Travel: A Colorful Bohemian Neighborhood in Brazil — Vila Madalena, Sao Paulo

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I have been working with a cosmetic company from Brazil for almost a year, and a couple weeks ago, I finally had the chance to go to Brazil for some work. Since I’ve never been to Brazil, I didn’t know what to expect, but it didn’t’ stop me from being excited. Even though I spent most of the time between the hotel and the office, I still manage to get out and explore a little but and have a glimpse of the local Brazilian culture.  Unlike Rio de Jeneiro, Sao Paulo is more of a business center, it is endless high-rises and commercial building all around the city.  I was eager to find a quaint little area that contains a little more Brazilian culture and charm, and then I found Vila Madalena.

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The red dotted area — that’s where Vila Madalena is!

Vila Madalena is a neighborhood of the Pinheiros district in the western part of the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil. The neighborhood is known for its bustling nightlife and its history as a center of Sao Paulo bohemian culture and art. Vila Madalena is filled with dozen of art galleries and studios, independent designer stores, an eclectic mix of restaurants and bars and a series of graffiti-covered streets and alleys. The neighborhood has become a hot spot for artists, writers, journalists, movie directors, intellectuals in general and, of course, wannabes in every one of these categories.

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During the week, the streets in Vila Madalena can seem a little quiet, but it is actually the best time to visit since you don’t have to worry that anyone would block your view from the endless artwork as this neighborhood is now known as the home to the city’s premiere open-air art gallery. As you walk into the neighborhood, you will see that Villa Madalena’s streets have become the test lab for an overwhelming number of artists, creating a constant turnover of artworks and making any kind of territorial hierarchy near on impossible. When you talk to the locals about the famous long, thin, winding alleyway (they called it “becos”), it is actually a paved-over river that runs parallel to Rua Belmiro Braga. You may not feel the water passing underneath the asphalt, but you sure can’t miss the colorful paint that overflowing above the ground. Take a stroll down following the colors, it’s one of the most inspiring experience one can get, and if you’re a graffiti fan, you might spot some signature trademarks or names like Dask2, Ninguem Dorme, Speto or Tumulus. I don’t’ know many graffiti artists, but all the visual excitements still make it a priceless experience.

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Besides the street arts, Vila Madalena also has countless numbers of unique boutique stores if you’re up for some shopping. One of my favorite places is La Da Venda (Rua Harmonia 161), it is a warehouse full of fun, inspiring and authentic crafts haning and scattered everywhere. I can spend hours in the store just to look through all their one-of-the-kind products. They also serve delicious homemade food and authentic Brazilian coffee, just in case you got hungry while you dig through all their products, you know?

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Another cute adorable place is Juliana Bicudo (Rua Girassol 170). It is all about retro-style leather footwear in this store, and some occasional accessories. They have the most unique patterns and designs with just the right amount of Brazilian touch, and they are handmade, too! If you’re lucky, you’ll catch the designer in the store to help you find the style that suites you the best.

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As for nightlife, Sub Astor (Rue Delfina 163) is a great place to go. It is in the basement of the restaurant Astor, hidden behind the red velvet curtains. It’s a classy NYC-style speakeasy that stands out amidst the beer bars of the neighborhood. Have a couple of local appetizers during the happy hour upstairs, and head down for some dancing when the bar opens at 10pm, it’s just the flawless plan for fun!

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You’ll see a full spectrum of people in the neighborhood when you visit Vila Madalena – students holding an impromptu party, hipster clicking away with their cameras and families in their entireties – it is just a place that’s full of life and inspiration for visitors of all walks. You definitely don’t have to be a bohemian to have a good time here.