Aside from being Brazil’s largest city and the country’s financial heavyweight, São Paulo is a vast metropolis full of exciting activities and events, award-winning restaurants, unbeatable nightlife, and multicultural neighborhoods. With over 20 million people in the entire metro area, São Paulo’s no shrinking violet, nor is it the soulless concrete jungle it’s often made out to be (especially by folks from beach-centric Rio). Take a look at some of the highlights:
One of Latin America’s most expensive strips of real estate, Avenida Paulista is renowned for its buzzing atmosphere and impressive column of office towers, creating the consummate urban canyon. A nexus for business and culture in the city, institutions such as the São Paulo Art Museum (MASP) and Trianon Park straddle the avenue itself, while the restaurant-packed district of Jardins and nightlife-centered Rua Augusta branch off the street. In the run-up to Carnival, popular samba school Vai-Vai holds boisterous open rehearsals a few minutes away by foot, and gay-friendly Rua Frei Caneca makes the area a launching point for cruisy nights out.
Centrally located amidst the urban tangle of São Paulo, Ibirapuera Park serves as the city’s green heart. Featuring several striking museums and exhibition spaces designed by prolific Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, the 545-acre park lures youthful joggers, teenaged skateboarders, older couples, and families with young children with its bike and walking trails, playgrounds, and refreshingly verdant atmosphere. The Museum of Modern Art (MAM), impressive Museu Afro Brasil, and whimsical Auditório Ibirapuera all offer indoor activities and events in case a thunderstorm or two limits outdoor diversions.
Museu do Futebol
No other country compares with Brazil when it comes to a love of soccer, and the well-designed Soccer Museum (Museu do Futebol in Portuguese) captures the spirit of “the beautiful game” in every installation. Displays of old school pennants and memorabilia, jerseys worn by the most iconic players, and interactive children’s activities make up the museum’s exhibitions, and its location on the ground floor of Art Deco-era Pacaembu Stadium couldn’t be more appropriate.
Boasting the largest Japanese community outside of Japan, São Paulo’s cultural and culinary scenes have been influenced by immigration from the Asian country for over a century. The central district of Liberdade has since been the hub of the Japanese community and the area comes alive on weekends, when local residents set up booths hawking everything from tasty grilled treats to gaudy household kitsch. Narrow side streets with signs in traditional kanji and lantern-style street lights bristle with commerce and at night, the numerous karaoke bars pack ‘em in for drinks and song.
Downtown São Paulo
Though sometimes gritty and always an adventure, downtown São Paulo offers visitors historic architecture, cultural centers with ever-changing exhibitions, and one-of-a-kind museums serving up a glimpse of the unique culture of the city. Set in a turn-of-last-century bank headquarters, the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil hosts film cycles, photo exhibitions, and art installations, while the Portuguese Language Museum (Museu da Língua Portuguesa, which sounds much better in Portuguese) is an enchanting homage to one of the world’s most beautiful languages. For stunning daytime views of the megalopolis, the Banespa building has weekday tours to the top. By night, enjoy the glittering cityscape along with a cocktail from the 41st floor of the Edifício Itália.