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Sao Paulo , Brazil » City Info

Sao Paulo, popularly known as Sampa with its ever-burgeoning population of 19 million people, is the largest city in Brazil and the world’s seventh largest city by population. The city as the capital of the state of Sao Paulo exerts a strong economic influence on Brazil accounting for more than 60% of the country’s GDP. Culturally, Sao Paulo is a very productive, housing some of the best museums and art galleries in the country. On the contrast, the city lays out a table of endless nightlife options and fine dining venues that sets the city to dizzying heights of modernism.

Top 10 Sao Paulo Landmarks

Municipal Market (Mercado Municipal):

Built in typical Neo-Baroque style, the 1928 constructed Mercado Municipal is the city’s first and largest grocery market. After a major makeover in 2004, the market hall is the leading centre point for anything and everything related to food. There are hundreds of stands selling traditional snacks, vegetables, spices, snacks, cheeses and fish, some of which are local only to Brazil. Bustling at all times, this stained glass decorated market hall has a food section popular for their cafezinho and sandwiches.

Ibirapuera Park (Parque Ibirapuera):

Ibirapuera Park is the largest park in the city gathering over 22 million sq. ft. of green space under its cover. It hosts some of the best tourist highlights of the city including the Japanese Pavilion, Museum of Modern Art, the Planetarium, the Auditorium and many other cultural buildings. The panorama is simply spectacular with aquariums, lagoons and rich flora & fauna heightening the beauty of the park. A visit to the park can be de-stressing with opportunities for bicycling, pleasant walking, and outdoor games and picnicking.

Sao Paulo Museum of Art (Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo (MASP)):

There could not be a fitting place to display Brazilian art than the Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo (MASP), located in the precincts of Ibirapuera Park. The museum’s collection features over 7,000 art pieces by distinguished artists such as Van Gogh, Renoir, Delacroix, Cézanne, Monet, Rembrandt, Picasso, and Degas. The centre is also an important junction to contemplate over European art. This two-storey building exhibits a permanent display on the top floor dedicated to Dutch, French and English artists. Every Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm, the courtyard is the venue for antique fairs exhibiting a wide range of items.

Sao Paulo Museum of Modern Art (Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM)):

Modern and contemporary artists such as Alfredo Volpi and Ligia Clark are a part of the permanent exhibitions at the Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM) located in Ibirapuera Park. There are also temporary exhibitions where new artists get to display their spark. With more than 4,500 painting, sculptures and artwork on display, MAM is a haven for art connoisseurs and collectors. Surrounding the museum is a garden featuring sculptures by Brazilian artists.

Zoological Gardens (Jardim Zoológico):

Located in the beautiful Parque do Estado, Jardim Zoológico is Brazil’s largest zoo. Home to more than 3,000 species of animals, the environment is predominantly a Mata Atlântica (Atlantic rain forest). Spread over a massive area, the zoo also runs a conservation program to save endangered species such as white rhinos and lion marmosets. It is one of the best-loved kid attractions in Sao Paulo.

State Art Gallery (Pinacoteca do Estado):

The Pinacoteca do Estado de Sao Paulo (Art Gallery of the State of Sao Paulo) is an excellent place to study and understand Brazilian art by renowned artists such as Rodin, Tarsila do Amaral and Cândido Portinari. Built in 1905, the building was renovated in 1998 to replace the inside walls with latticework of glass and open spaces connected by a sequence of catwalks. The place bursts with works by some of the best Brazilian artists from the 19th and 20th centuries. The precincts also include a restaurant.

Banespa Skyscraper (Altino Arantes Building):

Altino Arantes Building, better known as Banespa Skyscraper is one of the best-known skyscrapers in Sao Paulo. Atop 35 storeys is an observation tower from where tourists can enjoy a 360° view of Sao Paulo’s instantly recognizable landmarks such as Municipal Market, the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Edifício Italia. Tourists get only 5 minutes at the top to enjoy the art deco structures, but the view is simply out of this world!

Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral da Sé / Catedral Metropolitana):

Praça da Sé considered Sao Paulo’s geographical centre, a busy public space is the location of many historic, and religious sites, most notably the Metropolitan Cathedral. The construction of this major began in 1913 under the guidance of Maximilian Emil Hehl who designed it to resemble neo-gothic architectural style. As the fourth largest neo-gothic cathedral in the world and Sao Paulo’s largest, Metropolitan Cathedral can hold up to 8,000 worshippers at a time. Its architectural highlights feature stained glass panels from France, Italy and Brazil and the Renaissance-styled dome that adds contrast to the overall neo-gothic style.

Museum of Sacred Art (Museu de Arte Sacra):

Museu de Arte Sacra is a museum dedicated to objects and art of religious significance. Housed in the carefully conserved 18th century Mosteiro da Luz monastery, the museum exhibits more than 4,000 pieces of sacred art. On display are woodcarvings, terra-cotta masks, and jewellery, chalices, and crosses, sculptures used to adorn the church or found in Catholic services from the 17th century. These objects are a representation of the baroque and rococo art found mostly in the Bahia or Minas Gerais district of Brazil. This spiritual place also includes a miniature village, Presepio Napolitano where 1,600 hand-painted figurines signify the life of an 18th-century Neapolitan village.

Avenida Paulista (Paulista Avenue):

Paulista Avenue is one of the most important avenues in Sao Paulo for headquartering numerous corporations and financial institutions on its extensive 2.8 kilometre stretch. It is also regarded as the most expensive real estate in Latin America. The avenue is culturally rich with a large number of museums and cultural institutions, notably the Sao Paulo Museum of Art (MASP). Several cultural events are held here annually, but it is most famously associated with the LGBT Pride Parade; the biggest pride parade of the world.

Top 5 Bars

Astor:

One of the premium bars in Sao Paulo, Astor allows the bustling youthful flavours to blend easily with the relaxed mature crowd. The large mirrored walls create the feel of endless space and the glimmering interiors add a modern touch to the vintage look of the bar. Located in the Vila Madalena district of Sao Paulo, the lively bar is the city’s favourite hangout to tuck in spicy meatballs and steaks with glass of draft beer. Downstairs is Sub Astor, a retro speakeasy styled bar concocting some cool, high-priced cocktails for the younger crowd.

Exquisito!:

South America sambas together at the Exquisito!, the coolest Latin joint in Sao Paulo. The name literally deciphered as ‘delicious’ in Spanish is a colourful place buzzing with chatter of young and the beautiful. Giant murals, colourful decor and retro posters flamboyantly decorate the interiors of the bar cum restaurant, livening up the small and compact space. Hot on the list is the ceviche and chilli con carne swished with glasses of caldo de feijão.

Botequim do Hugo:

Since 1923, the Cabral family has served locals and tourists with a well stocked bar and delicious servings of pastries stuffed with meat mince and cheese. Botequim do Hugo has dotted the Sao Paulo scene for decades leaving behind a trail of content customers who loved the place for its warm & inviting atmosphere. Whenever you are in Sao Paulo, visit the bar for you are sure to return repeatedly. Just remember to visit on time, as the place closes early.

Numero:

Numero attracts the moneyed crowd who care to splurge on one of the most visually, distinctive striking interiors by designer Isay Weinfeld. The imposing walkway led by mirrors end at the bar zone which is split up into sections. One is a typical bar area with brown leather couches while the subdued zone at the basement opens up to a lush vertical garden. The contrasts are highly effective given that the place magnetizes many high society types.

Skye Bar:

Hotel Unique’s aesthetically appealing unique, half moon architecture adorns one more feather in the cap – its signature rooftop bar. The splendid Skye Bar is a place with a view, looking into the eyes of Sao Paulo’s panoramic skyline. The white themed décor, star DJs playing the latest hits and highflying guest list all point to a swanky bar tending to the rich and famous. The bar area opens to a seductive pool where guests soak in the scintillating horizon. Order some mojito or a more tingling wasabi martini.

