Sao Paulo City Guide
It's quite common for Rio to take the limelight with its carnival and fantastic beaches but Sao Paulo should not be underestimated. Its glassy office towers and residential high-rises give it a distinctively mode...
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Sao Paulo City Guide
It's quite common for Rio to take the limelight with its carnival and fantastic beaches but Sao Paulo should not be underestimated. Its glassy office towers and residential high-rises give it a distinctively modern look, while its colourful population, comprising migrant communities from all over the world, makes it the most culturally diverse city in all of Brazil.
The largest Italian and the largest Japanese expat communities on the planet, outside of their respective homelands, live in this vibrant city. Given its multinational population, it's hardly surprising that Sao Paulo offers a fantastic choice of international food. You can sample Japanese street snacks at the Liberdade Sunday market or head to Eataly, an Italian food emporium, for a chance to buy artisan food and drinks imported from Italy, or to dine at one of half a dozen Italian restaurants.
One of the most popular foodie attractions in the city, however, remains the Municipal Market (Mercado Municipalo). Housed in an early 20th-century building with beautiful stained glass windows, this covered market is the best place to browse a fantastic array of food – from fresh meats and pungent spices to the most exotic choice of fruits that grow in Brazil. You can also try out hearty traditional snacks and local cuisine. Make sure you try the sumptuous Moratdella sandwich that has more eat than bread.
The most popular attraction in Sao Paulo's is the city's main commercial thoroughfare – Avenida Paulista. This bustling avenue, which runs for nearly 3 km, is lined with modern towers, which are home to banks, offices, shops, restaurants, renowned schools and cultural institutions, as well as the headquarters of TV and radio stations.
The top choice for a shopping spree on Avenida Paulista is Shopping Cidade São Paulo, a contemporary mall that houses more than 150 stores, while the best spot to admire fine art is MASP – one of the richest art museums in all of Latin America. You can easily spend the larger part of your stay in the city exploring all that this avenue has to offer. with an occasional pause to listen to the buskers entertaining passers-by with their music.
Sao Paulo strikes as a city of concrete and steel but the vast metropolis has plenty of green spaces. Ibirapuera Park is one of the most largest green spaces in the city and an attraction in its own right. Its vast leafy grounds hide jogging tracks, leisure amenities and two large ponds.
Ibirapuera Park is also home to an exhibition hall, a planetarium, a music auditorium, the pavilion where the Sao Paulo Biennial is held, the Sao Paulo Museum of Modern Art and the Museu Afro Brasil, an ethnographic institution celebrating the culture of African Brazilians. Many of these striking buildings were designed by Oscar Niemeyer, one of Brazil's most celebrated architects, and are worth visiting if only to admire their splendid design.
While Ibarupera is the most popular place to take a breath of fresh air, the Botanical Gardens are the most colourful. This little oasis is filled with exotic plants and numerous bird species who nest on its grounds.
Sao Paulo is a city with a vibrant cultural life as proven by the countless galleries and museums, yet street art is the most popular art form. Bright, captivating wall murals, bursting with colour, are splashed on fences and façades. Local artists tend to make strong political statements, and there's even a distinct form of writing on walls, known as Pichação, which originates in the southern suburbs of Sao Paulo and Rio.
You can find splendid art in one of the most bohemian quarters of the city – Villa Madalena. Not far from the University of Sao Paulo, this neighbourhood was transformed by the students who moved here in the 70s. Today Villa Madalena is a lively creative hub, full of hip shops and established art galleries.
The best way to wrap up a day in Sao Paulo is to simply sit and relax on the grassy slopes of the hillside Sunset Park. From here you can enjoy panoramic views and watch the sun set over the city before you head out to explore its night life.
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Perhaps the only downside to Sao Paulo life are the traffic jams, which can run from a few miles to the record-breaking 100 miles. If you plan on getting around the metropolis by car, it's best to avoid the rush hours or to simply take the subway, which is fast and efficient.