Sao Paulo is the largest city in Brazil, and entire South America. It has a city population of 11 million and metropolitan population of 23 million people. The city is also the capital of the state Sao Paulo located in the southeast of Brazil. It lies on a plateau 638 meters above sea level.
Sao Paulo was founded by the Jesuits in 1554 as a mission center for the first settlers and the native Indians living in the area. It remained a small town for a long time before prospering from coffee export. Later the population increased significantly and the city developed into an industrial center. Today Sao Paulo is Brazilian industrial and financial center, generating over 30% of the GNP. It has a multitude of skyscrapers; in fact, its skyline is the third biggest - after New York and Hong Kong. The cosmopolitan city is home to millions of immigrants, making it one of the most diverse in the world. The city accepted numerous Italians, Germans, Japanese, Lebanese, Koreans and Syrians. As a result its culture and cuisine are extremely diverse.
Not only an industrial center, Sao Paulo is also the artistic hub; many Brazilian art and literature movements started here. The city is famous for its superb cuisine, cheerful nightlife, Paulistanos’ exquisite way of living, and a great variety of cultural activities. Sao Paulo is the richest city in the Latin America – most of Brazil’s richest people live here – but the differences between the rich and the poor are huge.
Sao Paulo is a megalopolis, and can – at first glance - appear as a concrete jungle. But the city has beautiful areas in store. Its districts are diverse; they range from top luxury to extreme poverty.
Sao Paulo has a humid subtropical climate which is tempered down by the city’s high elevation. Sao Paulo is cooler and wetter compared to Rio de Janeiro. The temperatures are mild and warm throughout the year. Summer temperatures rarely exceed 30°C, winter frost is rare. July has the lowest temperatures (around 12°C), whereas the hottest month is February (around 27°C). The rain in mostly limited to the summer months – January is the wettest. During the summer the humidity levels can get quite high. Tropical cyclones and tornados are not common.
January average temperature 23 deg Celsius, 241 mm rainfall February average temperature 24 deg Celsius, 203 mm rainfall March average temperature 23 deg Celsius, 142 mm rainfall April average temperature 20.5 deg Celsius, 58 mm rainfall May average temperature 19 deg Celsius, 43 mm rainfall June average temperature 18 deg Celsius, 38 mm rainfall July average temperature 16.6 deg Celsius, 28 mm rainfall August average temperature 18 deg Celsius, 36 mm rainfall September average temperature 18 deg Celsius, 58 mm rainfall October average temperature 20.9 deg Celsius, 150 mm rainfall November average temperature 21.6 deg Celsius, 122 mm rainfall December average temperature 21.6 deg Celsius, 198 mm rainfall
Sao Paulo is a major transportation hub. Almost all international air traffic to Brazil is handled in Sao Paulo. Sao Paulo airports have good connections to everywhere in Brazil as well as with major cities around the world.
Aeroporto Cumbica is the city’s international airport, located 30 km northeast of the city center in the suburb of Guarulhos. http://www.infraero.gov.br/usa/aero_prev_home.php?ai=217
Aeroporto Congonhas is located 14 km south of the city center. It handles regional flights, for example between Rio and Sao Paulo. http://www.infraero.gov.br/usa/aero_prev_home.php?ai=219
The car ride from Aeroporto Cumbica to the city center takes approximately 45 minutes during non-peak hours (and up to an hour and a half during peak periods). Radio taxis are widely available. A ride to the city center costs around R$80.
From Aeroporto Congonhas there is a 20 minute ride to the city center. Taxis are available. A ride to the city center costs around 25 R$80. The regular ‘Aeroporto’ bus lines take you to and from the airport, and are the easiest and cheapest way to reach this airport.
EMTU shuttle buses connect Cumbica and Congonhas, leaving every 30 minutes during the day and every 90 minutes during the night.
Sao Paulo has an efficient network of metro lines operating from 5:00 am until midnight. It is modern, clean and cheap. Metro stations are decorated with murals by local artists. www.metro.sp.gov.br/ingles/
Taxis are usually metered. Taxi ranks are white with green ‘taxi’ sign on the roof. Taxis hailed on the street are cheaper from radio taxis. Always make sure the meter is working and is turned on.
Sao Paulo is a huge city and getting around in a car can be a horrific experience. There are some areas accessible only by car, but visitors usually do not need a car. Traffic is terribly congested and parking is a huge problem so it is better to avoid driving around the city on your own.
