Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo

The main financial hub in the country, São Paulo is also ’s most cosmopolitan city, with top-rate and restaurants and impressive cultural and arts scenes. Most of the wealthiest people in Brazil live here—and the rest of them drop by at least once a year to shop for clothes, shoes, accessories, luxury items, and anything else that money can buy. Paulistanos (São Paulo inhabitants) work hard and spend a lot, and there’s no escaping the many and eating temptations. Despite—or because of—these qualities, many tourists, Brazilian and foreigners, avoid visiting the city. Too noisy, too polluted, too crowded, they say—and they have a point. São Paulo is hardly a beautiful city; it’s fast-paced and there’s lots to do, but it’s also a concrete jungle, with nothing as attractive as Rio’s hills and beaches. Yet, even as the smog reddens your eyes, you’ll see that there’s much to explore here. When you get tired of laid-back beaches, São Paulo is just the right place to go.

Sao Paulo Sights

Each neighborhood seems a testament to a different period of the city’s history. São Paulo’s first inhabitants, Jesuit missionaries and treasure-hunting pioneers, lived in the largely pedestrians-only hilltop and valley areas, particularly Vale do Anhangabaú. Later these areas became Centro (downtown district), a financial and cultural center that’s still home to the stock exchange and many banks. It’s now the focus of revitalization efforts.

The Bela Vista and Bixiga (the city’s little Italy) neighborhoods, near Centro, are home to many theaters and bars. In the 19th century many families who made fortunes from coffee built whimsical mansions in the ridge-top Avenida Paulista neighborhood. Beginning with the post-World War II industrial boom, these homes gave way to skyscrapers. Many of the best hotels are also on or near this avenue.

During the economic growth of the 1970s, many businesses moved west and downhill to a former swamp. You’ll find the tall buildings of Avenida Brigadeiro Faria Lima, the stylish homes of the Jardins neighborhood, and the Shopping Center Iguatemi (Brazil’s first mall) just off the banks of the Rio Pinheiros.

Nowadays, large-scale construction of corporate headquarters continues south, between the Marginal Pinheiros Beltway and Avenida Engenheiro Luís Carlos Berrini, not far from the luxurious Daslu.

Sao Paulo Reviews

São Paulo’s social scene centers on dining out, and there are many establishments from which to choose (new ones seem to open as often as the sun rises). You can find German, Japanese, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese restaurants as well as top-quality French and Indian spots. And when it comes to pizza, São Paulo is to Brazil what New York is to the U.S. Be sure to also try beirute, a Lebanese sandwich served hot on toasted Syrian bread and filled with roast beef, cheese, lettuce, and tomato.

Of the domestic restaurants, the innumerable churrascarias (places that serve a nonstop stream of barbecued meat) are beloved by paulistanos. Many restaurants serve feijoada (the national dish of black beans and a variety of meats) on Wednesday and Saturday; top restaurants do it up in fancy buffets. It’s also easy to find restaurants that specialize in other traditional Brazilian dishes, such as moqueca (fish stew made with coconut milk and dendê, a palm oil), along with other regional dishes from Bahia and Minas Gerais states, and from the far northeast.

Virado à paulista (beans, eggs, and collard greens) is a typical São Paulo dish. In the nearby countryside, traditional farm cooking reigns, with rich stews and roasts and freshwater fish dishes. Pintado na brasa (charcoal-broiled catfish) is one of these regional classics that you can taste even in city restaurants.

When you finish the meal, don’t forget to ask for a cafezinho (“little coffee,” usually very strong). From authentic Italian espressos to regular Brazilian Santos, São Paulo serves the best coffees in the country.

Most places don’t require jacket and tie, but people tend to dress up; establishments in the $$$ to $$$$ categories expect you to look neat and elegant—a step above what’s expected at the best restaurants elsewhere in Brazil.

Sao Paulo Reviews

São Paulo’s hotels are almost exclusively geared to business travelers, both homegrown and foreign. For this reason, most hotels are near Avenida Paulista, along Marginal Pinheiros, or in the charming Jardins neighborhood, where international businesses are locationed. But catering to business travelers doesn’t necessarily make São Paulo’s hotels stuffy or boring. On the contrary, the city has the largest concentration of high-quality, high-style hotels in Brazil. Many of them could be compared to the best hotels in London or New York.

You might get a discount for weekend stays; and breakfast is usually included in the room rate. São Paulo hosts many international conventions, so it’s wise to make reservations well in advance. Hotel prices skyrocket during the annual Formule 1 auto race in September.

Sao Paulo Nightlife

São Paulo’s nightlife options are seemingly endless, and knowing where to go is key. The chic and wealthy head for establishments, many of which serve food, in the Vila Olímpia, Jardins, and Itaim neighborhoods. The Pinheiros and Vila Madalena neighborhood have a large concentration of Brazilian clubs and bars. The neighborhood of Jardins also has many gay and lesbian spots, whereas Pinheiros and Vila Madalena have a large concentration of youthful bars and clubs.

São Paulo is a city beset by trends, so clubs and bars come and go at a dizzying pace. Though the places listed here were all thriving spots at this writing, the nightlife scene is always changing, and it’s best to check with hotel concierges and paulistanos you meet to confirm that a place is still open before heading out on the town.

The world’s top orchestras, opera and dance companies, and other troupes always include São Paulo in their South American tours. Most free concerts—with performances by either Brazilian or international artists—are presented on Sunday in Parque Ibirapuera. City-sponsored events are usually held in Centro’s Vale do Anhangabaú area or in Avenida Paulista.

Listings of events appear in the “Veja São Paulo” insert of the newsweekly Veja. The arts sections of the dailies Folha de São Paulo and O Estado de São Paulo also have listings and reviews. Both papers publish a weekly guide on Friday.

Tickets for many events are available at booths throughout the city and at theater box offices. Many of these venues offer ticket delivery to your hotel for a surcharge.

Sao Paulo Shopping

Shopping is an attraction in its own right in São Paulo, which is confirmed by the many South Americas who come from all over the continent to browse the city’s wares—especially clothing, shoes, and accessories. Stores are usually open weekdays 9-6:30, Saturday 9-1, and are closed Sunday. Mall hours are generally weekdays and Saturday 10-10; malls open on Sunday at around 2 PM.

On Sunday there are antiques fairs near the Museu de Arte de São Paulo and (in the afternoon) at the Shopping Center Iguatemi’s parking lot. Many stall owners have shops and hand out business cards so you can browse throughout the week at your leisure. An arts and crafts fair (Praça da República, Centro) —selling jewelry, embroidery, leather goods, toys, clothing, paintings, and musical instruments—takes place Sunday morning. Many booths move over to the nearby Praça da Liberdade in the afternoon, joining vendors there selling Japanese-style ceramics, wooden sandals, cooking utensils, food, and bonsai trees. Flea markets with second-hand furniture, clothes, and CDs take place on Saturday at Praça Benedito Calixto in Pinheiros and on Sunday at the Praça Dom Orione in Bela Vista.

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