Stylish, innovative, and boasting an incomparable urban ‘cool’ factor: whilst São Paulo will never win the prize for being Brazil’s most photogenic tourist destination, this sprawling concrete megalopolis is a treasure trove of historical and cultural delights, offering some of Brazil’s most excellent gastronomy, nightlife and art.
One of Brazil’s most culturally explosive and diverse urban centres, São Paulo is a melting pot of truly global influences. Home to the largest Japanese population outside of Japan, and also the host of a similarly sizeable population of Italian descent, São Paulo’s gastronomic greatest hits include world-class Italian cuisine and some of the continent’s most stylish and experimental sushi restaurants alongside world-renowned establishments serving traditional Brazilian flavours in utterly original ways. For food and drink lovers, São Paulo presents a dazzling array of glamorous restaurants and boutique eateries, complete with an abundance of chic bars and clubs in which you can dance the night away after dessert.
São Paulo is a feast for all the senses and for culture lovers the city boasts an impressive spread of art museums, concerts, arthouse cinemas and experimental theatre. MASP, the iconic city museum on stilts hosts a fabulous collection of boundary-pushing contemporary work, whilst the Museu de Arte Sacra contains an exquisite collection of traditional religious artefacts. Brilliant art and originality of expression spills over from the museums to the streets in this dynamic creative hub. Neighbourhoods such as the trendy Vila Madalena and the Japanese-influenced Liberdade are an eclectic collage of some of South America’s most daring, skilful and politically-charged street art. A particular highlight are the works of globally celebrated muralist Eduardo Kobra, a São Paulo native, whose technicolour portraits of Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer and Formula One legend Ayrton Senna adorn the faces of two of the city’s towering skyscrapers.
A mind-blowing 20 million people live in the greater São Paulo area; it is a hive of human activity on par with great cities like New York and Tokyo; yet for those looking for a short break from the buzz of the city centre, São Paulo is also home to several beautiful parks where the cushion of the tropical vegetation provides an oasis of tranquillity in the heart of the metropolitan frenzy. Parque Ibirapuera is Sampa’s answer to Central Park and the perfect spot to drink fresh coconut water on a park bench overlooking the spectacular fountains. Just off Avenida Paulista itself, the city’s central avenue, you could spend hours hidden away reading a book in Parque Trianon, amongst palms and elegant orchids, forgetting that you were ever in a city at all. Spend an evening sampling the culinary delights of the street food vendors on Rua Augusta, go shopping in the upmarket Jardins district, cycle under the shade of palm trees in Parque Ibirapuera, wander round avant-garde art museums or sip a classy cocktail in Vila Madalena. Take some time to get to know São Paulo – this boundless concrete jungle might just surprise you.