São Paulo: From 2 to 22 million

Having spent so much of our trip feeling like two of the only humans on the planet, the prospect of staying for five weeks in one of the world’s most populated cities felt daunting. For Theo, São Paulo is his childhood home – for Maxine it is one of the most gigantic concrete jungles she’s ever visited. 

Although we lived in London for over a decade and despite Theo’s ‘previous experience,’ suddenly being amongst a staggering 22 million inhabitants after months in the barren lands of Patagonia left us feeling like two lost guanacos.

We were in São Paulo (affectionally nicknamed ‘Sampa’) for a good reason though: Theo’s sister was expecting her first child and we were there to be part of the experience. Needless to say we were excited and this helped a lot with the shift from countryside to city. Despite the endless cityscape of concrete, Sampa has its charm and we were keen to explore it.

Greater São Paulo is home to 22 million people, spanning a vast 3067 square miles. Greater London by comparison, houses 8.8 million people and spans 607 square miles. So when Maxine thought she was experienced in bigger cities she had no idea, and even with many years actually living in this city – the vastness upon our arrival was equally mind boggling for Theo. We stayed around the Vila Madalena district – an eclectic area in the west of São Paulo with a village like, artsy feel. In the 60s and 70s it attracted many musicians and artists to the area and has since maintained its spirit via the many restaurants, pop-up shops and innovative initiatives.

Insider’s Tips

São Paulo is a great place to visit to be reminded of the diversity, vibrancy and innovation that exists in big cities. It is a concrete jungle for sure, but an incredible place to be, just to get an experience of the scale. Go up Edificio Italia for the best panoramic views of the city. There you will really feel the vastness! 

Eat Sushi – São Paulo is home to the largest Japanese diaspora outside Japan. There are many options for good Japanese food there. Food in general is a great feature of São Paulo city.

Safety is an ongoing consideration in Sampa, especially in downtown São Paulo. Robberies are commonplace and tourists should be mindful of this. It’s best not to carry a lot and stay discrete with mobile phones/expensive belongings. The metro is an easy way to get around, although avoiding peak times is a good idea as it can get extremely busy. 

We found a place to park our campervan for the entire five weeks we were there. There are some Air bnbs that come with a parking space and that is recommended. For the last two weeks, we used a paid parking lot to provide 24 hr surveillance and it was fine and reasonably priced. 

Check out our post on Culture in São Paulo for some recommended spots to visit. 

after months in the barren lands of Patagonia, we were two lost guanacos amidst a roaring metropolis...