Sao Paulo, or Sampa as it is often known, is the largest city in Brazil, as well as being the largest city in both the Southern and Western Hemispheres. But like most big cities, you don’t have to see every inch of it to enjoy your stay there. The city occupies a large (2000 sq km) swath of land, and due to a general lack of urban planning, much of that is sprawl. The metro serves some, but not all of the city, and the bus system can be confusing, but Sao Paulo is still worth a visit for food, cultural attractions and nightlife, as well as a jumping off point to some relaxing beaches, and as a starting point in Brazil.
Highlights of a visit to Sao Paulo include the leafy (and humid) urban greenspace of Ibirapuera Park, where you’ll be in good company as you walk along its paved walkways around the central lagoon, and take advantage of various vending trucks to have a guaraná soda, the unofficial national softdrink of Brazil, with a light, fruity flavor, (not unlike Juicyfruit gum, but not as sweet). Those looking for a more historical view of the city might visit the Museum of Immigration, which tells the backstory to early European and Japanese immigration to the city. And lovers of language should not miss the Museum of the Portuguese Language with its multimedia, interactive displays with historical, linguistic and ethnocultural information about Portuguese as it is spoken all over the world. The Pinacoteca (painting museum) is also well-positioned across the street from a picture-perfect old train station and thee central market is a big attractor as well, for both locals and visitors. Here, the line out the door for the codfish-filled pastry (pastel de bacalhau) tells you it’s a flaky, tasty treat.
Big shoppers and lovers of downtown central should hit Paulista Avenue, while those looking for a more bohemian touch should take the metro to Vila Magdalena in the division of Pinheiros, where streets are lined with one-of-a-kind boutiques, walls are painted with brightly-colored murals, and the European-accented cuisine is always available. It’s a hotspot for nightlife as well, and is considered relatively safe, which in Sao Paulo, is always a concern. For more information on what’s going on on Sao Paulo, where to get good pizza and where to study, take a look inside.