Travel insider: Gigi Falanga Sao Paulo, Brazil

Gigi Falanga, co-host on Zumbo's Just Desserts.
Gigi Falanga, co-host on Zumbo's Just Desserts.

What do you lovemost about Sao Paulo?

It is a great city that offers everything and operates 24 hours non-stop.

What are the locals like?

Busy! It is a crazy city and you can find everything really. Most of the Brazilians are quite receptive and warm. But sometimes I feel like the madness of a big city makes people act chaotic.

Why is it a good place for Kiwis to visit?

Sao Paulo is very different from New Zealand. The state capital is the largest city in Brazil. It can be a little overwhelming but it will definitely be a crazy (in a good way) experience for Kiwis. I also recommend a trip to the coast - we have beautiful beaches two hours drive from the city, like Maresias and Ilha Bela.

The city is sobig-where's the best neighbourhood to stay?

Jardins, Vila Nova Conceicao, Moema. They are the neighbourhoods I grew up in and I love.

Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo / 123RF
Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo / 123RF


What's the easiest way to get around?

Unfortunately, Sao Paulo doesn't have efficient, safe public transport. The trams are probably the safest out of the public transport options, though taxis still are the safest. It is a great idea to have a local guide with you during your trip to maximise safety and also show you the hidden gems.

Is it safe for tourists?

Although it is very beautiful and an amazing cultural experience it does, unfortunately, have an unsafe side. You need to make sure that you keep your wits about you at all times. The country has many social contrasts-many people migrate to the big city from other states in search of work, but the reality is there is not workfor everyone in Sao Paulo and poverty is growing every year, so some people are stealing to survive. However, I have family and friends who have been living there for years who survive all this chaos. The community learns to survive, exploring the best the city has to offer.

What are some traditional Brazilian foods and where are the best places in SaoPaulo to get them?

Food differs from state to state, offering a huge variety in Brazilian cuisine. The most traditional dish is rice with beans, barbecue, and cheese bread. As for the desserts, oh my goodness, there are so many: brigadeiro, cocoada, doce de leite. The city offers food everywhere you go but you should definitely check out Mercado, in the city centre showcasing tropical fruits, traditional sandwiches and snacks; and barbecue places like Fogo de Chao.

What are some of your other favourite restaurants offering international cuisine?

Terraco Italia has an amazing view of the city. D.O.M is a highly regarded and award-winning restaurant. Chef/owner Alex Atala makes Brazilian food in a fine dining style.

Where's your favourite place toget dessert?

Any good bakery in Sao Paulo has a variety of traditional Brazilian desserts. There is one at Jardins call Galeria dos Paes that is just delightful.

What are the hottest nightclubs and bars to visit?

The city is busy all night long and there are heaps of options. To start the night I like to go to the Vila Madalena neighbourhood, which is full of cool bars. SKY is a very nice roof top bar/restaurant that I make sure I go to every time I visit Sao Paulo.

Where should we go to watch a football game?

Pacaembu Stadium is a beautiful place with easy access. You can visit the football museum there and on Saturdays they offer a traditional "feijoada" - Brazilian meal of black beans and rice.

Are there any museums or art galleries that you'd recommend?

MASP (Sao Paulo Museum of Art) and Pinacoteca Do Estado De Sao Paulo are the best art museums in the city.

What three things should Kiwis take with them on a visit to Sao Paulo?

Curiosity, patience and money.

Originally from Sao Paulo, pastry chef Gigi Falanga is now based in Australia and is on screen in Zumbo's Just Desserts, Mondays and Tuesdays, 7.30pm on TV3.

- Spy.co.nz

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