By Sarah Coursey, Editor

Downtown São Paulo, photo by ESL Teachers Board.
Downtown São Paulo, photo by ESL Teachers Board.

RIO DE JANEIRO – São Paulo is an explosion of urban sensibility. Where else can you sit in traffic while listening to traffic radio, searching perhaps, for a particular Lebanese restaurant, at one o’clock in the morning? Or perhaps you are looking to buy a specific Korean silk panel that is found either here or in the garment district of Seoul. The 24-hour vibe of the city is worth exploring, so why not extend it to 48 hours? We’ve broken down a weekend’s dose of culture and entertainment in this cosmopolitan world capital.

The first tip to get the full experience of São Paulo is to get a few nights of good sleep before your arrival. Restaurants serve until three in the morning and nightclubs with ‘after hours’ events can keep you dancing until noon the next day, so pacing oneself is essential.

Friday night can take a relaxed start in the city’s Italian neighborhood, Bela Vista. An early dinner and live music will set the weekend off right. Try Speranza on 1004 Rua Treze de Maio for authentic thin-crust pizza. For classic Italian cuisine, try the restaurant Walter Mancini Restaurante on 126 Rua Avandhandava. Be sure to reserve a table as both are very popular on the weekends.

From there, a short cab ride to the neighboring Pinheiros will bring you to Villaggio, where Brazilian musicians take to the stage at ten o’clock. You can book tickets in advance on their website.

Saturday can be spent leisurely sightseeing in the city center. São Paulo is 455 years old, and its historic heart can be visited comfortably on foot. Head to Praça da Sé to visit the neo-gothic Sé Cathedral and marvel at its stained glass windows, depicting the history of Catholicism in Brazil.

Next walk north to the Pátio do Colégio, originally a Jesuit college and now home to the Historical Museum. Its seventeenth-century, white-washed church, surrounding buildings and tower are topped with beautiful terracotta. The last stop before lunch is Mosteiro de São Bento, a Benedictine Monastery, with its intricate clay statue decoration and German-made organ.

For a lunch with Middle Eastern flavor, head to Bom Retiro, just north of the city center. Check out Falafel Malka, located inside a gallery of shops on 345 Rua José Paulino (Store 21/A). They are famous for gorgeous falafel fried on the spot and served up with Syrian bread, Japanese eggplant and tahini sauce.

Spend the afternoon working off the calories on Rua Oscar Freire in Jardins, the chic uptown neighborhood with SP’s most exclusive boutiques. There are many cafes along the street to make pit stops for coffee and snacks should your shopping energy falter.

Liberdade, the Japanese neighborhood of São Paulo, photo by Caio do Valle.
Liberdade, the Japanese neighborhood of São Paulo, photo by Caio do Valle.

Saturday night in São Paulo offers a plethora of choice. If rock is your thing, check out the CB Bar, located in a massive hangar that has been painted red and black. They have pinball machines, a jukebox, out of this world burgers and a live band on weekends. It will cost between R$20 and R$25 to get in, and a top tip is that Guinness, oddly, is the best bang for your beer buck.

For traditional Brazilian music, there is live forro’ at Canto da Ema on 364 Avenida Brigadeiro Faria Lima in São Bernardo do Campo.

The Sunday market in Liberdade, the Little Japan of SP, is an absolute must. Try the yakitori, a Japanese barbecue kebab, and lamen, a noodle originating in China served with broth and vegetables. The laid-back Aska Lamen, located on 466 Rua Galvão Bueno, is the place to go for lamen, and serves lunch until 2:30PM. A heaping bowl will set you back between R$10 and R$12.

End the afternoon with a trip to the city’s well-stocked modern art museum, the MAM. With a lovely sculpture garden, permanent collection and revolving exhibits, not to mention stunning Brazilian modernist architecture, the museum offers some of the best of Brazilian contemporary culture. With a great cafe for a late day pick-me-up, you can easily spend three hours wandering around the facilities.