Backpacking in Brazil Part 1

Salvador View

Today’s guest post is from Ashley Day, a travel writer and editor in New York City. She covers American road travel for Rand McNally, New York City food for The Daily Meal, and volunteer travel for Go Overseas. You can follow her adventures on her blog or on twitter.

48 Hours in Sao Paolo

On a two-week, five city tour of Brazil, we only allotted 48 hours to see all we could of Sao Paolo and although we had to run-walk a few times…happened to get everything on our wish list in. Here’s what to hit if you’re only in town for a short time and are lucky enough to stay in a hostel near the subway, like Tu Casa Hostel, which served as the perfect home base.

On day one, we headed straight to Ibirapuera Park while the weather was nice. It was the closest main attraction as well, and on the way up to the more clustered hotspots in the city. Follow the walking trails, plan to bike or jog if you’re particularly active, or use the park’s scattered workout stations to get your exercise for the day. The subway’s a fairly long walk away, so don’t overdo it.

Next head to Liberdade, the city’s Little Japan that holds a market every Sunday. Try native treats made right in front of you or shop for souvenirs. A short walk away is Catedral da Se, an impressive sight with a bustling promenade out front. You’re likely to hear live music and see quite a mix of locals.

Sao Paolo Cathedral Da Se

A short walk away, a must-see is Patio do Colegio where Sao Paulo was founded. All of the buildings on this square are impressive and the small museum and café inside offer a break from all that walking…because there’s more to come. Be sure to see the municipal theatre before your next subway ride to Paulista Avenue. Here you’ll find a variety of markets on the weekends in addition to the Museum of Art and Parque Trianon. Round out this day with dinner on Rua Amauri, a charming strip of restaurants.

Sao Paolo Colegio

On day two we had locals treat us to an eatery we may not have found otherwise, Frutaria Sao Paulo, where we had acai, the native specialty. This healthy meal was reenergizing and tasty, our highly recommended lunch destination. With all that energy head to Batman’s Alley and Mercado Municipal, both perfect for leisurely browsing.

Sao Paolo Batmans Alley

Get a feel for local culture at the market where you can also try more fruits, veggies, or meals, then take in abstract and groovy artwork in the eclectic neighborhood where the alley is found. These stops are a bit spread out, but undoubtedly worth seeing before making your way to the airport for your next adventure.

Fill Your Culture Craving in Salvador

You can find shopping, beach time, museums, and food anywhere in Brazil, but Salvador de Bahia is your culture destination. From music to dancing and ceremonial activities, you’re going to get your fill of entertainment here. You don’t even have to look for specific events as festivities are constantly taking place in local squares, but here are the few we particularly enjoyed.

  • Jamnomam SalvadorJamnomam – The Museum of Modern Art’s live jazz series takes place every Saturday at 6 pm. Gather with crowds of locals on the museum’s gorgeous waterfront patio where you can purchase snacks and drinks, watch the sunset, and enjoy a local jazz band jamming. (And it’s only R$ 6,00!)
  • Drums in SalvadorDrum groups – Music and drumming breaks out in squares year round whether spontaneously or in association with a specific festival. You’re likely to find drumming in Praca da Se, live music at restaurants, and even dancing around Laranjeiras. (If you stay at Hostel Galeria 13, they’ll alert you each day to local events AND they often have live music at their restaurant, Bar Zulu.)
  • Candombie ceremony – An Afro-Brazilian ritual, these ceremonies take place everyday and are highly recommended as part of an authentic experience in Bahia, but are expensive to watch primarily because of the transportation to the outskirts of the city. You’ll see singing, dancing, and drumming, and most likely have the option of dinner on this richly cultural outing.

Be sure to factor these in as you plan your stay in Salvador. They make for an exciting and lively visit a little different from the other cities, but as historically and educationally valuable.

I stayed at Hostel Galeria 13 and I’ve never seen a hostel make this much effort to cater to its guests. As if the free caiprinha happy hour everyday isn’t enough, the staff updates a dry erase board daily with local events and has compiled their own guide book to Salvador. Watch Brazilian movies in a Morroccan style relaxation room, hang out in the small pool, and enjoy free breakfasts each morning. It’s a place you don’t dread coming back to and their restaurant, Bar Zulu, is awesome.

More to Manaus than the Amazon

Manaus Central SquareWe know you’re likely only going through Manaus on the front and back ends of an Amazon adventure, but the city has plenty to offer while you’re in town. We stayed at GOL Backpackers and highly recommend a hostel this close to the central square where you’ll find everything you need.

For a meal, La Scarola was one of our favorite restaurants on an entire five-city tour. They offered traditional Brazilian meals, including a wide variety of brick oven pizzas, chicken and rice perfection, and of course, barbecue. This pizzeria’s just two blocks off the main square and will please any palate.

Manaus Opera HouseWithin the square, the beautiful opera house steals the show, and makes for an easy entertainment choice with all its history and grandeur. After a concert, enjoy a drink or socializing in the square or look for events like movies projected on screens.

This is also where the cultural museum can be found and alternate restaurants. For us, this was a convenient place to restock at the pharmacy and slow down in the serene setting with park benches and patio seating. We were assured this is the safest area of town and a great nightspot.

Outside the square, be sure to view the Negro river on nice days, browse the Municipal Market if you have time, find beautiful beach at Ponta Negra, and take in historic homes as you travel. Manaus has too many appealing and fun reasons to not be overlooked.

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