São Paulo city guide

São Paulo is often compared to Rio de Janeiro, but it’s like comparing night to day. Rio is a hot mess; an almost primal clash of elements, shapes, and sounds. Rio is pure chaos. São Paulo is its polar opposite. Dignified and structured, despite being home to almost three times the population of Rio. Certain issues come with such an enormous number of citizens. The growing disparity between the working class and the rich are reaching new heights. Literally. The poor spend hours in traffic jams trying to drive downtown from suburban favelas, while the rich board a helicopter. I’m not even joking. People are stuck in traffic, look up and see those dickheads flying over. São Paulo has the largest helicopter fleet in the world, so politicians and the wealthy can skip traffic jams. That 1% of the population owns almost 50% of real estate in São Paulo and dictates impossible prices to rent leads to the deterioration of entire apartment buildings in downtown São Paulo. People are squat there, creating entire communities and taking care of those buildings. Landowners would still rather abandon the properties than lower the rent. It’s stupid.

The working class has reached the boiling point in 2014 when the city experienced one of the worst droughts in its history. It was so bad that baristas didn’t have water to brew coffee and we all know how Brazilians love their coffee. People understood what “rain” in “rain forest” stands for and why they’re so important. People also understood that fresh water isn’t optional for living beings and mowing down hectares of the jungle a day isn’t the best idea. It eventually started raining and people calmed down, but it was starting to get dangerous. Scientists predict that it wasn’t the last or the most intense drought that Mother Nature has in store for São Paulo. That’s a challenge we’ll all have to face sooner or later. I mention “people” a lot in this rant. I believe that’s what São Paulo is all about. There are the so-called multi-cultural cities and there’s this place. It has the largest Japanese community outside of japan and you will find more people of Italian descent than in any other Italian city including Rome. The industrial revolution has transformed São Paulo into modern-age Babel Tower. Brazilian churrasco with a side of sushi is nothing out of ordinary here.

Se cathedral in Sao Paolo with palmtrees at the foreground

São Paulo Cathedral: a neo-gothic church in the old district of Sao Paulo

People, who come to São Paulo and expect beaches and everlasting parties might be disappointed to find out it is merely a city of culture. Sao Paulo Museum of Art is one side of the spectrum, with an assortment of famous European painters like Rubens, Botticelli, and Goya. Vila Madalena is on the other side with amazing street art, bohemian galleries, and shops. It’s also the nightlife area in São Paulo with some of the best bars and restaurants in the city. Picking one, unique place in São Paulo is difficult, but if it was me, I’d go with Galeria do Rock. Tattoo studios, record and skate shops all under one roof; a true temple of an alternative subculture. Brazilians obsess over a great many things. Their love for football is obvious. São Paulo Futebol Clube is the unofficial #1 deity. Their devotion is on display for all to see at the Museum of Football, Estádio do Pacaembu, Praça Charles Miler. That museum is amazing, makes a lasting impression even on football heathens.

Illuminated Luz Station in Sao Paolo at the evening

Luz Station in Luz neighbourhood of Sao Paolo built in Victorian sytyle

There’s only one time of the year that Brazilians turn their heads away from their favourite sport. And hat period belongs predominantly to their women. Beauty and music take over during the Carnival and the samba dancers train the entire year for this event. Make sure you check the exact dates if you’re planning to visit, so you don’t miss it. It’s a huge parade of different schools that compete for the crown of the best ass-shakers in South America. It’s ass-shaking elevated to an art form and Brazilian babes spare no expense to appear at their absolute best. I mean that both figuratively and literally. Plastic surgery, or “adjustments” are affordable enough even for the poor folk from the favelas. "Affordable" is the trick word here. The government issues "low-interest loans" so people can get entangled in the credit loop.

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