The vigorous sounds of beating drums, flags flying, fans singing and chanting; finally, the FIFA World Cup 2014 has come to Brazil. With the excitement of the tournament setting the scene, visitors to the 12 host cities should take the opportunity to absorb themselves in the local culture and experience the hidden gems that make each location unique.
São Paulo, the City of Paulistanos
True to its city motto of “Non ducor, duco,” which translates to “I am not led, I lead,” São Paulo will lead the celebration by hosting the first games of the World Cup. Located in the southeastern part of Brazil, between Curitiba and Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo is a major business hub, but its hospitable people, the “Paulistanos,” know how to enjoy the diverse pleasures of life through food, art and music.
It’s Samba time!
Grab your dance shoes and lose your inhibitions on Samba Saturdays. In the República and Vila Madalena regions of São Paulo, a good selection of bars and nightclubs are always full of locals dancing until the early morning hours. Be sure to arrive early to fuel up on drinks like cachaca and caipirinhas and appetizers like Pao de Queijo, cheesy bread rolls. You can expect many of these places to play samba, rock and traditional Brazilian rhythms like MPB, Sertanejo, Chorinho and Forró.
Eat like a local.
The São Paulo City Center and Jardim neighborhoods, which include Jardim Europa, Jardim, Paulista and Jardim America, have many of the city’s best restaurants. You’ll often encounter exotic ingredients like tucupi, banana da Terra, priprioca and taioba in Brazilian food. The food is very fresh, and traditional dishes are often altered to create more modern versions. Although the unfamiliar can be uncomfortable for first-time visitors, there are some food staples in Sao Paulo you shouldn’t miss:
• Churrasco – Quality barbecued meats that will have you craving more.
• Acaraje – These breaded rolls look like croquettes and are stuffed with fried shrimp.
• Feijoada – Hearty beef stew with black beans served with rice and kale.
• Pastel – These fried pies, known in other Spanish cultures as empanadas, can be filled with meat, cheese, guava and condensed milk.
Given the city’s diversity of immigrants, there’s also more familiar food like pizza and sushi available. Even the Paulistanos enjoy a good pizza in São Paulo’s Italian neighborhood of Bixiga.
If you’re staying outside the city center, you won’t want to miss CEASA, one of the largest food markets in South America. It’s an impressive sight to see, so be sure to visit when it’s open on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
See São Paulo’s landmarks.
São Paulo is a fast-paced metropolis city and getting around can be a challenge. Visitors can rent bikes and tour the city by using the “Ciclofaixas de Lazer” or leisure cycle lanes. These lanes are open on Sundays from 7 am to 2 pm and cover 30 km. The bike paths are safe, car-free and blocked off with caution signs and cones. They also lead to some of the city’s best neighborhoods, parks and street art.
Must-see museums, parks, markets and landmarks include: Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP, free entry on Tuesday), Museu Afro-Brasil, the Latin American Memorial, Pinacoteca do Estado, Parque Ibirapuera, Benedito Calixto Saturday street markets, Ipiranga, Butantan and Museu de Futebol (open Tuesday-Sunday, $3 admission).
Although visiting São Paulo during the FIFA 2014 World Cup might seem overwhelming, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s during one of the most exciting and celebrated times in Brazil’s history. Visitors are encouraged to get caught up in the excitement of it all in order to experience the vibrant culture.
– By The Brazilian Tourism Board (Embratur)