The first thing I’d say about Sao Paulo is that many people underrate it. There’s a huge amount to do, it feels very culturally rich, the people are in general very friendly and almost everyone speaks English (they have to to work there). Safety wise, it’s advisable not to stray out of the centre too much, but generally we found it safer than Rio.
We arrived in Sao Paulo on the city’s 462nd anniversary. And because it’s Brasil, any excuse for a party is a good one. And the great thing about Brasil’s lively and vibrant lifestyle is, they also love food. So not only were the streets full of live music and dance but also packed with food markets. Staying just off the Paulista Avenue (the main street in Sao Paulo) we could enjoy all the various markets the city had to offer.
Sunday is by far the best day for Sao Paulo markets. They are everywhere, and while some neighbourhoods are quiet (and to be avoided) on this day, some truly come alive. The Paulista Avenue is pedestrianised on a Sunday and is wonderful for a stroll.
Here are some of the best markets we visited.
1. Feira de antiguidades:
As we were staying just behind the MASP (Sao Paulo’s well known art museum) which is a lively area I’d really recommend staying in, our first port of call was the Feira de antiguidades (antiques market) under the MASP which is good for a quick browse.
2. Trianon park artisan market:
If you cross the road from the Feira de antiguidades, there’s the artisan market opposite outside the Trianon park where you can buy artsy hippy type goods, or more importantly traditional snacks like bolinhos de bacalhau (fried salt cod balls) and pastel (fried pastries).
Another market favourite you can buy from just down the road from the Trianon market is caldo de cana or pressed sugar cane juice which is sweet (unsurprisingly!) and refreshing.
3. Feira Praça República:
From Avenida Paulista we went by metro to República where there was another market. This one is well worth a visit as you can try traditional Brasilian food like pastel as well as food from the north of the country. We found the best pastel stand where they were made fresh in front of us from pastry, adding filling and frying and also sampled some Chilean empanadas, both totally delicious. We also really loved this square as a local capoeira troupe were practicing which was amazing to watch.
4. Municipal market:
We then headed to one of the largest markets in São Paulo which is found just a short walk from São Bento metro. It is set in a beautiful building with stained glass windows and also an events room at the back here they had live samba dancing for the city’s anniversary. It’s a great place to come if it’s raining.
Here they sell a dizzying array of brightly coloured fruits, vegetables, spices, meats and fish and it’s a riot of sellers shouting and offering things. Upstairs there’s also a balcony with restaurants where you can try local food. I always find the fruits in Brasil are one of the best things to try and in this market the fruit stands invite you to try everything. Many will offer you tasters of all different types of fruit like granadilla, dragon fruit, giant tangerines and caju (the fruit the cashew nut comes from). These are definitely all worth trying, just watch out when the market sellers then attempt to sell you the fruit after at exorbitant prices!
5. Liberdade market:
After plenty of fruit we decided it was time to try a different neighbourhood so headed to Liberdade, an area known for its large Japanese population. I was fascinated here by how much it felt like being in Japan. The shops sell the same things as in Japan, the market in the main square sells only Japanese food and trinkets. The only way to know you’re still in Brasil is the Portuguese signs, which explain things like what gyoza and okonomiyaki are to those not yet familiar. All these Japanese foods can be found here. I was in Japan nostalgia heaven.
6. Smaller Paulista markets:
Returning back to Avenida Paulista and walking down this time, away from the MASP, there are 2 other food markets to check out. We weren’t sure if these were just for the festival but both were good.
One was the next road down from Rua Itapeva and sold lots of São Paulo favourites like hotdogs, churrasco, churros, ice cream, fruit drinks and also usually has live music and a vibrant atmosphere.
The second was further down the Paulista in Praça Oswaldo Cruz. This felt like being at a food market at home, apart from the food. There were great things like sandwiches with Picanha (which we tried and loved) to stranger more American influenced things like burger filled waffles, ribs and fried chicken. The atmosphere here is lovely with lots of people milling around and twinkly lights, there was also a bar.
Finally arriving back to the area we were staying in, we found the party was just starting. Just outside our flat was a huge live samba band with lots of students dancing and celebrating. We grabbed a drink and joined in.
Just don’t ever drink this in Brasil, it’s called ‘savage’ for a reason.