Top Activities

Sao Paulo City Tour:

Discover the rich, cultural heritage of the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere with a guided city tour. The tour will treat tourists to a panoramic view of the city, passing by places that have defined Sao Paulo. Hear fascinating tales of interesting and popular attractions like Centro Cultural, Old Downtown, Cathedral Se, Patio do Colegio, Monastery of Sao Bento, the Banespa Building, Martinelli Building, the Municipal Theater, Concert hall Sala Sao Paulo, train station Estaçao da Luz and the Municipal Market. These tours arrange for hotel pickups and last for about 3 – 4 hours. Arrive back at the hotel before lunchtime.

Ciclofaixa de Lazer:

Ciclofaixa de Lazer is a leisure activity open to public who can enjoy cycling on the roads of Sao Paulo on Sundays, public holidays from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm. Ciclofaixa routes pass through cycle friendly areas in north, south, east and west zones, connecting major vantage points along the way. The cycling stretches monitored by the Federation of Cycling, are marked in special paint and plaques. On some routes, local people and SOS Bike staff voluntarily help cyclists by informing them and providing small services free of cost.

Family Fun Activities:

Sao Paulo is a premier destination for many fun and exciting family activities during the holidays. Animal lovers can visit the Sao Paulo Zoo or the Safari Zoo where hundreds of animals roam freely in their true habitat. The Ibirapuera Park is the ideal spot for picnics, cycling and relaxation whereas the Zoology Museum will educate the kids on the fauna of South and Central America. Kids will be thrilled over the variety of flora from all the five continents on display at the garden, institute and museum of the Botanical Garden. The adventurous ones could pay a visit to the Hopi Hari theme park, which is paradise for thrill seekers. While the adults and older kids get the adrenaline rush on the rollercoaster loop, the toddlers will not stop giggling at the several mini rides.

Watch Soccer/Football:

It makes sense to watch football in Sao Paulo who is going to host the FIFA World Cup 2014 and where the game is an intrinsic part of the lifestyle. Morumbi, Parque Antarctica, Pacaembu and Canindé are the four largest football stadiums that will host the World Cup. Watching games between popular clubs, Corinthians, São Paulo, Palmeiras and Portuguesa is a fun and eventful activity but be warned of sporadic cases of violence during matches.

TurisMetrô Tours:

TurisMetro are free of charge tours organized by Sao Paulo Tourism and Metro. These tours take up five different routes, most of which are walking but sometimes make use of the metro. The tour starts at the Sé metro station at 9:00 am and 2:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, covering many historical sights along the way. An accompanying bilingual guide who explains the history and importance of each attraction is present on all routes. Arrive at the station at least 20 minutes before departure to choose from one of the tours.

Sao Paulo Carnival:

You have a reason to visit Sao Paulo during the month of March as this is the time when the carnival parade takes place at Sambodrome of Anhembi every year. Colourfully dressed dancers, samba musicians and huge vehicles decorated as per the theme compete in a huge parade on Friday and Saturday night of the Carnival week. Buy a ticket closest to the “pista” from where you will get the best view of the parade. You could also visit the samba schools in the city to check out the rehearsals of musicians and dancers. Perhaps request the samba school organizer for an opportunity to take part in the parade.

Gay Pride Parade:

Hundreds and thousands of gay, lesbians, transgender and transvestite take part in a Gay Pride Parade in the city of Sao Paulo. During the Corpus Christi holidays, between May and June Avenida Paulista assumes a celebratory look with costumes, floats, music and rainbow flags dominating the scene. Politicians and the local government strongly support the event, which is the biggest pride parade in the world, and the second largest event in Sao Paulo after Formula One.

