Although not at the top of our list of places to visit, São Paulo was a convenient stop-gap between Rio State and Uruguay. Having heard mixed reviews about the sprawling concrete jungle (such as traffic and lack of tourist attractions) we had some reservations about what to expect on arrival. We took a 6 hour coach from Paraty in a Catarinense bus with scenic views, aircon and comfortable reclining seats. We zigzagged along the smooth highways soaking up the ocean views on our left and steep green mountains on our right.
After entering São Paulo, we started to get a sense of how massive the city is. Luckily they have an excellent subway that took us straight to our chosen neighbourhood of Vila Madalena. After getting lost when looking for our accommodation, we were helped by a local lady, Katharina, who very kindly walked us to the tranquil Zen Hostel and even invited us to her amazing penthouse apartment for drinks on their roof terrace that evening (which we found very refreshing for a big city). It was lovely to chat with Katharina and her partner Matthias, and they had useful tips for places to eat and drink and offered us some great tasting beers!
The area of Vila Madalena is located in the West of the city, and boasts very visible bohemian street art, numerous small galleries, lively bars, cafes and some great restaurants. After a delicious all-you-can-eat breakfast at La Da Venda we spent a good few hours strolling around the steep graffiti-clad streets filled with quirky details such as 'guerrilla gardening' on lamp-posts and handpainted signage.
The most popular street to visit was Beco de Batman, a cobbled alleyway filled top-to-bottom with street art. The brightly painted walls attracted photographers and models alike for an 'urban-feel' fashion shoot. After taking some snaps of our own we visited a few of the independent art galleries that were dotted around the area.
After a good few hours walking we decided to take a well-earned break at the highly rated Coffee Lab. The place had a very relaxed vibe with an extensive and descriptive menu to please both connoisseurs and novices (ourselves), and we enjoyed a freshly aero-pressed coffee and a mean iced latte with finely chopped dates.
Our bus was leaving at 11.30pm that evening, so we decided to grab a pizza; apparently São Paulo has some of the best pizza in the world due to it's large Italian community. However, as we were about to set off for Carlos Pizza, we were met with the most torrential rain we'd ever experienced. Consequently we had to wade shoeless through a river of fast-flowing water to get to the restaurant! We arrived soaking wet but the whole experience was a lot of fun. We left São Paulo feeling pleasantly surprised after an enjoyable and unexpectedly eventful 24 hours.