Rua 25 de Março (www.guiada25.com.br) is not unlike a modern-day souk. On a slow day, an average 400,000 shoppers cram the 400 stores lining the street and hidden within small galerias, which hawk everything from housewares, toys, fabrics, and Carnaval paraphernalia to clothing, jewelry, and shoes. The prices are stupendously cheap (which accounts for the crowds), but part of the fun is bargaining for even further discounts.
Shopping on 25 de Março—and the surrounding streets of Rua Comendador Abdo Schain, Rua Barão de Duprat and Rua Cavalheiro Basílio Jafret—can be a lively and interesting experience, but also a chaotic and exhausting one. Avoid Saturdays and holidays (when the number of shoppers can hit the one million mark) and don’t bring small kids. Easiest access is via São Bento Metrô. Also be aware that many designer goods are fake.
Great deals are also to be found in the bairro of Bom Retiro (www.omelhordobomretiro.com.br), adjacent to Luz (take the Metrô to Luz station). Sampa’s traditional garment district was originally inhabited by Jewish immigrants. Today, it is largely Korean and boasts hundreds of wholesale stores selling clothing and accessories that are up to 40 percent cheaper than they would be in shopping centers. Less hectic and more organized than Rua 25 de Março, Bom Retiro also has the advantage of an abundance of great, inexpensive Korean restaurants (open for lunch only).
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition