Alice West and her husband Ed travelled to the Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo in November 2013. With plans to visit a friend living in Rio that winter, it made sense to spend a few days in Sao Paulo first before taking the short flight to Rio de Janeiro. The Brazilian Grand Prix was something they never imagined they’d ever experience, and it was everything they’d hoped for and more. Just don’t mention the rain…
What’s Sao Paulo like to visit?
Sao Paulo is huge and not the prettiest city by any means – the first thing you see as you make your descent into the city is thousands of skyscrapers rising up through smog! Having said that, it’s a modern and oddly quite aesthetic city underneath it all. Lots of interesting architecture and hands down some of the most impressive graffiti art I’ve ever seen – it’s literally everywhere!
Ayrton Senna’s grave is in Sao Paulo at the Morumbi Cemetery, so that’s worth a pilgrimage for any F1 fan, and Ibirapuera Park is a great place to visit – it’s a bit like what Central Park is to New York – with several museums and monuments worth checking out.
We were only in Sao Paulo for a four or five days, so we spent Friday to Sunday at the track and enjoyed some great evenings out in the city. Vila Madalena is a great place to head for some dinner and drinks, but all the teams tend to stay in the Itaim Bibi district, close to the southern edge of the city and in the middle of the commercial district.
Avenida Paulista is one of the glam places to eat out in Sao Paulo, so book for dinner here one night and you might just spot a team at dinner if you’re in the right place at the right time.
Any tips for fans planning a trip to the Brazilian Grand Prix?
Fly direct to Sao Paulo with TAM airlines. They’re a great airline and they operate mainly overnight flights. With the two hour time difference between Sao Paulo and London you won’t suffer from any jet lag or general fatigue if you get a decent kip on the plane. Well worth the £800 we paid per ticket! Other options are flying with BA or Iberia (changing in Madrid).
Airbnb.co.uk is a great website if you fancy staying somewhere cheaper with more space than a hotel room. We were travelling in a three and wanted to stay somewhere with more communal space. Nice hotels aren’t cheap in Sao Paulo at any time of year, and when the F1 circus comes to town the prices skyrocket.
However, we paid £45 per person per night to stay in a stunning townhouse in Vila Madalena. The owner was extremely welcoming and helpful, and stayed in an annexe behind the property. He gave us the run of the whole place – kitchen, roof terrace, the lot. We also enjoyed freshly baked pastries and endless cups of strong Brazilian coffee every morning.
Other tips are a seat pad for sore behinds if you’re sitting in Grandstand A, and a pair of lightweight binoculars in case you end up sitting away from a big screen. The vantage point is great here and you’ll spot all sorts of action on the other side of the circuit if you have binoculars on you. We managed to get these past security with no problem.
Don’t bother packing an anorak as you can buy a lightweight plastic poncho (everyone wears them) from vendors for next to nothing. As this season’s race will testify, the weather in Sao Paulo is unpredictable at best!