Today, you’ll continue to explore Brazil in its multiple faces. We already checked the famous Northeast and the European South. And now we will get in touch with the multifaceted Southeast.
The Southeast has four states: Sao Paulo – the capital is Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro – the capital is also Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais – the capital is Belo Horizonte and Espirito Santo – the capital is Vitoria.
São Paulo, my hometown and Brazil’s vibrant financial center, is among the world’s most populous cities, with a city population of about 12 million and almost 22 million in its metropolitan region. The city has numerous cultural institutions and a rich architectural tradition. Its iconic buildings range from its neo-Gothic cathedral and the 1929 Martinelli skyscraper to modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer’s curvy Edifício Copan. The colonial-style Pátio do Colégio church marks where Jesuit priests founded the city in 1554. it’s one of the most diverse cities in the world, with many museums and a top notch diversity of restaurants, pubs, clubs, bohemian nightlife and happy hours… fair enough for the city that works so hard!
Note: the region of Avenida Paulista is partly in the Center, West, and South-Central, and its number of attractions, as well as its peculiar characteristics, justifies it having its own section.
Regions of São Paulo City
Downtown: The birthplace of the city, with many historical areas, cultural centers, and a universe of diverse people rushing to work or to school.
West: Home to the government of the state of São Paulo, it is probably the most vibrant area of the city for business, science, gastronomy, nightlife and culture.
South Central: The wealthiest region of the city contains Ibirapuera Park, one of the most important recreational and cultural areas of São Paulo, and many shopping malls.
Southeast: Home to hundreds of thousands of immigrants who settled in the city, that is where Ipiranga Museum, the São Paulo Zoo and other attractions are located.
Northeast: The Northeast is São Paulo’s “event arena”, where the annual Carnival and many other large scale events take place. Part of the magnificent Cantareira Park is also here.
Far South: The largest region of São Paulo is still have some parts covered by forest, farms and water, and can offer many unique experiences to a visitor.
Far East: São Paulo’s City of Workers contains two of the most beautiful parks of the city – Carmo Park and Tiete Park, and was the host of the FIFA 2014 World Cup in the city.
Northwest: The Northwest is a more suburban area which is home to Jaraguá State Park, where the highest point of the city is located.
Greater São Paulo: consists of 39 municipalities plus the capital.
What to do as a tourist in São Paulo?
Even though, São Paulo is a financial and workaholic city, there are many sightseeing and cultural options. Here are the must see attractions in the city:
Go shopping on 25 de Março Street
If you want to have an intense Brazilian crowded shopping experience, 25 de Março Street is the place for you! They have many stores selling everything you can imagine. But be careful, because most of the products aren’t original – yes, they are fake! So, don’t go there for buying cell phones, electronics, sunglasses or brand clothing, even though you see the brand on them. They are all fake, imported from China! Anyway, it’s interesting walking in there and you can buy lots of imitation jewelry with good quality and many other cheap things you name them.
Visit the Municipal Market (Mercado Municipal)
In the 25 de Março Street area, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Municipal Market well known as Mercadão de São Paulo. This spot is the perfect place for getting in touch with Brazilian gastronomy and it will make all food lovers happier after trying everything they offer in there. From fruits, veggies, seasonings, passing through wines and cheese varieties to desserts, the famous mortadela sandwiches and pastel. So, go there with your stomach empty. You won’t regret it!
Meet Farol Santander
Banespa was a Brazilian regional bank, founded in 1909 by the state government of São Paulo. The bank was privatized in November 2000 by the government of former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso and sold to Spanish bank Santander. Banespa Building is an important Art deco in São Paulo and joins cultural expositions, skate lane and an amazing cafeteria.
Go for dinner at Terraço Itália
You can go to the top of Terraço Itália for a view or for a meal – if you just want to take some nice pics up there, you’ll have to pay R$ 30.00 (around CAD 10.00) for the view. For dining, it’s a very famous spot for couples, especially when a proposal is coming! So romance is in the air in there, literally!
Visit the Municipal Theather
You can visit the Municipal Theater for a guided or by yourself tour or get a ticket for one of its many events and get the ultimate experience. This is a must go place in the city!
