
Graffiti is all over garage doors, house facades, and business fronts, and most of it is honestly an eyesore.
São Paulo is considered one of the best cities in the world for the development of creativity in street art. The majority of the city’s streets are filled with wonderful examples of graffiti, especially in the city center, but for some of the best, I recommend you visit the area of Vila Madalena.
São Paulo also has many great museums, but most of the locals recons that MASP (Museum of Art in São Paulo) is the city’s best art museum. Apart from the fact that it holds the finest collection of Western art in Latin America and hosts fantastic temporary exhibitions, the architecture of this building is breathtaking.
Talking about architecture, São Paulo’s architecture showcases the diversity of a city made up of unusual juxtapositions. Much of the more formal social life of São Paulo residents takes place on rooftops across the city like the beautiful Hotel Unique that we visited for sundowners with a breathtaking view of the city lights.
As much as São Paulo is known as a bustling business metropolis during the week, I realized that the city relaxes during the weekend, with families enjoying the sun in parks or strolling down Paulista Avenue, which now is closed on Sundays for cars.
I actually passed Paulista Avenue the Saturday during a quick shopping spree, but wasn’t much charmed. It’s a wide avenue with a lot of shops in massive buildings. But when I passed there on a Sunday after strolling through the parks I immediately fell in love with it. Not only are all the shops open, but there’s no cars allowed and the street is full of people, stands, music and more! It’s like a weekly summer festival and I really liked it.
If I could give anyone advice about visiting São Paulo it would be: Remove your ’90s perception of São Paulo as polluted, dirty, dangerous, and dysfunctional. Replace with artsy, exciting, emerging, trendy, and delicious. Because if the 3 days I spent in São Paulo was part of the best what the city has to offer, I would love to go back and venture around more and travel even to Rio!