Traffic is congested so many people are discouraged to use a bike, but riding on the weekends can be quite pleasant. Do not ride your bike on the sidewalks. There are 23 km of cycle lanes in the city. Bikes can also be ridden in the parks.
Cars dominate the roads so be extremely cautious when crossing a street. Many busy streets and roads are equipped with pedestrian viaducts and bridges. The historical part ‘Centro’ is a great place to explore on foot.
All over Brazil, football is the most important sport. The city’s main teams are Corinthians, Palmeiras and São Paulo FC, all of which play in the Brazilian Série A. Catch a football match at one of the city’s numerous football stadiums, and see some of Brazil’s best football. The matches are held throughout the year.
Sao Paulo is Brazil’s and South America’s shopping hub, people flock here to go to Jardins or Itaim. Leather goods, jewelry, gifts and antiques are among the favorite items.
Address: Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral Phone: 55 (11) 5574-5505 Open: daily 5:00 am – 12:00 pm
Ibirapuera is the city’s major public park and a popular recreational area as well as an important cultural space. The park features large grass area, lakes, museums, and a huge sports complex where many people come jogging and walking. The complex also features several restaurants. The park serves as an important cultural area, featuring the Modern Art Museum, the Biennale Exhibition building, the Oca pavilion for art exhibitions and the Japanese pavilion. The park auditorium stages Brasilian music concerts every weekend, and open air concerts at Praça da Paz. The park is also the site of several international fairs and exhibitions, such as the art Biennal, and several huge computer and automobile fairs. The park covers an area of almost 2 square km. It was designed by the landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx, and the famous architect Oscar Niemeyer. If you are traveling with the kids, the planetarium is a great place to visit.
SWIMMING AND SUNBATHING AT GRUJA
The city and island Gruja is a popular beach resort 90 km from Sao Paulo. The island is well connected to the mainland with bridges and ferries and is frequented by tourists residents of Sao Paulo. There are many beautiful white sandy beaches. The sea is beautiful turquoise color. The most popular beaches are the Praia Enseada and Praia de Pernambuco, the small charming desert beach named Praia do Eden is also fabulous.
Address: Av Tiradentes 676 Open: Tuesday- Saturday: 11:00 am – 6:00 pm; Sunday: 10:00 am – 7:00 pm
The museum houses the best of sacred art in Latin America. The building itself is a beautiful example of colonial architecture. Built in 1774, the labyrinthine baroque building was originally a monastery. It s surrounded by the magnificent Jardin de la Luz which is a very calm and relaxing place.
The Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo is the finest museum in town. It displays a vast collection of Western art dating from Renaissance to modern times. The museum is internationally recognized as one of the best in the entire Latin America as it holds the largest collection of European art covering the last 500 years. The museum also hosts visiting exhibitions. The complex features a restaurant.
Address: Rua da Cantareira 306
The neo-Gothic hall was built in 1933 and houses a huge market with stalls selling fruit, vegetables, cheese, and other food. The most notable feature is the giant stained-glass windows portraying, among other scenes, life on coffee plantations.
CATÉDRAL DA SÉ
Address: Praça da Sé Phone: 011/3106-2709 Open: Monday & Wednesday – Saturday: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm, Sunday: 8:30 am – 6:00 pm. Access: metro (Sé)
The majestic neo-gothic cathedral with 14 towers was built in 1945, but its construction was begun already in 1911. It was thoroughly renovated in 2002 when its stained-glass windows and tombs were returned to its former glory. It is the largest cathedral in the city, seating up to 8,000 people. Situated in the lovely park Praça da Sé, lined with palms and full of street preachers.
The main traffic vein of the city, Avenida Paulista was originally a stately boulevard where the coffee barons and factory owners built their mansions. One such mansion still remains, the Casa das Rosas near the Brigadeiro Metro stop. In 1930, huge renovation plans begun, replacing old villas with modern office blocks and skyscrapers. Several major attractions are found at the far end of the Avenida, such as the Museu de Arte São Paulo (MASP), and the Siqueira Campos Park.
Being a city of immigrants, Sao Paulo has a great diversity of restaurants of every conceivable cuisine. The city’s best restaurants are Italian. There are great Middle Eastern restaurants and top quality Japanese restaurants. You will also find numerous excellent Spanish, Portuguese, French and Thai eateries.