Go for a picnic to the Botanical Garden
In the middle of the concrete jungle you can find peace and calmness in this gem. The Botanical Garden of São spans a 164.45 hectare area in the Fontes do Ipiranga State Park, at the district of Água Funda, in São Paulo’s South zone, next to São Paulo Zoo. It houses the state’s Botanical Institute. It’s a cheap sightseeing (only R$ 10.00 – CAD 4.00), there is snack bar and restaurant so you can enjoy a day in touch with Mother Nature.
Get to know more about Brazil history at Ipiranga Museum
Located in the Independence Park, The Museu Paulista of the University of São Paulo (commonly known as Museu do Ipiranga) is a Brazilian history museum located near where Emperor Pedro I proclaimed the Brazilian independence on the banks of Ipiranga brook in the Southeast region of the city of São Paulo. It contains a huge collection of furniture, documents and historically relevant artwork, especially relating to the Brazilian Empire era.
Boast you Instagram posts at Beco do Batman
Beco do Batman is the nickname for the area around Rua Gonçalo Afonso and Rua Medeiros de Albuquerque in the Vila Madalena neighborhood of São Paulo. This is a popular tourist destination because of the dense concentration of graffiti that line the streets.
Actors like Tom Holland (Spider Man) and Chris Pratt (Star-Lord) from the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) franchise Avengers visited the Batman’s Alley. Maybe you bump into a movie star there. You can check their pics at Batman Alley on Google.
Go for a walking on Paulista Avenue
Paulista Avenue is one of the most important avenues in São Paulo, Brazil. It stretches 2.8 kilometres and runs northwest to southeast. It the financial & business heart of Brazil and the biggest multinational companies have their headquarters there.
You can go for a an anytime meal or happy hour drinks in the nice restaurants, bakeries clubs and pubs in the area, so it’s a good option get a hotel in Avenida Paulista surroundings. It’s totally worth visiting the streets Rua Augusta and Oscar Freire – walking distance from Paulista Avenue.
Still on Paulista Avenue, there is a must see art museum called MASP – Museum of Art of São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand. The museum has some paintings from Van Gogh and Monet and there are many collections presented during the year. Tickets may vary between CAD 10.00 and CAD 20.00, but on Tuesdays the entrance is complimentary and the best hours for visiting is between noon and 2pm or 4 to 6pm. Before visiting the museum, google “MASP” to check the open hours, because they may vary.
Here are some other must go activities in São Paulo:
- Visit the Pinacoteca: the Pinacoteca or Picture Gallery is one of the best places dedicated to art in São Paulo. The stunning architecture invites you over for an inside tour and get impressed by artists works like Portinari and Anita Malfatti. For getting in there by commute you should take the metrô (subway) and leave at Estação da Luz (Luz Station). Tickets are only CAD 3.00 and entrance is free on Saturdays.
- Visit Liberdade neighborhood: this Japanese neighborhood is a perfect option to get in touch with the Japanese-Brazilian community, which is huge, a
- nd the best day for visiting is Saturday and don’t miss a good karaoke over there!
- Go for a walking or bike riding at Ibirapuera Park: this is the paulistanos’ (people from São Paulo) favourite park. The park is ideal for a long picnic and you can also get in touch with many art options like the museums MAM – Museu de Arte Moderna , Museu Afro Brasil, Fundação Bienal, and Auditório Ibirapuera, where there are many complimentary and low cost activities. Don’t miss the Planetarium – Planetário Prof. Aristóteles Orsini, recently reopened after renovations. You can also go to Museu de Arte Contemporânea da USP (Contemporary Art Museum – USP).
- Eat the delicious pastel de feira: pastel is deep fried dough with different fillings for all tastes and you can find them in every street fairs. These fairs are opened through the whole city but in different days per region. If you want to go to one of these fairs, just check with the hotel concierge to inform you the closest one to your hotel and the day is happening. If you go for a pastel, drink the sugar cane juice (caldo de cana). The perfect combination!
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is the most famous Brazil’s postal card. Famed for the beautiful Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, the 38 mether tall Christ the Redeemer statue atop Mount Corcovado and for Sugarloaf Mountain, a granite peak with cable cars to its summit, it’s also known for its sprawling favelas (shanty towns) and the Carnaval festival, featuring parade floats, flamboyant costumes and samba dancers, which is considered the world’s largest party.
Besides that, what could I say about Rio?
This big city is the most visited in Brazil, but you have to be careful because it is also the most dangerous. You have to focus in the South Zone for planning your trip, never try to explore it by yourself neither get into a favela without a credential tour guide (even though I strongly don’t recommend getting into a favela – my opinion here and you can check the statistics, it’s very dangerous, especially for someone who’s not from Rio).
