Pretending (for the 2nd time in my life) that I’m hipster

I had a very brief visit to São Paulo but here’s what happened.


  • Florianopolis – São Paulo
  • Vila Madelena neighbourhood

Graham and I headed from Flori to São Paulo together. We were both seriously struggling off the back of our wild 5 days at Barra Beach Club and as soon as our bums hit the bus seats, we were asleep. In fact, both of us slept through to 10am when we pulled in to São Paulo’s Rodovaria in Tiete.

We had booked Cafe Hostel, in the neighbourhood of Vila Madelena. It was two metro lines away so our first challenge was to conquer the metro complexity. I think once you’ve lived in London (which we both had), any metros are relatively easy. São Paulo is also a city of macroscopic scale much like London, but our tired little bodies just weren’t quite ready for it.

Upon arrival at Cafe Hostel, we were checked-in by an extremely flamboyant staff member. We later found out that he was part of a drag queen group, explaining a lot. However, when I asked him where I could find somewhere to sell me an eyebrow pencil, it was extremely useful to have his drag expertise. He even offered me some of his purple eyebrow powder from his bag, although I opted for the brown option because it seemed more daytime appropriate! Perhaps I’ll rock a purple eyebrow at Carnival (I definitely want to now. Watch this space).

Once settled, the lovely drag queen (I wish I knew his name- drag or real), showed us the best parts of the neighbourhood to see:

  • Coffee Lab served the best coffee he had ever tasted
  • A nature reserve one side of the large graveyard
  • Batman’s Alleyway for incredible street art
  • Sunset Square to watch the sun go down

So after an ATM, eyebrow pencil and empanada trip, we head towards Coffee Lab; our first item of the day to check off. As it turned out, the map was quite complicated to work out and we were wondering a few blocks in search of the coffee shop (which didn’t even have a sign outside stating its name).

After stealing someone’s seat by accident and struggling through the menu, the barista brought us an English menu and explained the ordering system. Everything appeared to have coffee in it, including the food, and there were about 10 different blends of coffee which you could have served as a ‘pour over’, ‘aeropress’ or ‘lever’. I settled on a rich-bodied blend aeropress with coffee cake, whilst Graham had a cold Grandma’s Chocolate with coffee-stewed beef on toast. And Mr Drag was correct because we had the most phenomenal food and drink.

Naturally, since Vila Madelena was the Shoreditch of São Paulo, we sat on wooden crate chairs, ate from prison-esque plates and cutlery, and the “lab” aspect of ‘Coffee Lab’ was prevalent in the undecorated/exposed pipe decor of the place.

We were starting to believe that Mr Drag might know what he was talking about and therefore went in search of the nature park. However, that we never found. We did aimlessly wonder the giant cemetery whilst commenting on all the garish statues though. A few times Graham attempted to throw me inside the grave doors which just creeped me out so I practically ran out of the cemetery in the end!

We really needed to escape the heat for a while and right next door to the cemetery was the Catholic Cathedral, St. Peter’s (San Pedro’s). It was seriously grand, decked out with marble, chandeliers above each pew and artwork everywhere. It would have been an awesome church to marry in, if you had, like, 5000 guests!

Following our brief detour, we head around the corner to where the street art was meant to be good. “Good” is the understatement of the century! Batman’s Alley was not at all what we had expected. It was lined with murals, graffiti, cute little quirky shops and cafes. Again delivering on the edgy vibes but not in a pretentious way at all. And whilst BA’s street art was more one-off grand masterpieces of artwork, São Paulo’s was more colourful, playful and abstract; personally, I preferred São Paulo’s.

With the heat of the day and our tiredness taking its toll, we stopped off at a pharmacy to stock up on vitamins, then went back to hostel for a short while. Our evening plan was to watch the sunset as recommended by Mr Drag, then put on a movie and go to bed. As such, we went to the supermarket to get picnic supplies and ordered an uber at 6pm to take us up to Sunset Square, joining forces with Eva and another girl from our hostel. 

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect and although the park itself was a little dirty, it really did look over the entire city and straight in to the setting sun. Unfortunately, the clouds had come in and the city’s smog made it pretty hazy, but just before 7.30pm, the giant orange ball made its appearance above the skyscrapers. This doesn’t show well in a picture but it was very pretty and I’m sure  on a clear night would be stunning. Sadly I had just one day so couldn’t repeat the excursion on a clearer night. We waited at the square a little while longer to experience some of the pinky colours but it was very unfortunate that the clouds obscured much of what was going on.

Since the ants kept biting us, we jumped in a cab back home, cooked some hard boiled eggs and watched the Thor movie on Netflix with a few others in the hostel (a night of dreams, right?!). Graham and I were both in bed by 10pm and I was up similarly early (7am) for my bus to Paraty the following day too. I said a fond farewell to Mr Drag and made my way to the metro and bus stations. It was here that I “lost” my phone for an hour, running around the bus station and calling the hostel, only to find it in my back pocket. But there you go, perhaps I’m all travelled out already!

So, 115 days in to ‘life from a bag’ and São Paulo’s hipster ways in its Vila Medelena district thoroughly impressed me. I would happily return there and see more of the city as a day isn’t really enough time to make full judgement, but I enjoyed what I did experience. São Paulo was real Brazil, without the tourists and with the colour, excitement and passion the Brazilians are so renowned for.

Gabby x


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