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Exploring Sao Paulo

Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paolo, is the country’s most underrated tourist destination, lagging behind the sun, sea, and sand hubs of Salvador and Rio de Janeiro. In reality, it offers a diverse, rich cultural experience due to its long history of immigration, and its highlights are its vast choice of delicious dining options and its many cultural events. A holiday here is an exploration of a unique city edged by a magnificent, rainforested mountain range which gives great ecotourism options.

Downtown Sao Paulo is a magnet for history buffs, with its 17th century religious buildings, heritage mansions, and museums shadowed by soaring skyscrapers. Here, you’ll find the Mercure Sao Paulo hotel and the Royal Jardins Boutique Hotel, as well as a good choice of budget properties. The rest of the city’s extraordinary century-long growth has given rise to contrasting areas of wealth and poverty, as well as stunning green spaces and cultural diversity. Vibrant nightlife and fine dining is found in the West district, and the city’s famous carnival takes place in the event hub of northeast Sao Paulo.

Sights nearby

Sao Paulo’s fascinating, multi-ethnic tourist trail begins at Avenida Paulista, the grand thoroughfare dividing the old and the new parts of the city and which includes the historic centre, the area around the banks of the Rio Pinheiros, and the city’s many museum and art galleries.

Avenida Paulista
Contrasting modern and historic architecture, art galleries, hotels, gourmet restaurants, theatres, and vibrant nightlife are all found in and around Avenue Paulista. Must-sees include its two oldest buildings, the charming, colonial House of Joaquim France de Mello and the Church of St Luis Gonzaga, as well as the ultra-modern Sao Paulo Museum of Art.

Sao Paulo Historic Center
The cultural and historic heart of the vast city is a vibrant mix of commercial, cultural, and entertainment quarters, protected areas, and wide boulevards lined with neoclassical and Baroque buildings similar to those in Vienna and Paris. Its Bella Vista quarter is a theatre, bar, and nightlife hub, and the Asian quarter of Liberdade is home to Japanese and Korean communities.

Parque Estadual da Cantareira
The event hub of Sao Paulo is its Northwest district, which is home to this glorious eco-focused park. Its gem is its huge urban rainforest, the largest in the world, with its well-marked walking trails, total lack of tourist amenities, and variety of flora and fauna. It’s get-away-from-it-all heaven in this otherwise huge, noisy conurbation.

Museo do Ipiranga
Sao Paulo’s most important history museum is set in an impressive heritage building in the Parque da Independencia and displays artefacts related to Brazil as well as to the city, although it concentrates on the rich heritage of the varied Paulista communities. The museum gardens and surrounding parklands are attractions in themselves.

Eating and drinking and shopping nearby

The entire city of Sao Paolo, crammed with an unbelievable diversity of eating options from roadside snacks, fast food outlets, simple local eateries, food courts and markets, to internationally-famous, high-end fine dining outlets such as DOM, recently voted into the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list at number 4, is foodie heaven. The diversity of ethnic cuisines includes Chinese, Japanese, authentic Brazilian, Middle Eastern, and European, and the local dishes are traditionally meat-heavy. A favourite is virado a paulista, a concoction of sausages and cuts of meat topped by a fried egg or two and served with a salad.

Public transport

The best way to get around this chaotic city is by metro, overland train, or trolleybus, thus avoiding the peak hour traffic jams, although all forms of public transport are packed during rush hours. The metro is clean, fast, and relatively safe, and in the central districts the overland trains are modern and comfortable. Lines 1 through 4 and line 9 are the most useful for sightseeing, and travel is cheap.

Sao Paulo travel guides

Sao Paulo Travel Guides

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