Day Trips to Paulista Coast:

Many paulistano’s take a weekend holiday and relax at the scenic beaches off the Paulista Coast. Just an hour’s drive from Sao Paulo, many small towns like Guaruja, Embu das Artes, Campos do Jordao, Sao Sebastiao and Ubatuba are famous for their busy beaches, strong waves and beautiful coastlines. Also, note these places for their handicrafts, vineyards and seafood extravagances.

Top Sao Paulo FAQs

Q.1) What is the capital city of Brazil?

Ans: The capital city of Brazil is Brasília. The largest city is Sao Paulo, popular known as Sampa. Sao Paulo is also the capital of the State of Sao Paulo, ranked the most populous metropolitan area in the Americas and the five largest populous metropolitan areas in the world.

Q.2) What is the official language spoken in Sao Paulo?

Ans: The official language of Sao Paulo is Portuguese. But due to the large influx of Italian immigrants, the Portuguese suffers from a considerable influence of Italian languages from the Neapolitan and Venetian regions.

Q.3) What is the weather in Sao Paulo like?

Ans: The weather in Sao Paulo is generally pleasant all year round, although the seasons cannot be neatly slotted. Most of the times, the climate in Sao Paulo is dry and enjoyable with sunny days, but not too hot. The best season to visit Sao Paulo is from September to March when there is very little humidity.

Q.4) What type of clothing should I carry to Sao Paulo?

Ans: Bring along light cotton clothing and rainwear if travelling in the fall from March to June or summers, when sudden downpours are common. If travelling down south and during the winters from June to August, bundle up warm clothing, sweaters, hat and comfortable shoes.

Q.5) How safe is Sao Paulo for tourists?

Ans: Usually, the tourist areas in Sao Paulo are safe for walking during the daytime. In the nighttime, it is okay to roam around the neighbourhoods of Jardins, Higienópolis, and the residential areas of Sao Paulo, but avoid visiting the quiet streets of Centro. At night, travelling by taxi is the safest way to move around the city, rather than relying upon public transportation. Stay safe by not flashing too much of jewellery or cash. There have been incidences of armed robberies.

Q.6) What are the Important Phrases in Portuguese while conversing with locals?

Ans: It always helps to know a little bit of Portuguese so that you can confidently converse with the locals and safely travel around the city. Here is a glossary of emergency terms and phrases:

English

Portuguese

Emergency Phrases

Call the fire services Chamar os bombeiros
Heart attack Infarto
I have been mugged / robbed Eu fui vitimo de um assalto or Eu fui assaltado / roubado
I have had / he/she has had a stroke Eu sofrei/ ele/ela sofreu um aneurisma, ataque apopléctico
I have had a car accident Eu sofri um acidente de carro
I have had an accident Eu sofri um acidente
I need a doctor Preciso de um médico
I need an ambulance Preciso de uma ambulância
I need the police Chamar a polícia
Is there a pharmacy near here? Há uma farmácia aqui perto?
This is an emergency Temos uma emergência
Unconscious Inconsciente
Where is the nearest hospital? Onde é o hospital mais próximo?
Very sick Muito doente

Helpful Phrases

At what time... A que horas...
Entry Entrada
Excuse Me Com Licença
Exit Saída
Good Afternoon Boa Tarde
Good Morning Bom Dia
Good Night Boa Noite
Hi Oi
How do I get.... ? Como eu chego em.....?
How many... Quantos...
How much does it cost? Quanto custa?
How much is... Quanto é...
How's it going? Tudo bem?
I need to go to... Eu preciso ir a ....
I want... Eu quero...
I'm lost Estou perdido
My name is... Meu nome é....
Please Por Favor
Please, I want to go to.... Por favor, eu quero ir a....
Please, can you help me? Por favor, você pode me ajudar?
Sorry Desculpe
Sorry, I don't speak Portuguese Desculpe, eu não falo português
What time is it? Que horas são?
When... Quando...
Where is the toilet? Onde é o banheiro?

Q.7) Can you provide a list of Emergency Numbers in Sao Paulo?

