São Paulo is a 24/7 city. No matter the time of day, there are parties to go to, coxinhas to buy and eat, and places to see. No where is this more true than on Avenida Paulista, the city’s epicenter of nightlife, shopping, and all things São Paulo.
Conveniently situated on the yellow Metro line, just a R$3.80 ticket away, Avenida Paulista is a long stretch of shops, entertainers, and attractions. Think Venice Beach, Hollywood Blvd., or even Times Square. But so much better.
There are 3 large shopping centers spaced out along the road, interspaced with many smaller shops, chain restaurants (Starbucks!), and museums. MASP and FIESP, two of São Paulo’s biggest and most famous cultural centers, are right on the street. These two art museums/cultural exhibits have an impressive collection of artwork from both Brazilian artists as well as famous European artists you’re more familiar with (think Degas and Monet). FIESP often has free exhibits, and their community theatre always has free shows that are definitely worth watching.
I’ve been to Paulista at least once a week since I arrived in Brazil, always with a group. I would advise most people to go with a friend or two; not because it’s a very dangerous place, it’s just more fun that way! Although I would say be cautious always when you’re out after dark. Paulista is bisected by Rua Augusta, Paulista’s slightly edgier sibling. If you’re looking to get a tattoo, second hand book, or cheap and delicious ice cream, head to Rua Augusta during the day. After dark, Rua Augusta is a party street, and not for the faint of heart.
On Rua Augusta however, is a real treasure: the Livraria Cultura. This is one of São Paulo’s biggest bookstores, and it is absolutely amazing. I spent over 3 hours wandering this bookstore, which is like your favourite second-hand obscure bookstore and the nicest Barnes&Nobles all rolled into one paper-scented package. they have a large international book section, with classics in English as well as the Portuguese translations, and vice versa with Brazilian literature. They also have a surprisingly big CD and DVD section if you’re into old school tech! The Livraria Cultura is across from a Ben and Jerry’s and a more traditional gelato shop, both of which are pricy, but so good.
Everytime I go to Paulista with my friends, we see a brand new array of performers and sights. Last week, there were two jazz musicians competing for audience attention, a man blowing giant soap bubbles using pieces of fishing net, and a mini circus act in the middle of the street. The week before, there was a Bavarian/Brazilian folk cover band performing Donna Summers disco hits. We also went to an LGBTQ+ demonstration, where we listened to music by Brazilian icons and learned about the political tension between the government and the LGBTQ citizens in Brazil. On our way there, we passed a blues street concert and a Michael Jackson impersonator. There is truly never a dull moment on Paulista!
Last night I went to MASP’s 70th anniversary exhibition. The Museum was free, and open late. I can honestly say that LACMA has nothing on MASP in terms of packing a punch in every gallery. The upstairs galleries are like a crash course in art history, with one to three pieces from seemingly every time period and art movement ever. The downstairs galleries are the special exhibits. This season, there is a gallery dedicated to the feminist art collective ‘Guerilla Girls’. The second special exhibition was a painting and sketch gallery. Art museums aren’t for everyone, I know, but MASP now has a special place in my heart for it’s unique architecture and design, and the beautiful collections it has.
Every Sunday, the two ends of the road are closed off to make a pedestrian mall. This makes the experience very laid back, as you don’t have to watch for traffic, but be wary–Paulista is always busy! It’s also in a busy business and finance district, to Sundays are much more relaxed- no one in a suit pushing you out of the way to make it to work on time. If you want to see all that São Paulo has to offer in terms of fashion, tiny puppies on long leashes, and roller skating samba dancers, go to Paulista. And while you’re there, go to the Starbucks in Shopping Center 3. The hot chocolate will blow your mind.