Sao Paulo Travel Guide

Photo of Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo Overview

The sprawling metropolis and energetic city that is Sao Paulo is many things: Brazil and South Americas largest city, the 3rd most populous city in the world, the countrys capital of culture and economy and a hotbed of diverse cuisines and cutting-edge restaurants and nightlife. Established by Jesuits way back in 1554 and following many years as a remote colonial destination, Sampa took off in the 20th century after the influx of Italians, Japanese and Arabs who have all come together to create the fascinating multicultural city that stands today.

 
There is no doubting that Sao Paulo is huge city, stretching from the downtown suburbs and out, as far as the eye can see, into the surrounding hills and mountains. Nevertheless, regardless of its size, many tourists find the city far less daunting to get around than first impressions would suggest. In fact, the city is home to Brazils finest metro system, arguably the best way to get around, for those who dont fancy walking or sweltering in a taxi. As point of orientation when exploring the city, most use the centrally located Praca de Se or Avenida Paulista to find their bearings. Be sure to dedicate plenty of time to exploring the Centro Historico, the hugely cosmopolitan centre, where high flying businessmen rub shoulders with chilled out hippies. Take a few moments to wander the streets of the Italian district Bixiga and the animated Japantown in Liberdade.
 
Moving away from the centre the keen explorer will come face to face with a blend of middle-class villages, avant-garde commercial and exhibition centres and the sprawling open-green parks that offer a retreat from the chaos and are so cherished by the local Paulistas. Furthermore, those getting around on foot are likely to uncover numerous European influenced quarters showcasing the fantastic cosmopolitan vibe that prevails throughout.
 
Sao Paolo is often a travellers first point of call in Brazil and although from above it may look like a concrete jungle, at ground level visitors soon realise that it is a place worthy of spending a good few days. Around 6 hours south of Rio de Janeiro, the city is blessed with extensive transport across Brazil and internationally. Buses depart at all hours to Brasilia, Curitiba, Florianopolis, Foz do Iguacu and Salvador, amongst others, with journey times ranging from 5 to c30 hours. Buses also run to Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile, although with long trip times it is perhaps better to seek a cheap flight.

Things to do in Sao Paulo

IbirapueraPark - Sao Paulos most popular recreational spot is this huge urban park south of the city centre. With paths and walkways it is a favoured location for joggers, however almost anything can be enjoyed within the park. Find a quiet patch of grass for some bird watching, relax by the lagoon, visit one of the museums and galleries, enjoy the Japanese gardens, or purchase a caipirinha from a bar and take in a concert.

 
Museums & Galleries in Sao Paulo
Museu Afro Brasil - Excellent museum in IbirapueraPark showcasing the talents and accomplishments of Brazils African communities from slave times to the present day.
Museum of Japanese Immigration - Another museum, with eager staff, worth a few hours for the displays on Japanese history in Brazil.
Museu de Arte Sacra - Housed in an 18thC Luz monastery, this museum is home to an abundance of interesting ecclesiastical artefacts from the 17th to 20thC.
Pinacoteca do Estado - One of Brazils finest art collections housed in an impressive glass roofed building.
 
Avenida Paulista - Be sure to taker a stroll along one of Sao Paulos liveliest streets, packed with imposing skyscrapers, top hotels, an abundance of superb restaurants and boutique shops. The wide street is also home to Museu de Arte Sao Paulo, the impressive Syrian Cathedral and the pristine gardens of Casa das Rosas and TrianonPark.
 
Banespa Skyscraper - Head to this soaring skyscraper for the best panoramic views of the city and some great photo opportunities. Entrance to the elevator and 34th floor observation deck is free to all.
 
Sao Paulo Futebol Club - Whether a lover of football or not, watching a game in Brazil is a must to experience the unique atmosphere and passion of the local crowds. Games usually kick off as late as 10pm and the colourful crowds sing and dance their way through the whole 90 minutes of play. Hotels and hostels often arrange tours including a game and are the best and safest way to go.
 
JapanTown - Whereas most large cities have a Chinatown, Sao Paulo, thanks to the largest population of Japanese outside of Japan, is home to a colourful JapanTown. Located in the Liberdade district, one of the citys oldest, take a wander down Rua Galvao Bueno filled with mineral stores and a wealth of Japanese and sushi restaurants. Check out the Sunday Market at the main square.
 
Mercado Municipal - On any day of the week from early morning until late afternoon this food market is a hive of activity and a place to send the taste buds wild. Spend the day meandering around the market stalls where youll find everything from fruits and vegetables, meats and seafood and delicious sweets. Check out the Gourmet Lounge and the opportunity to sample some of Sao Paulos favourite dishes.
 
Festivals in Sao Paulo - As across the most of Brazil Sao Paulo hosts numerous vibrant festivals of varying description throughout the year. Depending on the time of visit, tourists can choose from the Biennial of Sao Paulo, a huge art exhibition at Ibirapuera Park, the Electronic Language International Festival, Gay Pride and of course Carnaval, when the whole city comes out, elaborately dressed, to sing and dance their way through the national holiday.
 
Sao Paulo Nightlife
Sao Paulo is literally teeming with cafés, restaurants, bars and nightclubs and you only need to turn a corner to find somewhere to enjoy a cold beer or caipirinha. Popular bars include Bar Brahma serving an eclectic mix since 1948, Bourbon Street Music Club for lovers of blues, jazz and funk and Cachacaria Paulista to try an of 300 flavours of cachaca. Funhouse is another lively spot attracting Indie bands from the US and UK. Those looking for a late night and dance floor action should try out A Loca a Sao Paulo classic attracting all kinds of colourful and beautiful people and Club Disco, a funky joint where your wallet should match your attire. Still looking for something to do after most have gone home, then make a move for Love Story, the citys number 1 after hours party club.

Hotels in Sao Paulo

Budget Hotels Sao Paulo

Lime Time Hostel - Great location, great staff and good party vibe. Tel (55) 11 2935 5463.
Oca Hostel - Laidback hostel a short walk from IbirapueraPark. Tel (55) 11 2364 8466.
Olah Hostel - Welcoming hotel with good amenities. Tel (55) 11 5081 5487.
Vila Madalena Hostel - Well kept hostel in a great central location and close to popular sights. Tel (55) 11 3034 4104.
 
Midrange Hotels Sao Paulo
Mercure Santo Andre - Good midrange option close to a large park and the ABCPlaza mall. Tel (55) 11 4979 7900.
Novotel Center Norte - Large business orientated hotel close to the exhibition centres. Tel (55) 11 2224 4000.
 
Luxury Hotels Sao Paulo
LHotel Porto Bay - Superb boutique hotel a short hop from fashionable Avenida Paulista. Tel (55) 11 2183 0500.
Renaissance Hotel - Imposing luxury hotel in the financial district. Part of the Marriott group. Tel (55) 11 3069 2233.

Sao Paulo Weather

Sao Paulo Travel Resources

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This page was last modified on 14 Jan 2011 by Matt