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What you need to know about São Paulo

At first glance, São Paulo appears to be little more than a huge and intimidating concrete jungle, home to 20 million people, a huge poverty gap and terrible traffic; it’s the biggest city in Brazil and the centre of the country’s economy, delivering half its industrial output. But scratch below the surface of this sprawling, crowded metropolis and you’ll find incredible art house cinemas, some wonderful bistros and restaurants, 15,000 bars and a vibrant, 24/7 clubbing scene. It’s a wonderfully diverse city too, with huge immigrant populations from Italy, Japan, Germany, Greece, Korea and eastern Europe and the biggest openly gay community in Latin America. So forget the sightseeing and let this lively, pulsing city sweep you along on a tide of culture, nightlife and Brazilian party spirit.

FACT FILE:Sao Paulo

Currency BRL (Brazilian Real)
LanguagesPortuguese
TimezoneBRT

Food and drink

São Paul is the cuisine capital of Brazil, with some outstanding restaurants attracting the country’s top chefs; it’s usual for locals to eat at 9 or 10pm, with 8pm dining being considered unfashionably early (although easier to find a table in the city’s dining hotspots). The city’s huge immigrant populations makes for an eclectic mix of cuisine across the city, with some of the finest Italian restaurants outside Puglia or Naples, and some delicious Middle Eastern cuisine on offer too. For plenty of casual dining options in a beautiful setting, head to the delightful Praça Vila Boim in Higienópolis, then head to Sampa for some of the best bars and clubs in the world – Paulistas like to party all night, so make sure you’ve got your dancing shoes on!

 

Shopping

São Paulo is a fabulous city for shopping, from international boutiques and elegant malls to local craft markets. Jardins is the place for high-end fashion boutiques, full of Brazilian and international brands, fancy clothing and jewellery, gourmet foods, and luxury gifts.  Malls like Daslu and Pátio Paulista also attract a distinguished crowd shopping for designer goods. Centro in downtown São Paulo is where the locals do their market shopping, offering everything from textiles and lingerie to toys and buttons. It’s a pickpocketers’ paradise, however, so keep an eye on your wallet.

Local businesses

São Paulo is considered the financial capital of Brazil, and is the location for the headquarters of many major corporations and the country's most renowned banks and financial institutions. 63% of all the international companies with business in Brazil have their head offices in São Paulo, and the city has the largest concentration of German businesses worldwide, as well as being the largest Swedish industrial hub outside Gothenburg.

 

Getting around

Many of the tourist neighbourhoods in downtown São Paulo like Centro, Higienópolis and Jardins are compact enough to explore on foot, but if you’re travelling any further in this huge, sprawling city, you’re safest taking a taxi or the city’s Metrô. Any areas not covered by the Metrô will be covered by the bus network, although the size of the city and absence of useful landmarks in the suburbs can make it difficult to navigate. We’d recommend using the Metrô to get as far as you can, then completing your journey by taxi if necessary.  Traffic in São Paulo is generally awful, which explains the number of helicopters you’ll see overhead taking wealthy executives to their next meeting!

 

Things to watch out for

São Paulo has the highest number of motorcycles in Brazil, many of them used by local couriers looking for a shortcut through the gridlocked traffic. Even when traffic is at a standstill the motorbikes and scooters will weave their way through, which makes crossing the road incredibly dangerous, so take care!