Ans: Here the emergency numbers to call in Sao Paulo

  • Ambulance/Medical Emergency (ambulância): 192
  • Fire Service (Corpo de Bombeiros): 193
  • National Police (Polícia Civil): 197
  • Military Police of São Paulo (Polícia Militar do Estado de São Paulo): 190
  • Federal Police (Polícia Federal): (11) 3616 5000
  • Sea Rescue (Salvamento Marítimo): (21) 2104 6119
  • Report a Crime (Denuncie): 181
  • To find a 24 hour pharmacy: 136

Q.8) What are the Tipping & Etiquette practices followed in Brazil?

Ans: Tipping in Brazil is not customary. Only if you are overtly pleased with the service, complement with a generous tip. Anyways, service people are always pleased if they receive a tip. Service tax of 10% is included in the restaurant bill which is not compulsory but is paid most of the times, unless you have been handed over a bad service. Taxi fares are generally rounded up to the nearest denomination to avoid paying in coins, but no other tip is expected. The bellhop in a hotel who transfer the luggage to your room expects a tip of R$5 to R$10.

Q.9) What is the electric current voltage in Sao Paulo?

Ans: In Sao Paulo, the electric current voltage is 110 Volts and 220 Volts. But it can be different for each hotel. Carry a travel adapter as they may be indispensable for some devices.

Q.10) How do I exchange foreign currency in Sao Paulo?

Ans: The currency in Sao Paulo/Brazil is Real, pronounced as hay-al. Foreign currency can be exchanged at banks or shops with “Cambio” signs. Exchange rates for exchanging cash are better than withdrawing cash from ATM machines using credit cards. Also, other than ATM machines of HSBC, Citibank and Banco do Brasil in major cities, not all machines accept international credit cards.

Q.11) What are the Visa Requirements for Brazil?

Ans: Please visit our Visa Requirements page for more details.

Q.12) What is the Time Zone of Brazil?

Ans: Brazil observes three time zones. UTC/GMT – 4 is observed in sixteen states from west to east,   UTC/GMT – 3 is observed in twenty one states from central to east including the capital of Brasilia and UTC/GMT – 2 is observed on islands off the east coast of Brazil. Daylight saving time is observed in the summers from the third Sunday of October until the third Sunday of February when the clock is moved one hour forward.

Q.13) What is the population of Sao Paulo?

Ans: The population of Sao Paulo as of 2011 is 11,316,149 of the Municipality and 19,889,559 of Metro.

Q.14) How do I make a call to Sao Paulo?

Ans: The country code of Brazil is +55 and the area code of Sao Paulo is 11. So if you are dialling to Sao Paulo from another country, you have to enter the international prefix used to dial somewhere outside of your country + 55 which is the international code used to dial to Brazil + 11 which is the area code used to dial to Sao Paulo and lastly xxxxx which is the local number. Example, if you are dialling from United States, New York, dial 011 55 11 xxxxx.

Q.15) What are the major attractions of Sao Paulo?

Ans: The major attractions of Sao Paulo are Municipal Market, Ibirapuera Park, Sao Paulo Museum of Art, Sao Paulo Museum of Modern Art, Zoological Gardens, State Art Gallery, Banespa Skyscraper, Metropolitan Cathedral, Museum of Sacred Art and Avenida Paulista.

Getting Around in Sao Paulo

The complex, urban transport system of Sao Paulo makes it difficult for tourists to navigate the chaotic streets. Travellers prefer to use public means of transport rather than self-drive a car in the impatient, frenzied traffic. Since most of Sao Paulo’s attractions are located between the Avenida Paulista and the historic centre, they are nearby enough to be easily be explored on foot. For long distances, subway/metro, trains, taxis and trolleybuses offer hassle free options for navigating. Those who wish to travel outside of Sao Paulo; bus transport is sometimes the only available option.

