A little history
This little charm of a city is but 1 hour away from São Bernardo do Campo or 2 hours away from São Paulo city centre.
Panapiacaba is a great option to spend some time outside the busy city. There are many things to do there, such as, having a good lunch or coffee, visit the Museum Train Station or the Church. There is also an option to enjoy the nature with waterfalls, hiking, campgrounds and take one of the many ecco tourism provided by local tourist agency.
Paranapiacaba inaugurated in the mid 1860 thanks to the São Paulo Railway. In 1874, the station opened under Alto da Serra, and was later called Paranapiacaba. It first served as a passenger transport and later helped with the flow of coffee production from the province of São Paulo to the Port of Santos.
Today the railway is no longer used for commercial purpose. It strictly works as tourist transport, leaving the Luz Station in São Paulo or Santo André station all the way to Paranapiacaba. You can book online through the website of the CPTM, or go in person at the Luz or Santo André train stations. We would have loved a taking a train over the car, but they were fully booked during the carnival season.
Where to stay when visiting ?
It's hard to say, since we didn’t spend the night at Paranapiacaba. We did a round trip in the same day since it's so close to the city.
However, if you are planning to stay overnight to explore the village and region, there are several (of what Brazilians call) “Pousadas”. It's a kind of B&B. We have used these ''Pousadas'' in the past, by booking online.
The main tourists points we have visited are:
The city of Paranapiacaba offers several places to visit. Its best to bring comfortable shoes to walk as the terrain varies from asphalt to dirt roads, cobblestone and many stairs to climb. Bring your camera, some water and check the weather before you leave. It can easily get foggy and cold since it's near the “Serra do Mar” ocean front.
- Metallic footbridge and Big Ben: When we arrived in the city, we parked on a street called 'Av Fox'. It's quite close to city entrance and footbridge. We visited during Carnaval, (between February or March each year), and we knew that the city would get quite full, so this was the perfect spot for a quick getaway. The Metalic Bridge connects both sides of the city, this said offers a very picturesque scenery when sunny (and a different feel when foggy). The walkway on the Bridge gives you a view of the famous "Clock Tower of Johnnie Walker" which is known as the "Big Ben" of Paranapiacaba. Under the bridge, you will see old locomotives and trains that lead to large shed. Today, this shed is the Technological Museum Railroad.
- Technological Museum: The museum is open to visitors for a small fee. Once on the grounds you will see the track system, old tools and machines, and the “Maria Fumaça” (the name given to the trains). There is a small fee to access the museum. We paid between R$5.00-10 reais (which is roughly $3-5CAD). The visit is really worth a visit. Should you plan to take professional pictures, it's best to get authorization ahead of time. Otherwise you can take personal pictures on the grounds. For further information about the museum or release forms, feel free to consult the museum website.
- Bom Jesus Church: The “Bon Jesus” church is located at the top of Paranapiacaba hill. First you will need to cross the Metalic Bridge then climb a set of stairs. There is a parking lot nearby, should you be arriving by car. At first, the Church was called the "Chapel of Alto da Serra" and as of 1911 became linked to parish of Ribeirão Pires. At the time, it received a five-year license for celebration of masses, the first one occurred on 8 August 1884. Despite some upkeep issues outside, the inside is well maintained and operational.
- Cemetery of Paranapiacaba: The “Bom Jesus”cemetery is the oldest-active graveyard of ABC (Great region of São Paulo). According to online sources, the cemetery was created around 1890. The English founded it when they came to work on the railroad construction. Many Englishman were buried here instead of England after the epidemic. The cemetery is located next to the Church of “Bom Jesus”. The weather shifts quite quickly in Paranapiacaba, we witnessed fog in the middle of a sunny day. Let's just say it adds character to the pictures.
- Club Union Lira Serrano: We visited the club during the Carnival and found an exposition with arts and crafts. They were selling souvenirs, food and drinks at a reasonable price. There is also a very tasty cafe on site, where you can sit and relax with a delicious beverage and dessert or Brazilian snack.
- Sight seeing: Another option is to discover Paranapiacaba by walking through the city. You will find several historic wooden houses built at the time of the British. For example, the Post office, The Fox - House of Memory and the Castle Museum, which was the home of the chief engineer of the road. Feel free to inquire more on the "ecotourism" in order to explore the nature in the region.
Where to eat
There is no shortage of food or restaurants in Paranapiacaba. As you walk through the village you will find several restaurants offering comfort home cooked meals. They often serve it as a self-service buffet or per kilo (pay per weight).
We have heard about "Bar of Zilda", which seems to be very famous, because of the large queue.
How to get there
You can access Paranapiacaba easily by Via Anchieta getting the access through “Riacho Grande”. “Google.maps” works quite well to avoid traffic and get you on the quickest route.
You can take the train to Paranapiacaba from the “Estação da Luz” metro station, located downtown São Paulo. Another option is to get the train from Santo André. Here is the website link in order to book your tickets ahead of time. If going by train, book way in advance !
The weather shifts quickly in the “Serra do Mar” region (fog and rain). It's best to bring proper equipment since it's difficult to predict in advance.