South America’s largest city, São Paulo is a sprawling urban metropolis full of surprises. Brazil’s bustling financial capital of nearly 12 million people lives up to its reputation as a mega-city of extremes, with people from varying social classes and backgrounds all living within the city limits. From world-famous art to graffiti and street art, from Brazil’s finest dining to bustling markets, from spacious green parks to skyscrapers as far as the eye can see, São Paulo has so much to offer. If you’ve got limited time to explore this concrete jungle, here’s how to spend one day in São Paulo.
Tucked in the middle of the jungle, thousands of miles away from Brazil’s recognized nightlife capitals like Rio de Janeiro, Salvador da Bahia, and São Paulo, the Amazonian city of Manaus doesn’t exactly have a reputation for keeping the party going all night long. But that doesn’t mean the city is lacking in excitement, or options for diversion. In fact, the nightlife in Manaus is one of Brazil’s best kept secrets. Until now, that is.
Rio de Janeiro might get all the shine when it comes to exciting Brazilian cities, but real partiers know that the only game around is the nightlife in São Paulo. Brazil’s largest city is incomprehensibly relegated to second-tier status when it comes to promotion by the country’s tourism bureau and Brazilians themselves. But any city with 20 million people has to have a nightlife to match, and São Paulo is one of the few spots on the planet where the nightlife runs 24 hours.
Swinging your partner round and round isn’t just limited to square dancing at festivals in the U.S. — Brazil’s got its own brand of countryfied hoe-downs: the Festa Junina (the aptly named June Festival in English). This month-long explosion of food, dance, and bold, brashy rural culture takes place in churches, community centers, social clubs, schools, and town squares all over Brazil, but particularly in the Northeast of the country, where the tradition originated.
Brazil’s Pantanal is known as the world’s largest inland wetlands, but it’s not always wet. In fact, the whole region has a very distinct dry season between May and September. During that time, officially spanning Brazilian winter, despite what the thermometer might tell you, the ground water recedes and allows for the Pantanal’s largest land animals to frolic through the verdant grass and brush; the rainless days and sunny skies make the Pantanal’s dry season the perfect time of year for wildlife spotting.
The colonial and cultural jewel of Paraty might be known more for its quaint architecture and annual literature festival, but like the rest of coastal Brazil, this town has more than its fair share of beaches to brag about. In fact, some 50 sprawling beaches ring the coastline in and around Paraty, accessible by car, bus, and, in some cases, exclusively by boat.