Sao Paulo

Travel guide - Sao Paulo

The city of São Paulo is Brazil’s economic capital. This megalopolis, like the rest of the country, is a study in contrasts and exuberance. Founded in 1554 by Jesuit monks, it is now home to 11 million inhabitants. Amidst the jumble of skyscrapers, the city has managed to preserve its historic heritage and vestiges from the colonial period.

Traces of history that are still visible today

The historic centre is bounded by the Praça da República, the Luz station and the Praça da Sé. In this area, you can still admire the Pátio do Colégio, a remnant of the city’s Jesuit beginnings. You will also find beautiful colonial houses and a museum of holy relics. The São Paulo Cathedral is the city’s episcopal centre. Built in a neo-Gothic style in 1954, it can hold up to 8,000 worshippers! A visit to this church will give you insight into the Brazilians’ religious fervour.
The Municipal Theatre was built in 1911, modelled after the Opéra Garnier in Paris. It’s a magnificent monument that is well worth a visit. In the Largo de São Francisco, you will find the law school and São Francisco Church, built in 1644.
The Municipal Mercado, built in 1933, is housed in a magnificent covered hall with colourful glass windows, and is simply bursting with delicious things to eat. To gain a better understanding of the racial diversity in Brazil, head to the Afro Brazil Museum.

Trademark modernist architecture

São Paulo is home to a number of skyscrapers. Avenida Paulista exemplifies this new world, where bankers and businessmen fill the subway cars and office towers. L’Edificio Altino Arantes (formerly the Banespa) is a 35-story skyscraper built in 1939. Its impressive silhouette brings to mind the Empire State Building in New York.
Another building worth visiting is l’Edificio Copan, which was built by Oscar Niemeyer. This imposing concrete structure inspired by Le Corbusier’s ‘Cité radieuse’ is a post-modern building teeming with life.
The Latin America Memorial is yet another very modern building. Also designed by Oscar Niemeyer, it is home to a well-reputed art gallery. Finally, head to the Museum of Art of São Paulo (MASP) to see its contentious architecture: it’s Latin America’s largest museum of western art.

A breath of fresh air in the parks of São Paulo

The Ibirapuera Park is the green lung of São Paulo. Its huge scale makes you think of Central Park in New York. It’s a popular recreational area with lakes, museums, restaurants and monuments, including a Japanese Pavilion. Oscar Niemeyer also designed some of these monuments: the OCA, the Biennial Pavilion and the auditorium.
If you feel like a bit of greenery and a tranquil setting, you’ll find just what you’re looking for in the Jardim da Luz, which is also home to the Art Gallery, Burle Marx Park in the Morumbi neighbourhood, as well as Trianon Park.
A walk along Alameda Santos, a beautiful tree-lined avenue, also offers a chance to catch a welcome breath of fresh air. Of course, you can’t forget Avenida Paulista and its garden cities: Jardim America, Jardim Paulista and Jardim Europa.

São Paulo, a city of design and art

The Pinacoteca de São Paulo is Latin America’s largest art gallery. Located next to the Parc de la Luz, this museum offers unique collections and educational workshops. You can also visit the Museum of Sacred Art with its baroque facade and collection of nativity scenes.
The Museu da Casa Brasileira (MCB) is dedicated to design. Indeed, a major design award is presented there each year. You can also visit the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC), which is shared between three different buildings. The Museum of Modern Art (MAM) also showcases works by painters, photographers and sculptors.
Finally, take a stroll through the market on Benedito Calixto square , where you can browse through the antiques before stopping by one of the neighbourhood bars for a drink.
As you will have understood by now, São Paulo is a city of contrasts: busy, bustling urban streets filled with culture, intermingled with oases of calm.

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