Sao Paulo Overview
Brazil's largest, richest and most populous city, Sao Paulo is also one of the most sought-after tourist destinations due to its array of attractions, fabulous beaches and enviable culture. Sao Paulo City, the largest city in Latin America, is rich in culture, reflecting the myriad of ethnic groups who have settled there over the decades. The region is home to the largest diaspora of Italians outside Italy and Japanese outside Japan, and the city's rich, ethnic mix includes sizeable Libyan, Haitian, Chinese, German, Greek, Korean and Armenian communities. Sampa, as the city is known, is a thriving and cosmopolitan metropolis, which would explain why so many billionaires make their home there.
São Paulo was founded in 1554 by Jesuit Priests and the first schools were built in 1557. The city was also home to the Bandeirantes, a group of explorers who settled in the region and who enslaved many of the natives. The Bandeirantes, during exploration, unearthed and laid claim to the city's vast resources such as precious minerals, gold and sugar. This group were renowned for their cruelty towards the indigenous population and as a result of their behaviour, many of the natives were murdered alongside Jesuit priests.
Today, this culturally diverse city is significant economically and has, in recent decades, benefitted enormously from both industrialisation and the region's wealth of natural resources. Every conceivable pastime and attraction is available in São Paulo. Choose from the finest restaurants (there are more than 12,500 in the city alone), enjoy opera or the latest production at one of the city's 23 theatres or visit one of Sao Paulo's 90 museums. Although the city does not host as many festivals as Mexico or Rio, there are still a huge number of fiestas and events to choose from.
Things to do
Whatever type of vacation you are looking for, you'll find it in Sao Paulo. From nature reserves to shopping in the charming markets, dining in the finest restaurants to clubbing in trendy bars, the city has it all. Additionally, this region is hailed for its culturally rich and intriguing history, which is reflected in the many museums, art galleries and historical sites.
For the wildlife enthusiasts
Take a private eco tour at Cantareira State Park, a UNESCO City Green Belt Biosphere Reserve. The excursion involves a four-hour tour by private car through the Atlantic Forest with an experienced guide while you spot jaguars, howler monkeys and an array of interesting wildlife. Trek through one of the many established trails and learn about the varieties of flora and fauna.
For the shopaholics
For a real flavour of Sao Paulo, visit Praça Benedito Calixto market, open every Saturday and set amid a beautiful square. This quaint local market deals in records, books, antiquities and a myriad of other interesting and intriguing items. Within the square, there are also a number of traditional cafes where the shoppers from the market eat lunch. Alternatively, visit the MASP building, which houses the city's Museum of Art and hosts the largest antique market throughout the city. The market is below the museum and takes place every Sunday.
For the history lovers
Located opposite the Palácio Nove de Julho Legislative Assembly is the magnificent Monument to the Bandeiras. The granite sculpture was created by Victor Brecheret and is an impressive fifty meters long and sixteen meters high. Visit the oldest art museum in Sao Paulo, the State Pinacoteca. Here, you can marvel at Brazilian artwork from the 18th Century onwards.
For the foodies
Sample the Arabic cuisine at Tenda do Nilo, a charming family-run restaurant, and order the sumptuous Lebanese fatte: a combination of chick peas, mince, yoghurt and bread. Dine on the excellent pizzas served by Speranza, the Italian restaurant that was established more than 50 years ago and is a favourite haunt of the Paulistas.
Dance the night away to the sounds of Samba, forró and axé rhythms at Bar Brahma based in Centro -- a venue that has live music seven nights a week. Alternatively, opt for Bourbon Street Music Club in the district of Moema, with its selection of R & B, soul, jazz and blues music.
Calendar of Events
Sao Paulo hosts many festivals and events year round. Due to the region's ethnic diversity, however, not all the events are celebrations of Brazilian culture but have a mix of influences thanks to the city's diverse and varied background.
March for Jesus. This event is held annually on Corpus Christi Thursday. This Evangelical parade has become one of the most popular festivals in the city and official estimates claim that up to one million visitors participate in the event each year. The event was first organised almost twenty years ago and is now recognised as a national holiday. Festival-goers are treated to live performances, music, dance, games and the event is a favourite with families and people of all age groups.
F1 Brazilian Grand Prix. Held at the Interlagos Circuit in Sao Paulo each year, this exciting motorsport attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city and is enjoyed by the locals and tourists alike. The circuit is renowned as difficult because of tight corners and elevation changes, ensuring that each race is as thrilling as the last.
Carnival of Sao Paulo. Although not as famous as the carnivals of Rio or Mexico, the Carnival of Sao Paulo is growing in popularity year after year with both tourists and the local community. One of the main themes of the carnival is Samba performances and the artists are as flamboyantly dressed as those in other Latin-American Countries. In addition to the Samba performances, local musicians and those from further afield entertain the onlookers. The carnival also features dancing competitions, games and sports.
Sao Paulo International Film Festival. Hosted every year at different venues in Sao Paulo, the International Film Festival has received broad acclaim and recognition. The festival features a variety of films, plays, a number of workshops and celebrates both recognised and upcoming film makers and artists.