Gaia Passarelli is a music journalist turned video host turned travel writer, with a long career in Brazilian media. Based in São Paulo, Brazil, she writes about female, solo and part time travel in South America and Europe. She’s also a bilingual freelance writer and former MTV host.

We asked her to tell us about her favorite spots in São Paulo and below you can read about everything!

Going local in Vila Madalena with Gaía Passarelli

Last Friday I was walking to my favourite coffee spot here in Vila Madalena, São Paulo. It’s a short walk, no more than a few blocks, really, one that I do at least three or four times a week. But there was something different, and I didn’t take long to see it: the streets were full of people. It was a holiday in Brazil, and there was an open air market right down the street. You know the type: artisanal ice cream, handmade t-shirts, flower arrangements and such. People were visiting, enjoying the sunny day, walking around the area. My area.

I’ve been coming and going to/from Vila Madalena for several years now, and I’m not sure why the scene surprised me. My neighbourhood is not “mine”, not by a longshot. And it’s all right. Vila Madalena may be having several different problems (late night noise, high rents, horrible sports bars) but I like the fact that people are walking the lanes, photographing graffiti, keeping the commerce alive.

I do my part, shopping in the neighborhood, getting to know what’s going on and talking about this so-called little discoveries whenever I can. The following list is what I’d take to to see if we’d happen to meet in the area.

Instituto Chão

Fresh organics right from producers to the shelves. The idea of Instituto Chão is to charge the minimum possible and practice fair prices. A beautiful place to buy vegetables, fruits, bread, cheese and grains. Please note it is more a cooperative than an actual market, so beware the lines: they can take forever and kind of ruin your day. Really.

Bom dia! Gostaríamos de informar que funcionaremos normalmente nessa semana, inclusive no feriado.

See this Instagram photo by @institutochao * 402 likes

Livraria da Vila

It may be a big and fancy place now, but I knew Livraria da Vila when it was just a small bookstore one block up the same street. It’s where I used to buy my school books! Back then it didn’t have the modern architecture or the classy Brazilian literature selection you’ll find today. I prefer it now. Right across the street there’s Marilia Zylberztajn serving THE BEST (sorry for the caps, I’m shouting) sweet treats in the city. But please keep it to yourself, as the place is small and can’t handle crowds. Do yourself a favor and buy some orange candies to go.

“A leitura de um bom livro é um diálogo …

“A leitura de um bom livro é um diálogo incessante: o livro fala e a alma responde.” André Maurois


I loved comic books when I was a kid. Then a had the Marvel phase. Then I got into serious graphic novel business. I still love it all, and I’m always up for reading something new. That’s why I avoid this place. Monkix a super cool selection of comic books, not the newspaper stand kind, but serious business from independent artists, focusing on Brazilian production. You’re welcome to wander the space and read before making a decision.

Exposição Nankeen na Monkix. Agora!

See this Instagram photo by @monkixcomicshop * 23 likes

A Queijaria

A “blink and you’ll miss it” kind of place. But please, don’t miss it. A Queijaria is a small shop dedicated to Brazilian cheese, and Brazilian cheese only. The owner claims to have more than 150 different types of cheese, each and every from small producers spread around the country. You’re welcome to taste before you buy, of course.

A Queijaria – A Queijaria added a new photo. | Facebook

A Queijaria added a new photo.

Café Vintage

Do not come to Café Vintage for the coffee. It’s very bad. I repeat: very bad. Can’t stress that enough. But do come here in the afternoon to read the newspaper while having a piece of homemade cake, a brigadeiro, or even a shot of cachaça if you’re feeling it. There’s a lunchtime restaurant in the back and a vintage military clothing shop on the right, with some cool finds. It’s nothing fancy, but I love the vintage furniture and the fact that I almost always meet someone here. It’s my neighborhood meeting spot.

Aproveitem pois é só até sábado! Depois, só ano

Aproveitem pois é só até sábado! Depois, só ano que vem!

Going Local is a series of interviews that we are doing with people that live and enjoy the city they live. You can read more interviews filled with tips here. And if you want to be featured here, this link will tell you how. We're always looking for more locals to share their favorite spots!