Explore Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo Travel Guide

Originally a mission station set up in 1554 by Jesuit priests on the banks of the Rio Tiete, the city of Sao Paulo is today an awesome megalopolis, the industrial and commercial powerhouse of Brazil. The city grew wealthy on coffee cultivation in the mid-19th century, thanks to the rich soil of the region, and the plantation owners took up residence in the bustling regional centre. Gradually the coffee barons diversified their interests and invested some of their wealth in local industry, resulting in a demand for labour and a resultant surge in immigrant population. Today, 16 million proud <em>Paulistanos</em>live in the congested, chaotic and cosmopolitan city centre and its sprawling surrounds.<br /><br /> Lacking in natural attractions, the city's leisure pursuits are mainly cultural and artistic, and there are some impressive public buildings to delight sightseers, as well as some top-notch museums, theatres, bars, and some of the best shopping in Brazil. Neighbourhoods like Bela Vista and Bixiga are very photogenic, with both ornate mansions and impressive skyscrapers. Sao Paulo is a fast-paced urban jungle, which dwarfs New York City in size several times over, so a holiday in Sao Paulo is not for those who come to South America for laid-back beaches and sunshine. However, it is a paradise for shopping, eating, nightlife, and generally living it up among Brazil's wealthiest inhabitants.<br /><br />

Ibirapuera Park

Address: Avenida Pedro Alvares Cabral, Sao Paulo Sao Paulo

The Parque do Ibirapuera is a large park near the centre of Sao Paulo with many interesting features, including a planetarium, a Japanese pavilion, a gymnasium, the Obelisk of Sao Paulo (a symbol of the Constitutionalist Revolution of 1932), and the Cicillo Matarazzo Pavilion, which houses the Museum of Contemporary Art and is typically the venue for large events like the São Paulo Art Biennial and São Paulo Fashion Week. The park is home to many other museums, including the Air Force Museum and Folklore Museum. It also has jogging and walking trails, and a picturesque lake, and is a good spot to explore for those wanting a bit of holiday exercise or some fresh air in the heart of this sprawling city.<br /><br />

Football Museum

Address: Estádio do Pacaembu, Praça Charles Miller 1, São Paulo Sao Paulo

Even for non-football fans, Sao Paulo's Museu do Futebol (Football Museum) is a must-see tourist attraction. The Brazilian team has been unquestionably the most delightful and successful national team in football's history, and the sport is supported with religious fervour throughout the country. The beauty of Sao Paulo's Football Museum, housed within the Pacaembu Stadium (which is itself an icon of the city), is that is takes a modern, interactive approach toward its exhibitions, with holographic displays, touch-screen information panels, and various other multimedia installations.<br /><br /> Highlights of the museum include the 'History of the World Cup' section, and a display introducing Brazil's 25 greatest-ever players (the Anjos Barrocos, or 'Baroque Angels'). An appreciation of what football means to the country is vital to getting to grips with Brazilian culture, and Sao Paulo's Football Museum is a wonderful introduction in this respect. Be sure to budget at least two or three hours for the museum, as there's a lot to see.<br /><br />

Julio Prestes Cultural Center

Address: Sao Paulo

This cultural centre and concert venue is located in what was once the Julio Prestes Train Station, an imposing and meticulously restored building. The highlight of the centre is the Sala Sao Paulo, a concert venue which seats nearly 1,500 people and is home to the renowned Sao Paulo State Symphonic Orchestra (OSESP). Specifically designed as a venue for symphonic and chamber music, the Sala has world-class acoustics and is the best place for classical music lovers to catch a concert in the city. Other events are also hosted at the cultural centre, and the variety of music concerts is vast, with pop and rock featuring alongside the traditional, classical offerings.<br /><br />

Sao Paulo Carnival

Where: Sambodromo and Avenue Paulista are central to the festivities.,Sao Paulo

When: February 2018 TBC

Although Sao Paulo's carnival is less famous than Rio's version, travellers will still be enthralled by the glittering, colourful, riotous fun of a city-wide party, and may even find that the comparative lack of tourists makes the festival seem more authentic. Tickets are also significantly cheaper and easier to come by in Sao Paulo.<br /><br /> The main parades of the carnival (called blocos) make their way down Avenue Paulista, and the samba school competitions that form the backbone of the festival programme are held in the Sambodromo, which accommodates up to 30,000 people. As elsewhere in Brazil, the residents of Sao Paulo dress up in vibrant costumes to celebrate carnival.<br /><br />

Brazilian F1 Grand Prix

Where: Autódromo José Carlos Pace (Interlagos),Sao Paulo

When: 12 November 2017

Often selected as the site of the final race of the Formula One season, the bumpy Interlagos Circuit of Autódromo José Carlos Pace is not a favourite with the drivers, but for spectators it is one of the most thrilling circuits. The stands are often filled with Brazilian greens and yellows, as locals cheer on their resident F1 celebrity driver and 2008 winner Filipe Massa. The track is 10 miles (16km) away from the city centre and is considered a challenging course, which makes for an exciting and often unpredictable race.<br /><br />

