Article by Anna Patrick
Known for being the largest city in South America, São Paulo can be intimidating to those looking to explore this hot Latin American destination for the first time. However, native resident Roberto Sfeir shows us that the city is just as accessible for those twenty-something’s looking for a good night on the town as it is to regular visitors returning to soak up Brazilian culture in Brazil’s largest city. I recently spoke to Brazilian Roberto Sfeir, who gave me his insider views on São Paulo living.
Why go to São Paulo? What does the city offer?
“São Paulo is one of the biggest cities in the world, good for restaurants, shopping malls, clubs and bars. It is a city that never stops. You can always eat anywhere; it has a high level of international food, high-class health care and good hotels. The best way to get around is by having a car or by taxi. Brazilian people are very open to foreign people because [they are] always happy to meet someone new.”
What is a typical day for a resident of São Paulo?
“During the week, work. During the weekends, hanging out with friends and family — a lot of time with family. Brazilian people are very close to their family members and attending social events such as movies, bowling and going to clubs.”
Where is the best place to live within São Paulo?
“The best place to live, based on statistics, is Mooca. ‘Paulistanos,’ people who live in the city of São Paulo, made this statistic. Mooca is a neighborhood with a lot of green areas, very secure, with beautiful views and close by there are shopping malls and supermarkets.”
Known as one of the fastest growing districts in São Paulo, Mooca is home to nearly 65,000 inhabitants, and has profited through recent growth in the construction industry. As Sfeir mentioned, the shopping malls have contributed to the increase in economic prosperity in the area, which has captured the interest of investors worldwide. Reflecting the city’s diversity, the population in Mooca is a mix of Spanish, Portuguese, Croatian, Japanese, Bolivian, Peruvian, and Lebanese, with the predominant residents being Italian. Mooca is an attractive place to live in the city not only because of its status as an industrial suburban neighborhood on the rise, but also because of the profitable opportunities in the real estate market that draws investors and international prospective buyers.
As for “must-sees” in the city, Sfeir recommends Ibirapuera Park, Moema, Vila Madalena, and the Pinheiros region. Ibirapuera Park is São Paulo’s principle urban park, reminiscent of New York’s Central Park. Walkers and joggers take advantage of the large open areas and many locals and tourists visit the park for leisure or to go to the convention center located there. Some of the features of Ibirapuera Park include the Obelisk of São Paulo, Cicillo Matarazzo Pavillion, and the old city hall. Five minutes away from the park is Moema, a district that has seen a growth in population since the 1970s. It is the home of one of the largest and oldest shopping malls in Brazil, as well as the Museum of Modern Art. Moema also holds many of São Paulo’s notable events, like São Paulo Fashion Week. Vila Madalena is a neighborhood located in Western São Paulo, and is renowned for its bohemian art and culture as well as its nightlife. The graffiti-covered neighborhood boasts an array of bars, restaurants, and galleries. The Pinheiros area is considered the new downtown area of São Paulo. Known as the wealthiest district in São Paulo, many of São Paulo’s elite call Pinheiros home, including four former mayors of the São Paulo. Pinheiros is also the location of many international company’s headquarters, and is a great spot for seeing the most elegant neighborhoods in the city.
When it comes to the nicest restaurants in São Paulo, Sfeir recommends going to Jardins. Jardins covers multiple districts in the city, and boasts exclusive restaurants, hotels, and nightlife.
Those looking for an authentic Brazilian meal and older atmosphere, Sfeir recommends Restaurante Fuentes, located in the Centro district. For a refined and romantic atmosphere, Sfeir says Leona is a “very beautiful and sophisticated place.” As far as the best Italian in the city, Sfeir cites Terraço Itália located on Avenida Ipiranga. For French Cuisine, Dois Coppe. Sfeir says four great Japanese restaurants in the city are Jam, Koi, Nakombi, and Gendai. For great Chinese, try China Lake and for great Spanishfood, try Luz Molinos. For those looking for great pizza in São Paulo, Castelões is the way to go.
Sfeir’s otherrestaurant recomendations in the city include Fogo de Caho, Varanda, Jardineira, Rubayat, Barbacoa, Gero, Família Manchini, Dom Piero, ViccoNostro, Fasano, Sonho de Amarelo, Cantina do Sargento, Bolinha, Dudinha, Dona Lucinha, Colher de Pau, Mocotó, Bexiga, Dom Curro, Marcel, and Pimentel.
What about nightlife in São Paulo?
When it comes to the local nightlife, Sfeir says visitors can expect “a lot of drinks and a lot of fun!” Because São Paulo attracts international visitors and also caters to a younger native crowd, entertainment is one of São Paulo’s biggest industries. Sfeir recommends the Moema neighborhood as one of the best nightlife spots for its bars and shows. He says many of the locals call it the “Ipanema of São Paulo.” For visitors looking to immerse themselves in Brazilian culture, Sfeir recommends Vila Madalena, “for its bars and salsa.” For those looking for a more upscale club experience, Sfeir says Pinheiros and Itaim offer a wealthier club atmosphere. Sfeir cites the Pink Elephant, Royal, and Mokaias some of the most popular clubs in the city. The Pink Elephant, located in Dacon Tower in Jardins, serves an international VIP crowd. Royal, located in the Centro district, caters to a crowd of jetsetters and fashionable young people with its dimly lit atmosphere and large dance floor. Originally a Miami club, Mokai nightclub came to São Paulo exuding an essence of hip-hop and celebrity lifestyle, with DJ Kaskade and Lady Gaga having been on the guest list.
When is the best time to come to São Paulo?
According to Sfeir, “the summertime, November and December, or January and February” are the best times to visit the city. “In February, there is a carnival in Brazil which is very fun and wild,” says Sfeir.
Typically held 40 days before the Catholic holiday of Lent, Carnival is held in Brazil and is the largest celebration of its kind. Traditionally held in Rio de Janerio, Carnival attracts tourists from all over the world and offers visitors a chance to celebrate with locals by experiencing Brazilian music, dancing, parades, and Carnival balls. Carnival in 2011 is taking place March 5-8, and February 18-21 in 2012, both in Rio de Janerio.
Anna Patrick is a Communications major at Boston College and a frequent commuter between Boston and the Washington DC metropolitan area in Northern Virginia. A seasoned traveler, Patrick has lived in London and traveled extensively throughout Mexico, Canada, Austria, Germany, Italy, France, the Czech Republic, Greece, Scotland, England and Turkey.