Sao Paulo Travel Guide

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A large, bustling, smoggy, relatively sophisticated city with lots of good restaurants,clubs and cultural activities.

Sao Paulo, the fourth largest city in the world and largest in South America, is the spot where most visitors from abroad land in Brazil and a transition point from one popular tourist destination to another.

São Paulo is a beautiful city seen from above, so spare some time to go to one of the few points where you’ll be able to see how far this city extends to, specially at sunset. Banespa Tower, Restaurant Skye @ Hotel Unique, São Paulo Jockey Club


Why Not Go


infrastructure is very old and suffered a lack of maintenance
generally several areas of flooding every time it rains
not “user friendly” for people with handicaps
Not known for its Carnaval, but the lack of crowds and lower prices can be appealing.
Traffic jams are enormous at peak hours
high prices


Why Go


Hub for many international airlines and thus the first stop for many travelers, serves as a transition point from one popular tourist destination to another.

cultural capital of Brazil, with a dizzying array of attractions including first-rate museums, nightly concerts, experimental theater and dance.

world-class restaurants and diverse regional and international cuisine – There are more than 12,000 restaurants covering some 62 cuisines in São Paulo.

Enjoy the music that flows through the streets and can be heard around every corner—dance, sing, or just take in the ambience.


Best Time to Visit


January to March is rainy, and floods can disrupt traffic


Where to Stay


Where & What to Eat


Nightlife


unbelievably rich and diverse night life
São Paulo’s nightlife can be quite expensive


My to do List


Casa das Rosas – The House of the Roses, a French-style mansion with gardens inspired by those at Versailles, seems out of place next to the skyscrapers of Paulista. It was built in 1935 by famouspaulistano architect Ramos de Azevedo for one of his daughters. The building was home to the same family until 1986, when it was made an official municipal landmark. It was later opened as a cultural center, and it’s one of the avenue’s few remaining early-20th-century buildings.

Catedral da Sé -The imposing 14-tower neo-Gothic church, renovated in 2002, has tours through the crypt that contains the remains of Tibiriçá, a native Brazilian who helped the Portuguese back in 1554.

Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil – In a neoclassic 1901 building, this cultural center has become a popular space in town for modern and contemporary art. It has three floors of exhibition rooms, a theater, an auditorium, a movie theater, and a video room.

Centro Cultural FIESP – The cultural center of São Paulo State’s Federation of Industry has a theater, a library of art and comic books, and temporary art exhibits.

Edifício Itália – To see the astounding view from atop the Itália Building, you’ll have to patronize the Terraço Itália restaurant, on the 41st floor. As the restaurant is expensive and not one of the city’s best. A piano bar is open from 3:00 pm with a R$30 entrance fee. Dinner starts at 7.

Edifício Martinelli – Amid São Paulo’s modern 1950s-era skyscrapers, the Gothic Martinelli Building is a welcome anomaly. Built in 1929 by Italian immigrant-turned-count Giuseppe Martinelli, it was the city’s first skyscraper. The whimsical penthouse is worth checking out. The rooftop has a great view; to go there you need to get permission from the building manager on the ground floor and leave your ID at the front desk. Then take the elevator to the 34th floor and walk up two more flights.

Fundação Maria Luisa e Oscar Americano – A beautiful, quiet private wooded estate is the setting for the Maria Luisa and Oscar Americano Foundation. Paintings, furniture, sacred art, silver, porcelain, engravings, personal possessions of the Brazilian royal family, tapestries, and sculpture are among the 1,500 objects from the Portuguese colonial and imperial periods. There are some modern pieces as well, along with an exclusive tea room and an auditorium that hosts concerts on Sunday.

Mercado Municipal – The city’s first grocery market, this huge 1928 neobaroque-style building got a major renovation in 2004 and is now the quintessential hot spot for gourmets and food lovers. The building, nicknamed Mercadão (Big Market) by locals, houses 318 stands that sell just about everything edible, including meat, vegetables, cheese, spices, and fish from all over Brazil. It also has restaurants and traditional snack places—don’t miss the salt cod pastel at Hocca Bar.

Mosteiro de São Bento – This unique, Norman-Byzantine church constructed between 1910 and 1922 was designed by German architect Richard Berndl. Its enormous organ has some 6,000 pipes, and its Russian image of the Kasperovo Virgin is covered with 6,000 pearls from the Black Sea. If you go on Sunday, don’t miss the 10 am mass and the monks’ Gregorian chants.

Museu da Imigração Japonesa – The Museum of Japanese Immigration has two floors of exhibits about Nippo-Brazilian culture and farm life, and about Japanese contributions to Brazilian horticulture, along with World War II memorials.

Museu de Arte Contemporânea (MAC) – On the grounds of the country’s largest university, Universidade de São Paulo, the main branch of the MAC displays the work of world-renowned European artists Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Wassily Kandinsky, Joan Miró, and Henri Matisse. Also look for the works of well-known Brazilian artists Anita Malfatti, Tarsila do Amaral, Cândido Portinari, and Emiliano Di Cavalcanti. The smaller branch of the MAC is at the Parque Ibirapuera.

Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP) – One of the city’s premier fine-arts collections, with more than 7,000 pieces, is in this striking low-rise, elevated on two massive concrete pillars 256 feet apart. Highlights of the collection are works by Van Gogh, Renoir, Delacroix, Cézanne, Monet, Rembrandt, Picasso, and Degas. Baroque sculptor Aleijadinho, expressionist painter Lasar Segall, and expressionist/surrealist painter Cândido Portinari are three of the many Brazilian artists represented. The huge open area beneath the museum is often used for cultural events and is the site of a charming Sunday antiques fair.

Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM) – More than 4,500 paintings, installations, sculptures, and other works from modern and contemporary artists such as Alfredo Volpi and Ligia Clark are part of the Modern Art Museum’s permanent collection. Temporary exhibits feature works by new local artists. The giant wall of glass, designed by Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi, serves as a window beckoning you to peek inside.

Museu de Arte Sacra – If you can’t get to Bahia or Minas Gerais during your stay in Brazil, you can get a taste of the fabulous baroque and rococo art found there at the Museum of Sacred Art. On display is a collection of 4,000 wooden and terra-cotta masks, jewelry, and liturgical objects from all over the country (but primarily Minas Gerais and Bahia), dating from the 17th century to the present. The on-site convent was founded in 1774.

Museu do Ipiranga – The oldest and most-visited museum in town, Museu Paulista da Universidade de São Paulo, or Museu do Ipiranga, occupies an 1890 building constructed to honor Brazil’s independence from Portugal, declared in the Ipiranga area in 1822 by then-emperor Dom Pedro I. The huge Pedro Américo oil painting depicting this very moment hangs in the main room of this French-inspired eclectic palace, whose famous gardens were patterned after those of Versailles. Dom Pedro’s tomb lies under one of the museum’s monuments.

Oca – This spacecraft-looking building that hosts art exhibits is pure Oscar Niemeyer. Its temporary traditional- and pop-art exhibits usually break attendance records. When exhibits aren’t on, the building is usually not open to the public. Admission varies; check local newspapers for exhibits.

Parque Trianon – Originally created in 1892 as a showcase for local vegetation, in 1968 the park was renovated by Roberto Burle Marx, the Brazilian landscaper famed for Rio’s mosaic-tile beachfront sidewalks. You can escape the noise of the street and admire the flora and the 300-year-old trees while seated on one of the benches sculpted to look like chairs.

Parque Zoológico de São – The 200-acre São Paulo Zoo has more than 3,000 animals, and many of its 410 species—such as the mico-leão-dourado(golden lion tamarin monkey)—are endangered. See the monkey houses, built on small islands in the park’s lake, and the Casa do Sangue Frio (Cold-Blooded House), with reptilian and amphibious creatures.

Pavilhão da Bienal – In every even-numbered year this pavilion hosts the Bienal (Biennial) art exhibition, which draws hundreds of artists from more than 60 countries. The first such event was held in 1951 in Parque Trianon and drew artists from 21 countries. It was moved to this Oscar Niemeyer-designed building—with its large open spaces and floors connected by circular slopes—after Ibirapuera Park’s 1954 inauguration. Odd-numbered years bring an architecture exhibition.

Pinacoteca do Estado – The building that houses the State Art Gallery was constructed in 1905 and renovated in 1998. The permanent collection has more than 5,000 works of art, including more than 10 Rodin sculptures and several pieces by famous Brazilian artists like Tarsila do Amaral (whose work consists of colorful, somewhat abstract portraits) and Cândido Portinari (whose oil paintings have social and historical themes). The building has a restaurant.

Praça da Sé – Two major metro lines cross under the large, busy Praça da Sé, which marks the city’s geographical center and houses its main cathedral. Here migrants from Brazil’s poor northeast often gather to enjoy their music and to sell and buy regional items such as medicinal herbs, while street children hang out trying to avoid the periodic (and controversial) police sweeps to get them off the street.


Stay Away From


There has been an increase in robberies of ATM machines in Sao Paulo. The Brazilian Banks Federation installed in a number of ATMs an anti theft device that colours the notes of an ATM that has been damaged or tampered with using pink ink. Any pink coloured note will not be accepted in the market and automatically loses its value. If you withdraw cash at an ATM and it has any sort of pink marks you should speak with the bank manager straight away to get it changed.

shanty towns, or “favelas” tours have recently become popular among foreign tourists in Sao Paulo. We advise you to avoid Sao Paulo’s favelas, as neither the tour company nor the city police can guarantee your safety when entering favelas.

particularly high incidence of robberies and pick-pocketing in the Praca da Se section of Sao Paulo and in the eastern and northern parts of the city


Getting There


Three major airports: Guarulhos International (GRU) and Viracopos (CPQ) for international and some domestic arrivals, and Congonhas (CGH) for most medium and short haul domestic flights
If flying into São Paulo from abroad, you’ll mostly likely land at Guarulhos International Airport
Congonhas Airport is in a very central region, 15 km (9 mi) from downtown. This airport handles most of the domestic flights

Three main bus terminals in São Paulo, all of them served by the Metrô (Subway) network.
Terminal Rodoviário do Tietê
Terminal Rodoviário da Barra Funda
Terminal Rodoviário de Jabaquara

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