The prices are relatively affordable for European and American standards. When eating at a restaurant a tip of 10% is usually included. Sao Paulo is Brazilian capital in terms of gourmet eating: the city has no beaches or mountains so the locals’ favorite pastime is eating out. Dinners are eaten quite late (at around 9 or 10 pm) and the Paulistanos (the people of Sao Paulo) usually dress nicely when going out.
National eateries called ‘churrascarias’ serve large quantities of barbecued meat. A traditional dish served in many restaurants is ‘feijoada’ – a stew with black beans sausages, bacon, pork and other meats. ‘Moqueca’ is a traditional Brazilian fish stew with coconut milk and palm oil. The cuisine of the nearby countryside is dominated by strong stews, roast meat and freshwater fish. After a meal, a cup of strong and delicious Brazilian coffee is an absolute must.
The most affordable bites can be found at the ‘all-you-can-eat places’ found on every corner. Another option are the street stalls serving hot dogs, corn on the cobs, and pastel. There are many cheap pizza places throughout the city. Luncheonettes are small places offering great sandwiches, burgers, smoothies and juices.
Sao Paulo carnival is not as famous or as popular as Rio’s but it is also less touristy and less expensive. The local samba schools, that are all competing for the samba award, hold all-night performances at the Sambadrome. Sao Paulo is a buzzing place around the carnival time: carnival parties and thematic parties are thrown in the city’s famous night clubs.
Sao Paulo hosts the final race in the F1 season. The Interlagos circuit is 16 km away from the city center. The circuit is bumpy and thrilling, and the spectators love its vibrant character.
THE SÃO PAULO BIENAL
Date: September – December on even-numbered years Location: Ibirapuera Park Web: http://bienalsaopaulo.globo.com
The biennial festival held on the edge of the Ibirapuera Park features huge art exhibitions, the largest in Latin America. The best artists from a number of countries are selected by the curators as the park comes alive with numerous art exhibitions.
SAO PAULO LGBT PRIDE PARADE
Date: June 10 Location: Avenida Paulista Web: http://www.paradasp.org.br/modules/news/
The Gay Parade is one of the city’s major tourist events and the biggest LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transvestite, and transsexual) event in the world, attracting 2.5 million people to the Avenida Paulista. The Parade is the high-point of a month-long series of events including street parties, fairs, shows, two film festivals, debates, workshops, seminars, the Race for Diversity, and the traditional Gay Day at the Hopi Hari amusement park.
Sao Paulo has an amazing array of nightlife options. Paulistas love to dress nicely when going out. Bars and clubs pass quickly in Sao Paulo. For the freshest information on nightlife it is best to ask a hotel receptionist or one of the locals, or pick up a Friday copy of the OEstado de Sao Paulo and Folha de Sao Paulo dailies.
The most popular drinks in Brazil are ‘Capirinha’ (crushed lime, ice, sugar and sugarcane liquor cachaça), ‘guaraná’ (carbonated soft drink with guarana fruit extract), and ‘cafezinho’ (very sweet coffee served in small cups).
Clubs and bars
People go out quite late in the night and usually head off to clubs only after midnight. When going out clubbing or bar hopping, the best thing is to stick to one neighborhood throughout the night, otherwise you might get caught in one of the city’s late night traffic jams. The neighborhood of Vila Olimpia attracts a crowd of 18 to 30. There are many nightclubs, bars and dance clubs in the area. Vila Madalena is more upscale, attracting a crowd between 25 to 45 years, and features many bars and restaurants – but not clubs. You can find a huge number of Brazilian bars, clubs, as well as youth bars at the Pinheros and Vila Madalena.
Theatre, classical music, opera
Other entertainment options include theatre, opera, dance and classical music. Theatre scene is thriving, and so is classical music. The majority of the high culture can be enjoyed at the Teatro Municipal (Praça Ramos de Azevedo, Phone: 011/3222-8698), and at the Estação Julio Prestes (a newly renovated grandiose Victorian railway station, now a cultural center). Both venues offer a rich program of classical music, opera, dance and theatre.
Parque Ibirapuera has often free Sunday concerts by Brazilian and international musicians.
The village of Sao Paulo de Piratininga was founded on January 25, 1554 by Jesuit missionaries in hope to convert the local Tupi-Guarani Native Brazilians to Christianity. The small village lived off agriculture, and was trying to establish large-scale sugar cane growing fueled by the native Indian slave workforce. In the second part of the century the village served as a base for the bandeiras, organized slave catchers, who traversed the forests of Latin America in search of gold and diamonds, and started expeditions into the interior of the country. In 1681 Sao Paulo became the center of Captaincy which span over an area much bigger than that occupied by today’s city.
