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About city Gallery Where to stay

South America’s largest city - São Paulo – is home to almost 12 million people, or 20 million if the suburbs were to also be included. This city, sometimes referred to as Brazil’s economic centre, is a mixture of contrasting skyscrapers, parks and overcrowded streets. Just like in the rest of Brazil, here you’ll find a wide variety of people, traditions and lifestyles. After all, the country has around 200 million inhabitants, which makes it the fifth most-populated country after China, India, the US and Indonesia.

The city presents many challenges to travellers: mass crowds of people, endless traffic jams, a complicated public transportation system, tropical climate, smog, a high crime rate, and clearly visible disparities between the rich and poor. On the other hand, just ask any local whether she’d like to live somewhere else. The vast majority will say “no”.

Sao Paulo
Photo taken by Flickr | Julio Boaro.  Sao Paulo

So don’t hesitate and make some trusty local friends who will guide you to the best snack bars, help you find your way around the city, and bring you to appreciate, if not love, this massive beehive of a city.

Aside from all the unpleasant things found in most big cities, there are also advantages: a large percentage of educated people and an interesting cultural life. Here you’ll find many museums, theatre halls and local neighbourhood cultural centres where people make performances, hold concerts, and learn traditional crafts, dances and martial arts. Moreover, what Brazilian city could do without frequent parades and carnivals?

Happy people in Sao Paulo
Photo taken by Flickr | Leonardo Veras.  Happy people in Sao Paulo

São Paulo is home to large Italian, Japanese and Arab communities that contribute to its culture and cuisine. Only in the Italian quarter Bixiga will you find the best pizzas that are good as those made in Naples. In the Japanese quarter even the signs are written in logograms, and many shop windows display traditional Japanese dishes.

Restaurant in Sao Paulo
Photo taken by Flickr | Rodrigo Soldon.  Restaurant in Sao Paulo

Another thing that sets São Paulo apart is its bars, of which São Paulo has around 15,000. No wonder the city rarely gets quiet, even during the darkest hours of the night. The food and restaurant culture here is of the highest quality. São Paulo is also known for its markets that sell exotic fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood imported from all around the country.

Even though Brazil exports a lot of coffee, getting a cup of properly brewed Brazilian java here is quite problematic. Sugar (another popular Brazilian good), however, is more than abundant. Sugar cane juice is one of the most popular street drinks and coffee is often very sweet. Even the sugar packets found in local cafés are twice as big as those in Europe.

Flower merchant in Sao Paulo
Photo taken by Flickr | Alex Thomson.  Flower merchant in Sao Paulo

An equal number of things make São Paulo both different and similar to other big cities of the world. In any case, before heading out, make sure to get as informed as you can and make some local friends via hospitality clubs, local communities and acquaintances, who could accompany and show you around one of the world’s largest cities.

Where to stay

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