5 things to do outdoors in São Paulo

I don’t mean to rub it in – especially if you’re braving the cold weather right now – but the last few weeks in São Paulo have been SUPER hot! To the point I can’t even take Joe the dog for long daytime walks, as he can’t cope with the heat. I don’t blame him, since I often feel I’m melting away out there, with the reflection of the sun off of all this concrete in our beloved city.

I’ve already said that I love the sunshine and hot weather, but something else I really love is doing things outdoors during summer. And there are many things to do outside, in the city and around. I have compiled a list of things to do in Sampa while soaking the rays this month. Enjoy!

1. Expresso Turístico

The Expresso Turístico is a service offered by the São Paulo Company of Metropolitan Trains (CPTM), which aims to showcase the history around São Paulo’s train network and the surrounding cities that were central to the development of the state from the second half of the 19th century.

The trains, composed of two wagons built in the 1950s and 1960s, leave from the Luz train station, which is one of the most important architectural landmarks of the country. There are three routes: Luz-Paranapiacaba, Luz-Jundiaí or Luz-Mogi das Cruzes.

My recommendation is to take the Luz-Paranapiacaba trip. Paranapiacaba (which means “where you will find the sea” in Tupi language) was established in the late 1800s as a staff base for the São Paulo Railway, a privately owned British railway company, which was active in cargo and passenger transportation between the São Paulo countryside and the port of Santos.

The 48km train journey to Paranapiacaba takes about 1h30 each way and takes place fortnightly on Sundays. The trip starts at 8.30am, with a stop at Santo André station and ending at the railway village, where visitors can spend the day and return to the capital at 4.30pm. Tickets cost R$32 per person, with discounts of up to 50% for three people.

At the village, which is considered a national historic landmark, there are several activities related to cultural tourism and the environment. One of the attractions is the steam train ride, which costs R$5 and is open on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays and travels around the area for about 1km.

Other sites of interest include the Castle Museum, which recalls the history of the town and the railroads. At the Paranapiacaba Springs Municipal Park, visitors can venture on several walking routes or even tree climbing. The activities are monitored and cost R$8 per person.

You can buy tickets for the Expresso Turístico on the CPTM website or in person at Luz station (Metrô Linha 1 – Azul).

2. São Paulo Restaurant Week

This week brings the 10th edition of the São Paulo Restaurant Week in 2012. The event brings together some 350 restaurants, bars and cafes in São Paulo, Barueri, Campinas, Cotia, Ribeirao Preto and Santos, offering three-course meals at affordable prices.

Between 5-18th March, lunch menus will cost R$ 31.90, while dinner will go for R$ 43.90 at restaurants taking part in the event. Customers can add R$1 to their total bill, which will go to the NGO Monte Azul Community.

As well as checking out places I haven’t been, I will be booking a table in the outside deck of my current favourite restaurant, Emillia, in Perdizes, which will be serving some of my favourites like salmon and passion fruit risotto and pesto gnocchi. Yum!

To check out the full list of restaurants, check restaurantweek.com.br

3. Pico do Jaraguá

One of the main geographical landmarks of São Paulo, the Jaraguá peak stands out from the Serra da Cantareira of 1,135 meters. It is the highest point of the city of São Paulo, where you can see, on a clear day, a radius of 55km.

Jaraguá means “lord of the valley” in Tupi language. It is said that the site was established by Afonso Sardinha, a Portuguese hunter and smuggler of Indians, who discovered traces of gold in the area around 1580. As the Indians dominated the region, many wars were fought between natives and explorers before mining began ten years later.

In 1946, the government turned the site into a tourist attraction, and in 1961, the Jaraguá State Park was created and visitors can see the sinks where gold was manually rinsed beside the ruins of Sardinha’s house. Jaraguá is also listed by the World Heritage Site by Unesco.

Climbing to the top of Jaraguá takes a couple of hours through the woods. It is advisable to wear good walking shoes and take a bottle of water so you can enjoy the walk uphill! Snacks, drinks and ice cream are sold at the top. You can also drive all the way up if you can’t be bothered to climb.

The best way of getting there by public transport is taking the CPTM train to Jundiaí from Barra Funda station (Metrô Linha 2 – Vermelha) and get off at Vila Clarice station. In front of the station, there a few bus lines that go past the entrance of the park.

4. Rafting in Socorro

Socorro, a couple of hours drive away from the capital, is part of the circuit of spa towns in São Paulo state. As well as its cultural attractions, the town is also famous for its “radical sports” infrastrcuture and tourists head there to do things like rafting on the Rio do Peixe, at the Monjolinho Park.

You can either go there by car or by bus, or go with the trip organised by the Social and Trade Service of São Paulo (SESC), which includes transport, as well as breakfast, lunch and rafting on the Rio do Peixe.

Departures are at 6am from SESC Pinheiros and 7am from SESC Osasco. You can sign up at the Pinheiros and Osasco units of Sesc (see addresses here). Prices range from R$164 to R$246, depending on whether you are a Sesc member or not.

5. Day trip to Santos

Santos, the closest beach to the city, is the favourite destination of sun-seeking paulistanos. But the place has a lot more to offer than just the beach. You can get there by car in about 45min or an hour by bus (buses leave from the Jabaquara bus station every 15 minutes) and tickets cost less than R$20 each way.

On the way to Santos, the Serra do Mar – the mountain range that the Immigrant-Anchieta highway cuts across to get to Santos – provides incredible views, which make the trip down to the coast even more interesting for the start.

As well as chilling out on the beach (best beaches for sunbathing are José Menino and Gonzaga), here are a few tips of things you can do while in Santos:

Do your sightseeing on a tram

The old tram tours are part of the revitalisation of the historic center of Santos. The guided 5km tours show landmarks in the history of the city and the country. At Carnival, the trams also host the now traditional party Carnabonde. Tickets cost R$ 5 and tours leave from Praça Mauá, Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 5pm.

Go for a “Hawaiian” Canoeing ride

As in any beach town, water sports are pretty sought-after in Santos. You can take a ride on a canoe to beaches nearby for about R$40 per person. Canoa Brasil has canoeing courses and also organises short trips. They are based at Rua Afonso Celso de Paula Lima 16 – Ponta da Praia. For more information, you can reach them on (13) 3261-2229.

Take a picture with Pelé

The Santista bakery is the stronghold of Santos FC supporters. The owner has even built a statue of the king of football celebrating a goal. He takes the statue away everyday at closing time and replaces it on the next day. The padaria is at the Canal 5 with the Avenida Epitácio Pessoa and is worth a stop for a cold drink – and a photo, of course.

Drink coffee at the Coffee Museum

The Art Deco-style building was built in 1922 and was the home to what was intended to be the biggest commodities exchange in the world. The building is now home to the Coffee Museum and also has a great coffeeshop, with several options and flavours to please all the lovers of the drink. You pay R$5 to get in and the museum is based at Rua XV de Novembro, 95 in the city centre. The museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 9am to 5pm and on Sundays from 10pm to 6pm.

Visit the Museum of Football Achievements

The museum showcases the 100-year history of Santos Football Club with a vast collection of relics. A stadium tour and a visit to the training ground where Neymar and friends play, is also available. Entry is R$6 and the Museum is based at Rua Princesa Isabel, 77, Vila Belmiro. The site is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 7pm. Calling ahead for guided tours is advisable: (13) 3257-4099.

Images: Paranapiacaba station by Blog do Mílton Jung, São Paulo Restaurant Week by Claudia_midori, Pico do Jaraguá, Serra do Mar and Santos at sunset by markhillary and rafting by Klearchos Kapoutsis. All licensed under Creative Commons.

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