Sao Paulo became a city in 1711. The bandeiras were so successful that the Portuguese crown had to split the Captaincy into two parts to gain stricter control over the territory. Sao Paulo remained the bandeiras’ base until the 18th century. The discovery of gold in Minas Gerais, Goias and Mato Grosso brought an influx of fortune hunters, using Sao Paulo as the base. They expanded the Brazilian territory a great deal to the south and southwest but the more they progressed the more they were exterminating the native population. The province was faced with poverty. It had no profitable activity except for sugar cane growing in the Northeast, using the natives as labor force. The state faced a great change in economy at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, when sugar cane was replaced with coffee, which became the most important crop in the country. Brazil declared independence in 1822 and Sao Paulo the state’s capital. Law faculty, the first higher education facility in Brazil, was established.
Voices started emerging to free the slaves and to found the republic. The business was booming with coffee as the new fashionable product. Coffee business necessitated the building of a railway line to the port city of Santos and a few other Brazilian cities. Slavery was finally abolished in 1888. Afterwards new workforce was introduced: immigrant workers arrived from Spain and Italy to work at the coffee plantations. Later on the Japanese workers came as well. Thousands of immigrants inhabited large portions of the land in the countryside region, new roads were being built, small factories started emerging, introducing the industrialization. During this period Sao Paulo experienced great development and the province experienced an urban revolution, transforming a small commercial city into a capital of the new economic elite. Public lamps burning on whale oil were introduced, and the city got its first park the Jardim da Luz.
MODERN (20TH CENTURY)
At the beginning of the 20th century the price of coffee dropped considerably, so the city’s entrepreneurs started investing in the industrial development of Sao Paulo. Factories attracted further waves of immigrants from all over the world. In the second part of the 20th century Sao Paulo gradually moved away from the industrial profile towards the service industries: banking, law, multinational companies and consumer services. Waves of foreign immigrants diminished, but the city continued to grow due to the influx of workers coming from the poor areas in the northeast of Brazil.
Sao Paulo is today a Brazilian economic powerhouse, generating over 30% of the GNP. The focus has shifted more to the service and high-tech industries. Sao Paulo is home to the largest stock exchange in South America and is the major financial center of Brazil. Despite all the success, the city still faces several big problems such as high crime and violence rates, pollution and lack of green spaces, poverty and massive traffic congestion.
Paulistanos kiss on the right cheek when they say ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’ and ‘nice to meet you’. Some people kiss twice, one kiss on each cheek. It is customary for men to kiss women, and for women to kiss each other. It is not usual, however, for a man to kiss another man on the cheek. In formal and business situations a handshake is enough.
There is a lot of touching arms, elbows and backs. They also stand extremely close to each other. Do not back away. Brazilians are very expressive and passionate in the way they talk and interruptions are a normal mode of communication.
Brazilian women are romantically very forward and foreign men should be careful when dealing with them: if you do not want the attention do not be overly friendly.
If invited to a Brazilian’s home, arrive at least 30 minutes late for a dinner and an hour late for a party or other larger get-together. Being late 10 to 15 minutes for a business meeting is also normal, even 20 to 30 minutes in not unusual.
Appearance counts, dress elegantly. It is better to be over-dressed than under-dressed.
Like many big cities in Latin America Sao Paulo has a problem with crime. Violent crime is usually limited to the slum areas, whereas visitors are usually the victims of petty crime such as pick-pocketing and mugging. Tourists are advised to practice precaution in areas outside the main hotel and shopping districts. Do not wear flashy jewelry, expensive watches, or leave excess cash in your hotel safe. Dress down a bit so that you do not stand out. Conceal your camera. Never visit a slum except on a guided tour. Drug-related crime is on the rise; there has been an increase in gun battles among the rival gangs, and between the police and the gangs – especially in Rio and Sao Paulo.
Women must be aware of the sexual assaults mainly occurring in the coastal resorts.
Use only the official taxis. Avoid the unofficial taxis with blacked-out windows.
Emergency phone numbers: Police: 190 Fire Department: 193 Medical Rescue: 192
Summer months (January to March) are rainy with occasional floods. Temperatures can reach 35°C. Winter (June to July) temperatures rarely drop below 10°C. Cultural life is most lively between April and December.