So, let’s go for the good part which attracts so many tourists around the globe to the Marvellous City! To find a hotel, I recommend you to focus on Ipanema, Copacabana or Leblon area, the safest areas and by the beach.
Visit Christ the redeemer
The art-deco statue is not only Rio’s symbol but Brazil’s as well. It’s located on Corcovado Hill and it’s one of the 7 wonders of the modern world. From there, you can see the whole beautiful Rio de Janeiro and be ready for the dozens of stunning pictures you’ll take.
You can get there by train (the most famous and beautiful way to get in there), by van, closed tours, walking or bike riding. For booking the train, click here: Corcovado Train.
Don’t miss the Sugar Loaf Mountain
Going to the Sugar Loaf Mountain is one of the funniest things to do. There is a cable car linking the Sugar Loaf and Urca Mountains. The best hours to go are by the end of afternoon, so you won’t miss the breathtaking sunset with Guanabara Bay view.
Check with your hotel concierge the best way to escape the lines and getting the tour.
Check in the Botanical Garden and Parque Lage
This is one of the most visited attractions and filming place for many Brazilian soap operas and movies. You can only get there by car or bus. The most photo shoot place is the Imperial Palm Trees planted after Dom Pedro II (former emperor of Brazil) command in the 19th century.
Parque Lage is close to Botanical Garden and you may recognize it from movies or even the Snoopy Dogg video Beautiful.
Visit Museu do Amanhã
After its big opening, the Tomorrow Museum or Museu do Amanhã is one of the top attractions in Rio. The project is signed by the Spanish Santiago Calatrava and it has a peculiar architecture and a beautiful view from Guanabara Bay.
The exhibitions in this museum are about the future of the planet and what to do for helping it. This an important question to do every day, eh?
Go for some nice pics at Mural Etnias
The Mural Etnias (or Ethnicities Wall) is at the Portuary Zone across from the hangars and it’s one of the biggest art walls in the world and it has five human faces representing an indigenous person from every continent in bright colors and geometric objects along with the faces signed by São Paulo artist Eduardo Kobra. This wall received the title of largest graffiti in the world in “Guinness World Records” You can go there from the Museu do Amanhã, it’s a safe ten minute walking with many tourists coming and going.
Don’t miss the beaches, oh dear!
Copacabana is one of the most famous beaches in the world so it’s crowded every single day. If you’re looking for a calmer beach, Leme Beach is a better option, but it takes 20 minutes walking from Cardeal Arcoverde subway station.
Ipanema got famous not only for the magnificent beach but also for the Ipanema Girl, a beautiful bossa nova and jazz song from the 1960’s played by the Brazilian musician Antonio Carlos Jobim, well known as Tom Jobim and lyrics by the Portuguese writer Vinicius de Moraes. The stunning beach is a must go if you are in Rio.
Just between Ipanema and Copacabana you can find the beautiful small beach called Arpoador, and it’s a must go for sunset on the Arpoador Stone. Such a scenic and unforgettable moment to enjoy.
You can escape from the beach for a while and go for a coffee close to Copacabana and Arpoador at the Copacabana Fort, which I a military base at the south end of Copacabana beach. It’s open to public visits and contains the Museu Histórico do Exército (Historical Army Museum) and a coastal defense fort that is the actual Fort Copacabana.
If you want to explore the Brazilian Caribbean in Rio, you should take a road trip to Arraial do Cabo. It’s is a coastal town in the state of Rio de Janeiro in southeastern Brazil, know the white sands and blue ocean beaches. There are some full day tours from Rio to Arraial do Cabo, and I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it… the picture says for itself:
Some more must go places in Rio
Rio has some other nice places to visit and you will simply love it:
- Go for a bike riding in Aterro do Flamengo: many cariocas (people from Rio) love exercising and spending some outdoor time not only at the beaches but also in Aterro do Flamengo. It’s a nice place for skateboarding, walking and bike riding. They also have sports courts and all comes with a spunky view of Guanabara Bay and Sugar Loaf.
- Don’t miss the most visited Brazilian museum – CCBB: this is a cultural space maintained by Banco do Brasil and it’s on their former headquarters, built in 1906. You’ll be impressed about the beauty of this museum.