Bus System

Almost 10,000 buses ply the streets of Sao Paulo everyday, enveloping the vast metropolitan city. Although they are in plentiful and frequent, absence of landmarks can make it difficult for tourists to navigate. Travellers can buy single tickets at lottery shops or at SPTrans desks. These magnetic tickets called ‘Bilhete Único’ are charged credits and work on four different means for every three hours paying a single charge. For more information on bus lines call 156 (toll free).

Sao Paulo is one of two cities along with Naples in Italy that operates independent trolleybus systems. SPTrans maintains the urban network of trolleybuses along 13 lines, operated by a concessionaire, Himalaia Transportes S.A. These trolleybuses primarily serve the public in Greater Sao Paulo.

Subway Metro

Tourists are most likely to opt for the metro, as they are safe, clean and efficient in addition to being the easiest way to get around the city. The metro system consists of five colour-coded lines: Line 1 (Blue), Line 2 (Green), Line 3 (Red), Line 4 (Yellow) and Line 5 (Lilac) all of which operate from 4:40 am to midnight (1:00 am on Sundays). The North-South line and East-West line meet the busiest Sé station in Sao Paulo while the line travelling underneath the Avenida Paulista, meets the North-South line via Paraiso and Ana Rosa stations. It is better to take a metro rather than a bus, even if it means taking a short cab ride to the station. Grab the cheap Bilhete Único’ single fare ticket that allows for four trips in Sao Paulo’s public transportation system with free transfers between subway system and buses within 3 hours.

Taxis

Because of limited underground network after dark, hiring a taxi is inevitable. Although, they can be expensive because of the long distances and traffic, the only practical way of getting around Sao Paulo is by taxi. There are metered taxis as well as radio taxis who arrange for pick-ups from pre-decided destinations. Hail a metered taxi on the street, but make sure the driver is turning the meter on. If he does not, ask him to stop and get off the taxi. You can also ask the hotel or restaurant to pre-book a radio taxi.

Car Rental

Driving a car is an intrinsic part of Sao Paulo’s lifestyle. Every ‘paulistano’ needs a car for commuting to and from work. There are some places located far off from the city that is reachable only by car. People living in Sao Paulo are used to driving in the chaotic, crazy traffic of the city, being stuck for hours on end. But tourists will find driving and parking in Sao Paulo a nightmare, especially if they are not used to the windy streets. Nevertheless, driving a car is sometimes convenient if you wish to access the remote areas of town. Before you rent a car in Sau Paulo, make sure, you have all the papers in place such as vehicle license papers, road tax documents and driving license. Be careful while driving at night as car jacking and robberies are common in big cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Also, to reduce the traffic on the road and control air pollution, cars with a license plate ending in a certain number are not allowed on the street for one day in a week. Yet, traversing through the busy lanes of Sao Paulo in a rented car is always an adventurous activity.

Communication in Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo has an excellent network of fixed line communication operated by Telefônica and Embratel. Travellers can make local, long distance domestic and international calls from/to Brazil. Both telephone companies offer internet and cable TV related services. The city has an extensive network of public pay booths that work with phone cards found at newsstands, bars, shops, etc.

The mobile sector in Sao Paulo is a fiercely competitive market. Rival operators in a bid to gain the lead over each other try to lure customers with different offers and promotions. Primarily, there are pay-as-you-go or pay monthly packages, but operators may offer new packages to attract customers. Check for current promotions to find a package that suits your requirements. The major mobile telephone companies operating in Sao Paulo are TIM, Claro, Vivo and Oi.

The Correios postal service in Brazil has several post offices across the country including Sao Paulo. Post offices are open from Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, although shopping malls, post offices may have their own opening and closing hours.

Sao Paulo offers internet access mostly through dial up, which involves dialling the fixed telephone line. Users pay at per minute rate or at a flat monthly rate or a combination of both. High-speed broadband and ASDL internet access is gaining popularity across Sao Paulo. The main internet service providers in Sao Paulo are Brasil Telecom, Terra, POP, UOL, NET and GVT. There are not many internet cafes in Sao Paulo, but the ones present offer reasonable speeds at hourly rates.