Things to see & do in São Paulo – December/January

Normally, life in São Paulo – just like in many other huge cities – is one hell of a rat race. The traffic jams, the heat, the rain, the overcrowding.

Add to that the present festive season mayhem. You want to try and keep calm and carry on, but how is that possible, when you know everyone else in this city will be shutting down in a few days’ time? You rush to get your work done and any practical things out of the way, because you know that everyone else will be off for the next couple of weeks – if not longer.

We will stay in Gotham for Christmas and New Year’s Day. I will talk a bit more about that later, but one of the great things about staying is that usually, the city is wonderfully quiet during the festive season… Because a lot of paulistanos will have buggered off to the beach (or will be trapped in traffic jams, trying to get there).

Late December/early January is a great time to visit Sampa, because it is actually possible to do more things, go and see more places. It is possible to get to places quicker, go to that restaurant, museum or cinema you have been meaning to visit without having to wait on a queue for ages.

So I thought that this would be a good opportunity to start a list of recommendations of what to do in São Paulo, every month. It will be a mix of things to do with the family, friends, your significant other or even by yourself.

Here is my first stab at a list for December and January. I will aim to do everything as well, so I can tell you more as I tick them off my list. If you have visited any of them or are planning to do so, let me know!

Christmas Concert @ The Teatro Municipal

After closing for nearly three years for a renovation project that cost R$ 28,3 million, the Teatro Municipal reopened its doors in June in all its glory. The theatre, with its architecture inspired in the Paris Opera, is one of the main postcards of the city. Get yourself some tickets for the Christmas concert, featuring the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra and Choir next Thursday 22 December – the last show of 2011. Arrive early for a drink at the terrace.

Praça Ramos de Azevedo, s/nº
(11) 3397-0300 and (11) 3397-0327 (ticket office)
Nearest underground station: Anhangabaú

Estação Ciência

This is Sampa’s humble equivalent of the Science Museum but a fantastic space in its own right. The centre, which is based in an old warehouse built in the early 20th century, features a range of interactive activities and exhibitions to promote the various areas of science – astronomy, biology, physics, technology and so on – in a fun way. Attractions include an earthquake simulator and a large Van de Graaff generator. Great fun for those with children and teenagers.

Rua Guaicurus, 1394
(11) 3673-7022
Nearest train station: Lapa (Linha 8 – CPTM)

Pavilhão da Criatividade (Memorial da América Latina)

One of the most interesting cultural spaces within the Latin America Memorial, the Pavilhão da Criatividade (Creativity Pavillion) has a permanent collection of about 4,000 pieces of popular art from Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile and Uruguay, which is unique in the country. A real must see.

Memorial da América Latina
Av. Áuro Soares M Andrade, 564
Barra Funda
(11) 3823-4600
Nearest underground station: Barra Funda

XV Festival da Cultura Paulista Tradicional

The Revelando São Paulo (Unveiling São Paulo) initiative organises the Festival of Traditional Paulista Culture, which aims to showcase traditional culture in the state of São Paulo. The idea is to give an insight into aspects of life in various parts of the state, which are often unknown to visitors and those living in the capital. This edition of the festival, which will take place in the city of Atibaia (65km from São Paulo) from 5th-8th January features folk art and regional food and drinks, as well as music, indigenous dance, pilgrimages and theatre. Full event info here.

Parque Edmundo Zanoni
Avenida Horácio Netto, 1030

Buses to Atibaia leave from the Tietê bus station several times a day and the journey lasts about an hour.

Sesc Concerts

Every month, the cultural and sport centres run by Sesc have something interesting to see and do. In December and January, there will be some excellent live gigs all over the city with Brazilian artists including the darling of São Paulo, rapper Criolo, as well as Paula Lima, Zélia Duncan and Vanguart. Sesc’s unit in the Pompéia neighbourhood is particularly interesting as it has a funky bar to grab a drink beforehand. Ticket prices are always accessible.

Full listings here.

Edifício Altino Arantes (Torre do Banespa)

Built in 1947, the Edifício Altino Arantes (or Banespa Tower, as it is known by most paulistanos) is one of the most emblematic buildings of São Paulo and also the third highest in the city. The former HQ of the Bank of the State of São Paulo (Banespa) it is 161 meters tall and has 35 floors. The tower was the largest in the world outside the United States by the time it was built. It is possible to get a fantastic 360 degrees view of the city, so it’s well worth the visit. But beware: the tower is only open to the public from Monday to Friday from 10am to 3pm and it’s worth calling in advance as it is often closed without notice.

Afterwards, grab a caipirinha with a cachaça ice lolly and bolinhos de arroz (rice croquettes) at the excellent Cervejaria São Jorge, which is right around the corner.

Rua João Brícola, 24
(11) 3249-7466
Nearest underground station: São Bento

Image by Luiz Henrique Assunçãolicensed under Creative Commons

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