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São Paulo, an introduction

When they talk of São Paulo imagine a huge metropole, with more than ten million inhabitants, skyscrapers spread out through the whole city, traffic all the time, different neighborhoods with some of them having a great gap where you will see the most expensive restaurants on the one hand, people sleeping on pavements on the other. You will be surprised to see so many graffitis, on undergrounds, on walls of skyscrapers, some of them look like beautiful paintings, others are just tagging letters. 

The international airport Guarulhos is about 40-50 minutes ride from the city centre if there’s no traffic; you may get to the centre either by taxi, or private white cars (Guarucoops) which are safer and cleaner and you may pay by your credit card, or the shuttle bus which goes to the old centre República. 

As for accommodation you have several options: the area around Paulista Avenue is Jardins, this is where you find the most chic hotels and restaurants, in fact Jardins means gardens and it is the greenest and the most decent area of the city. You may also stay in the historic centre, República, where you also have chain hotels but at night time gets less animated, the neighbourhood of Higienópolis - with its Jew population- or the area around Moema Park are also calm and decent areas. Although São Paulo is not known for its ‘love at first sight’ kind of beauty as Rio de Janeiro offers, there are very nice museums where you can spend time, most of which are located in Jardins area (read our detailed stories for each one). 

Since its the financial and trade capital of all Latin America, the city is full of high end hotels and restaurants. Churrascarias are places where you pay a fix menu price and eat meat till you can stop. At noon time you will see many working people having their lunch at open buffet style restaurants where you pay by kilo. What I like about the city is that, although you are between tall buildings and cars, in every neighbourhood you find small parks with huge palm trees and beautiful big wooden banks that remind you that you are in fact in a tropical country. Another colour of the city is the street musicians (Brazilians, with their diverse cultures are highly gifted for music). 

There’s a place where you can get away from city’s rush, it’s the huge Ibirapuera Park where you can have a walk, you’ll see many people running at all times of the day (Brazilians’ another gift for sports). The security is also an issue here in São Paulo, though the favelas are not inside the city centre as in Rio de Janeiro and you may feel more secure, do not forget that you are in Brazil and you should not carry a big amount of cash or show your valuables. Another fun place is the Vila Madalena, famous with its graffiti walls, cafés, bars and design shops.

The city is very rich in terms of museums: on Paulista Avenue you will find MASP, the Japan House, Casa das Rosas, Itaú Cultural; in Jardins district you will find the Image and Sound Museum, Brazilian House; in the old town right across the historical Train station the beuatiful Pinacoteca, the museum of the Portuguese language; also in the old town the Museum of the Bank of Brazil, and many more.

Last note: if you raise your head you will see dozens of helicopters every day that are escaping São Paulo’s traffic!

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