Sao Paulo LGBT Pride Parade

Where: Ave. Paulista,Sao Paulo

When: 18 May 2017

The Sao Paulo Gay Parade is one of the city's major tourist events and is the highlight of a month-long programme of events that includes parties, street fairs, film festivals, shows and the traditional Gay Day at Hopi Hari amusement park. The LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transvestite and Transsexual) Parade in Sao Paulo is said to be the biggest event of its kind in the world, having grown from 2,000 people in 1997 to include more than three million people today, who gather on the streets waving rainbow flags in condemnation of homophobia, racism and sexism. As with most Pride parades, many people choose to dress up outrageously and the parade is accompanied by lots of parties and festivities.<br /><br />

Sao Paulo's party scene is a late-night one: most Paulistas (locals) don't go out until midnight. In fact, there's a saying in the city: 'when the sun comes up, you hardly notice'.<br /><br /> Sao Paulo's nightlife is a reflection of its cosmopolitan image. Its bars and clubs are spread out around the city, though you'll find clusters in neighbourhoods like Vila Olímpia, where the dance clubs are popular with twentysomethings, and Vila Madalena, where you'll find restaurants and bars that appeal more to revellers in their thirties. Because bars and clubs are so spread out, it can be a good idea to stick to venues in one area, rather than running up large taxi bills getting caught in Sao Paulo's late-night traffic jams. It is not advised to walk around the city at night.<br /><br /> Bars in Sao Paulo have their own system for payment. Instead of or in addition to the entry charge, there will be a drink minimum. You'll get a card that will record all your expenses for the night, and pay everything when you leave. Be careful not to lose this card, as the penalty is very steep!<br /><br /> Live music in Sao Paulo is among the best in Brazil, with a wide variety of styles to suit every taste. The formal Teatro Municipal and the Sala São Paulo, where the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra performs, have good programmes of classical music, theatre, and dance. The Teatro Italia hosts regular Brazilian contemporary dance performances. For a more relaxed evening, head to Bourbon Street, a popular jazz club founded by BB King himself. Villa Country hosts Brazilian Country music, and Armazem da Vila plays pagoda, which is a simpler form of samba.<br /><br /> If you feel like dancing, Sao Paulo has many options for that as well. Azucar has a reputation as the best Latin dance spot in the city, with meringue, salsa, and mambo playing all night long. Bar Favela is a popular option too, and includes pop and hip hop music along with Latin dance. Blen Blen Brasil is also popular, with a more relaxed and eclectic feel, mixing deejays and live bands. If you're unsure of your steps, you can go to the Buena Vista Club, which offers dance lessons in traditional Latin club styles like the gafieira and the zouk.<br /><br /> Sao Paulo also has a few popular gay clubs, including Lov.e in Vila Olímpia, and Bendito Fruto Bar in Vila Madalena.<br /><br /> Visitors should be aware of local terms: the words boate or boite, which in Rio mean nightclub, refer almost exclusively to sex clubs and strip bars in Sao Paulo.<br /><br /> Pick up a copy of the Friday Folha de São Paulo newspaper, which has a great concert and event guide. Veja magazine also has a good entertainment guide that comes out on Sundays, and the monthly Revista Cultural, a government publication, has up-to-date information on more formal events like theatre, exhibitions, classical music and dance.<br /><br />
Shopping in Sao Paulo is a big deal, as the city is the major luxury shopping destination for all of Brazil. Visitors will find designer labels and haute couture to rival the best boutiques of New York or London, small outdoor craft markets, and everything else in between.<br /><br /> Popular things to buy in Sao Paulo include religious antiques, soapstone carvings, leather goods and gemstone jewellery, which are offered by various shops throughout the city. You can also find local gemstones carved into shapes like toucans, jaguars, and other wild figures.<br /><br /> If your budget is bigger, though, you won't find a better place to look for Brazilian fashion than Sao Paulo. Neighbourhoods like Jardins, Rua Augusta or Alameda Lorena have many high-end fashion boutiques carrying designer Brazilian labels like Animale, Victor Dzenk, Ellus, and Totem.<br /><br /> Sao Paulo has a few worthwhile outdoor markets, including the Saturday market Feira do Bixiga, which has crafts, antiques, clothing and live music; and Feira Moderna, offering high-end local goods, set in a flower garden with a relaxed cafe. The Museu de Arte hosts an antique fair every Sunday, and the predominantly Japanese neighbourhood of Liberdade has its own Saturday market. Markets can be a great way to get bargains on Sao Paulo souvenirs, but petty theft can be a problem, so always keep a close watch on your belongings.<br /><br /> There isn't a central shopping district in Sao Paulo, but stores tend to be clustered in groups: Rua 25 de Março has an abundance of market stalls, and Jardins is where you'll find a lot of high-end Brazilian fashion. Daslu is a posh department store catering to every whim of its customers, from free espresso to a sushi bar, and all the designer labels you need to max out your credit card.<br /><br /> There are also a few shopping malls in Sao Paulo, including Patio Higienópolis, Morumbi, and Iguatemi. These tend toward upscale stores, with fine dining and expensive boutiques next to cinemas and food courts.<br /><br /> Shops in Sao Paulo accept credit cards with few exceptions. High-end stores won't bargain, but feel free to haggle at markets. Sales tax is 18 percent, and there is no tax refund scheme for departing tourists in Brazil.<br /><br />
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