- Hike to Morro dos Dois Irmãos: from up there you can see Ipanema and Leblon beacheshill with two different peaks accessed by Morro do Vidigal. The view is mind blowing.
- Go for some drinks at Lapa: this is the bohemian neighborhood and it’s safer to walk in there in the night rather than day. There are many restaurants, bars and you can appreciate rodas de samba (people playing samba in a circle), spaces dedicated to Brazilian culture and much beer. There you can see the Lapa Arc and Selarón Stairway.
- Get in touch with Brazilian history into Catete Palace: Catete Palace was the former presidencial residency when Rio was still Brazil’s capital. Once you go there, don’t miss the garden surrounding the palace.
- Travel to other small cities in Rio de Janeiro state: there is so much to explore in the city, but in the state as well. The most visited cities are Angra dos Reis, Arraial do Cabo, Búzios and Petrópolis
Espírito Santo is the state in southeastern Brazil, known for its tropical beaches and mountainous nature preserves. Founded in 1551, the capital and port city Vitória has a compact colonial-era center. Across narrow Vitória Bay lies Vila Velha, where you can find Praia da Costa, a famous beach getaway, and the 16th-century Penha Convent.
Here are some hints for a trip in Espírito Santo:
Vitória has must see beaches like Camburi, Curva da Jurema and Ilha do Boi, with the best of seafood and fruit juices at the food kiosks.
If you’re looking for a vibrant night life, you should check Triângulo das Bermudas area, at Canto Beach. There you’ll find pubs, clubs and restaurants. You can also go to Rua da Lama (Lama Street), in Jardim da Penha for more options. The best pub people recommend in Jardim da Penha area is called Coronel Picanha – an awesome place for happy hours, especially for watching soccer games.
In this same neighborhood a great place to know is Vale Botanical Park, the biggest green area in Vitória, part of Atlantic Forest.
Get to know Vila Velha
Espírito Santo’s capital is Vitória, but everyone goes for a weekend getaway in Vila Velha to enjoy the attractive beaches like Costa e a Barra do Jucu.
In Vila Velha, you can visit Nossa Senhora da Penha Convent, a must see attraction with catholic mass and other events.
Don’t miss Guarapari
This is the most visited area in the state, especially around the cute Meaípe. The most famous beaches in the area are Praia dos Padres, Bacutia, praias Vermelha, do Sul and Ermitão. Snorkeling, surfing and diving are the favorite activities in Guarapari.
Hike to Pico da Bandeira
If you are in a good shape for hiking, this is a great opportunity for reaching the third highest spot in Brazil; with 2,892 meters high Pico da Bandeira is located in Serra do Caparaó, in the border of Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo states.
Serra do Caparaó is a national park and besides mountaineering, many people go there for enjoying the natural pools and their waterfalls.
Take a road trip to Itaúnas, close to the border of Bahia state, and go for a river or beach swimming and enjoy parties with the good Brazilian forró music. A special touch for this village is the sand dunes on the way to the beaches. Once you are there, don’t miss the spectacular sunrise and sunset.
The best of Minas Gerais, in my humble opinion are people and food. They are a welcoming people with a beautiful accent, always offering a delicious and hot ‘cafezinho’ (black coffee) with their mouth watering ‘pãozinho de queijo’ (cheese bread balls).
Minas is an inland state larger than France in the Southeast, with second-most-populous Brazilian state by population with a little more than 20 million only losing for São Paulo which has over 44 million inhabitants. This state is known for colonial-era architecture from the 18th-century gold rush.
Many streets have special cobblestone touch, flamboyant mansions and baroque catholic churches decorated by the sculptor Aleijadinho, in towns like São João del Rei, Tiradentes and Ouro Preto, the old capital. The famous steam train Maria Fumaça (“Smoking Mary”) links Tiradentes to São João del Rei.
So, where are the must see places in this large state?
Let’s start with Belo Horizonte well known as BH
Belo Horizonte is the capital with a variety of museums and architectural masterpieces like Conjunto Arquitetônico da Pampulha, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, by the Lake Pampulha, with the signature of the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. For enjoying the lake area, it’s a pleasant idea riding a bike or walking through the park and visiting the Igrejinha de São Francisco (San Francisco Small Church), the Casa Kubitscheck (Kubitscheck House), the Casa do Baile (the Prom House) and the Museu de Arte Moderna (Museum of Modern Art).
