The glamorous industrial powerhouse
Sao Paulo is the world’s third largest city and the largest in South America. Described as a “concrete jungle” the city is in constant growth, particularly upwards. The fast-paced cosmopolitan metropolis may not be the prettiest of cities, but offers it plenty of glamour and tons of South American flair. There’s ample to see and do with top-rate nightlife, restaurants and impressive cultural and arts scenes.
As a major business hub, Sao Paulo hosts over 90,000 events every year – largely conventions, conferences, and trade shows accumulating about R$8 billion (US$ 4.5 billion) in revenue for the city each year.
The country’s official language is Portuguese but, with its multi-cultural community, many people also speak English, Spanish, Italian and French. In fact, Brazil is also home to the largest Japanese population outside of Japan. This diverse cultural mix has definitely left an impressive mark on the city’s dining scene.
As in any other big city, it is important to take simple precautions to ensure your safety. Keep your belongings close to you in public places, avoid wearing expensive looking jewelry or watches and don’t carry large sums of money while walking around the city – there are many pickpockets operating in the area.
Getting to and from the airport:
Sao Paulo’s international airport is Guarulhos Airport (locally known as Cumbica), approximately 25 km northeast of the city. Travelers can either take a taxi or a bus to the city center. The cheapest option is to take the airport bus service at R$24 (US$13) per person, which operates dedicated services to the central Tietê Interstate Bus Terminal, Congonhas (the domestic airport) and major hotels. Prepaid taxi fares to the center of Sao Paulo are approx R$66 (US$36). A regular metered taxi can be a little cheaper; unless you get stuck in one of the frequent traffic jams.
Getting around Sao Paulo:
The Metro is the easiest way to get around the central districts of Sao Paulo, although it does not cover the rest of the city. Metro tickets cost approx.R$2.55 (US$1.40) for a single ride. The city’s buses are plentiful and frequent, but unless you know the city the system can be hard to navigate. Routes are usually displayed on the front and sides of the buses and cost approx. R$2.55 (US$1.40). Note that bus drivers generally won’t stop unless you flag them down.
At night, taxis are the safest mode of transport. Owner-driven taxis known as taxi Comun are generally well maintained and reliable, as are radio taxis. Note that fares will increase 25 percent after 8:00 p.m. and on weekends. A tax is also applied to taxis leaving the city. Good radio-taxi companies usually accept credit cards, but you must call ahead and request the service.
Places to visit:
Jahy Carvalho, BCD Travel’s regional sales manager for Latin America, lives in Sao Paulo and recommends a trip to the centrally located Ibirapuera Park – a welcome retreat from the smog-filled chaos of the city. The park has beautiful lakes, fountains, bicycle paths and a Planetarium. The nearby sites of the Bienal, the Museu de Arte Moderne and the Pavilhão da Oca host many of the shows that come to São Paulo.
The Teatro Municipal is located in the Old City Center and is one of the city’s most important cultural landmarks. Made from sandstone and sculpted red marble, with lavishly decorated interiors, the theater plays host to numerous operas, concerts and ballets.
The Pinacoteca do Estado is a beautifully restored museum displaying the works of some of the best Brazilian artists from the 19th and 20th centuries. During the museum’s 1997 renovation, the roof and much of the interior were replaced with glass latticework and open spaces
Visit the Vila Madalena neighborhood, where the main streets are bustling and full of affordable clubs with live music. If you’re into samba (or simply curious about it) then pop into Salve Simpatia, an energetic Rio-style club, where you can watch the crowd from the balcony.
Jahy also recommends the Espirito Santo Bar on Avenida Horácio Lafer, which is a good place for happy hour with a typical São Paulo atmosphere and authentic Portuguese influence.
Where to eat:
The city’s diversity of peoples and cultures has engendered restaurants spanning more than 50 different types of cuisine, making São Paulo a paradise for adventurous, globe-trotting gastronomes. Try the traditional feijoada, a dish made of black beans, pork and dry steak. Wash this down with a caipirinha – a cocktail of sugar, lime and cachaça (distilled sugar liquor).
Rue Barao de Capanema, 549, Jardins
Since opening in 1999, D.O.M. has won all the main contemporary cuisine awards in Brazil and is the first restaurant in South America to be included in the top 50 restaurants of the world. Reknowned Chef Alex Atala creates gastronomical wonders such as the robalo (a fish) served with tapioca and cassava and scallops marinated in coconut milk with a crispy mango chip.
Rua Min. Rocha Azevedo 72
This trendy and hip restaurant offers casual dining. During the daytime you will find mostly business clientele, whereas in the evening the restaurant attracts musicians, models and other celebrity types. The food is très chic: original pasta dishes like penne with melon share menu space with gourmet salads, spicy seafood and exotic vegetarian dishes.
Galeria dos Pães, or Bread Gallery
1645 Rua Estados Unidos;
If you’re feeling the wrath of late night/early morning hunger pangs, then head for the 24-hour food market, which is usually still going strong at breakfast time. Pick up a chicken croquette at the snack bar or try the buffet breakfast in the mezzanine, with fresh orange juice, strong espresso with steamed milk, pastries, cheeses and cold cuts.
Shopping in Sao Paulo:
With more than 50 shopping malls and plazas, numerous artisan fairs and art galleries, plus 42 commercial blocks, São Paulo is a shopper’s paradise. The most popular fashion spots are Centro Atacadista; Rua Oscar Freire, and Bela Cintra which offer haute couture on par with Paris’ Champs-Elysées or Rodeo Drive in the USA. Moving away from the high-end market, you can find street sellers and a Sunday’s Art and Crafts Fair in the city center, offering everything from vintage records to hand beaded flip-flops.