São Paulo

We arrived into São Paulo after taking a long overnight bus from Foz do Iguaçu. It took about 17 hours but luckily was pretty cosy and we managed to sleep quite a bit.

São Paulo is huge—the population of the city is 12 million and including the suburbs it is 22 million. Taking a trip to the top floor of the Martinelli building—São Paulo’s first skyscraper—this number seemed unsurprising, as towering blocks of flats could be seen in every direction up to the horizon. What is notable is the speed at which the city’s population has increased. In 1900, the population was 240,000, but by 1950, the population had reached 2 million. The following 60 years saw an additional rise of 20 million.

We were staying in the arty part of São Paulo called Vila Madalena. Our first proper city since leaving Paraguay, we were instantly surprised by Brasil. São Paulo is much more advanced and modern than other parts of South America we have been. One of the benefits of this was a very smart tube system, which luckily we got the hang of pretty quickly.

The hostel receptionist recommended that we visit the financial part of the city on Sunday as the main road is closed and people walk, cycle and roller blade down it. There are also lots of street sellers and performers—it was lovely and had a really good atmosphere.

One of the interesting things about the city is that it is home to largest Japanese population outside of Japan. Very excited at the possibility of some Asian food, it didn’t take us long to find a ramen restaurant near our hostel!

We also visited the main park in the city where the Afro-Brasil museum is located. The museum was interesting and had lots of art to explain historical events, but sadly without anything written in English we didn’t stay too long.

As São Paulo lacks many obvious sights to visit, we decided to go on a free walking tour. Points of interest included São Paulo cathedral, the monastery of São Bento, the stock exchange, the town hall and Pátio do Colégio—the site where the city was founded in 1554. We also learned that many of the city’s traffic lights feature silhouettes of nearby landmarks rather than the usual green or red man.

Having had our fill of a big city, we were looking forward to visiting Brasil’s coastline.