The mineiro gastronomy is well famous for the variety of foods, especially the infinite options of cheese. To try the best of their cuisine, a great option would be going to their Mercado Central (Central Market) and don’t miss the chance of tasting cheese balls, feijão tropeiro, desserts and sweets like doce de leite and goiabada (guava sweet), artisanal beers, costelinha com mandioca frita e couve refogada (ribs with fried manioc and braised kale). A good option is going to buffet restaurants to try all the mineiro’s cuisine like Dona Lucinha Restaurant.
Other places to consider are Circuito Cultural da Praça da Liberdade (Cultural Circuit of Liberty Square) and see many museums like CCBB, Memorial Minas Gerais, Museu das Minas e do Metal, Espaço do Conhecimento da UFMG, Casa FIAT de Cultura, Centro de Arte Popular and Museu Mineiro. If you are a museum person, you shouldn’t miss Inhotim Institute, a museum in Brumadinho, 55km from Belo Horizonte, with beautiful gardens and huge galleries.
If you are curious about Brazilian soccer, don’t lose the opportunity to visit Mineirão Stadium and watch a game if possible, especially if it is Cruzeiro x Atlético Mineiro. If there are no games, go for a sightseeing in there and the Brazilian Soccer Museum in the stadium.
Don’t miss the baroque architecture of Ouro Preto, Tiradentes and Diamantina
Ouro Preto or Black Gold, known as the old Vila Rica (Rich Village) shows the power and importance of gold rush in the 18th century and how it made the rules while the intellectuals were plotting the Inconfidência Mineira, an unsuccessful separatist movement in Brazil in 1789 during the Portuguese colonial era and the genius artist Aleijadinho was creating his carving sculptures. All the churches and museums are important Brazilian heritage.
Tiradentes has a unique scenario such as old colonial movies in a quiet and calm town, the perfect getaway for relaxing, letting the time pass without any worrying and enjoying the delicious mineiro food.
Still remembering the richness of colonial age, Diamantina is famous for the diamonds extraction in the 17th and 18th centuries. Serra do Espinhaço and Parque do Biribiri are nature gems in the town. This is also the hometown of Brazil’s former president, Juscelino Kubitscheck.
Discover Capitólio, São Thomé das Letras, Poços de Caldas and Monte Verde
Capitólio – This small town with only 8,000 inhabitants became a hit after tourists discovered its hidden beauties. The new famous spot is Cânions do Lago de Furnas (Furnas Lake Canyons), combining emerald waters, waterfalls and rocky walls. For knowing this area, you got to meet from the top (for the best pics ever, especially at the gazebos!) and the bottom for boat riding and swimming.
For getting in Capitólio, there are two options: by bus or car. It’s recommended visiting in Spring (September to November) and Fall (March to June) seasons; Summer is a rainy season, so many lakes and waterfalls are closed for security reasons. If you stay in the city for just one day, you can enjoy the standard options, so the best would be staying for 2 to 3 days. Options from camping to resorts are available, depending on your budget.
São Thomé das Letras – at 1,440 meters height, in a rocky region, this small town is hidden. It’s famous for mysticism and old legends and the most known of them is that the Gruta do Carimbado (Carimbado Cave) goes up to Machu Picchu in Peru! So far away! There are many waterfalls in the town and by the end of the day, everyone goes to Casa da Pirâmide (Pyramid House) to see the fascinating sunset.
Poços de Caldas – a romantic small town well known for the thermal waters where many couples choose for a honeymoon getaway.
Monte Verde – the European part of Minas Gerais, close to the border of São Paulo State, is very popular during fall and winter time due low temperatures, being one of the coldest cities in Brazil at 1600 meters height from sea level. The popular Winter and End of the Year Festivals crowd the town with many touristic attractions. Once in Monte Verde, don’t dare to miss their fondue, their number 1 dish!
This article, surely, is just a glimpse of cities, attractions and places to visit in Brazil’s southeast. Once you choose to visit one city, spare at least seven days for getting into the culture and absorbing the best of cuisine, attractions and sightseeing places. As you just checked, Brazil has a lot to offer for every kind of person, from beach or countryside person to a concrete jungle person. So, don’t miss the chance for visiting this beautiful country, especially now that Canadian or United States passport holders don’t need a visitor’s visa anymore and the North American currency is an advantage for making an affordable trip!
Keep tuned for the part 5 for next month… yes, Brazil is huge, and you’ll love it even more! See you all!