The City of São Paulo

About the City of São Paulo

São Paulo is a monster. Enormous, intimidating and, at first glance at least, no great beauty. It's a difficult city for the traveler to master and one that may not seem worth the sweat. Even the most partisan Paulistano – resident of São Paulo city – will rail about the smog, the traffic, the crumbling sidewalks and the gaping divide between poor and rich.

The biggest city in Brazil (and the biggest city in South America), São Paulo is all about superlatives. The city’s traffic might be the worst and its commuters may have reached critical mass years ago, but the delicious abundance of restaurants, the cultural diversity of the population and the hedonistic intensity of its nightlife remain unsurpassed on the continent.

This fertile cultural life is supported by Brazil’s biggest and best-educated middle class and further enriched by literally hundreds of distinct ethnic groups – including the largest community of people of Japanese descent outside Japan, the largest population of Italian descendants outside Italy and a significant Arab community fueled mostly by Lebanese and Syrian immigration. There are one million people of German stock, as well, sizable Chinese, Armenian, Lithuanian, Greek, Korean, Polish and Hungarian communities; and, most recently, growing numbers of Peruvians, Bolivians, Haitians and Africans. São Paulo also has the largest openly gay community in Latin America.

An estimated 20 million people live in greater São Paulo, making it the third-largest metropolis on earth. Besides a dizzying avalanche of first-rate museums, cultural centers, experimental theaters and cinemas, Sampa’s nightclubs and bars are among the best on the continent (15,000 bars make for one hell of a pub crawl) and its restaurants are among the world's best. Including more pizzerias than any city worldwide. Its relentless, round-the-clock pulse – a close cousin of New York or Tokyo – can prove taxing even for the fiercest hipster. Then again, it may just deliver the charge you need to discover one of the world’s great cities.

Alex Atala, amongst the world’s most influential chefs, was born in São Paulo and runs both D.O.M. and Dalva & Dito. São Paulo is home to the largest Japanese diaspora in the world. There are 1.5 million people of Japanese origin living in SP. The architect Ruy Othake, one of the most emblematic Japanese-Brazilians, is the head behind the half-moon-shaped Hotel Unique, one of São Paulo’s most recognizable landmarks and South America’s most surprising hotel. São Paulo’s 'Japan town' neighborhood is called Liberdade, which means 'freedom' in Portuguese, and has a  McDonald’s with a Japanese-style garden around the back.

Gritty and bustling, Centro – the old downtown area – mixes 19th-century European architecture with Latin American hustle. Packed with peddlers of kitsch and tat, shopping street Rua 25 de Março remains a tackily entertaining place to experience the city’s street life, though the area can get sketchy at night. Just south of Centro is Liberdade, São Paulo’s Japantown, rife with kanji and kana signage, Asian cuisine, sundry doodads for sale and a festive atmosphere at the main plaza’s weekly market.


The Museu de Arte de São Paulo is a private, nonprofit museum founded by Brazilian businessman Assis Chateaubriand, in 1947, as Brazil’s first modern museum. Chateaubriand invited Italian art dealer and critic Pietro Maria Bardi to serve as MASP’s director, a position he held for nearly forty-five years. Acquired through donations from the local society, MASP’s first artworks were selected by Bardi and became the most important collection of European art in the Southern Hemisphere. Today, MASP’s collection contains more than 8.000 works, including paintings, sculptures, objects, photographs, and costumes from a wide range of periods, encompassing art from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Besides the permanent exhibition of its collection, MASP organizes a compre­hensive program of temporary exhibitions, courses, and talks, as well as musical, dance, and theater presentations.

Originally located on Rua 7 de Abril, in São Paulo’s downtown district, in 1968 the museum was transferred to its current building on Avenida Paulista; its striking architectural design by Lina Bo Bardi has made it a landmark of 20th-century architecture. Lina Bo Bardi used glass and concrete to create an architecture of rough surfaces without luxurious finishing but that conveys a sense of lightness, transparency, and suspension. The plaza underneath the building, known as “free span”, was designed to serve as a public square. The architect’s radicality can also be appreciated in the iconic crystal easels she designed for displaying the museum’s collection on the building’s second floor. In removing the artworks from the wall, the easels question the traditional model of the European museum. At MASP, the vast open space, coupled with a transparent, suspended exhibition design, allows for a closer rapport between the visitors and the collection, one in which visitors choose their own paths, tracing their own histories.

Football Museum

Visiting the Football Museum means to experience Brazil from the XX century and to realize how habits and behaviors are very close to the journey the sport has passed through. Football has the enchantment of opening up our eyes to valuable historical issues. The Football Museum is located at Charles Miller Square, Pacaembu, on one of the more beautiful sportive Brazilian places the Municipal Stadium Paulo Machado de Carvalho owns. Charles Miller was the Brazilian-Scottish fabled figure in São Paulo, having first taken the organised game to Brazil in the late 19th century. The excellent and fascinating Museu do Futebol uses modern technology to tell the story of Brazilian football. A large collection of video, photos and documents are on show, as are interactive games and regular events to stimulate young supporters into learning the facts behind their favourite sport. Way more than just the Sport itself, the theme on the Football Museum has also to do with Brazilian people. The museum is surrounded by the expression of joy inserted in mysteries we all cultivate around the Ball, around the dribbling, shot on goal and the goal.

The initial conception gathered together in an integrated way the three dimensions a Museum is constituted is: architecture, the museum itself and content. Interconnected – each one of the dimensions has a key role in the project. Based in a 6.900 square meters area, the Football Museum preserves its original lines in an imposing public patrimony and reveals Pacaembu Stadium architecture. The stadium choice has been aligned by the view of a planning architecture point of view and it recovers and gives a new use to the already existing building. Charles Miller Square, with its proposal from Mauro Munhoz, the architecture aims in occupying the frontal building of the Stadium (which has been projected during the 1930s by Ramos de Azevedo architecture). The ground floor represents the transition space between the inside and the outside among it, the Museum and the square. The architecture project also expresses the stadium structures, its averse and inside places. Each room shows the apparent ceiling with concrete structure and the grandstand of the stadium shows throughout the zigzagged in the stairs, its contents where exhibitions and further objects are located.

Museu Afro Brasil

Museu Afro Brasil is a public institution, held by  São Paulo State Secretariat for Culture and managed by Associação Museu Afro Brasil - Organização Social de Cultura (Museu Afro-Brasil Association - Social Organization for Culture). It aims to be a contemporary museum where the black people can be recognized. Over than 6,000 works highlight the importance of African people in the formation of Brazilian culture, heritage and identity as known nowadays. Also, it offers a celebration of the art and accomplishments of the Africans and Afro-Brazilians. The Collection is considered the largest Afro - American in American with more than 6,000 masterpieces, sculptures, documents, engravings, ceramics, paintings, contemporary arts, jewelry, objects, reliefs, photographs and textiles. Over than 70% of the collection is in the long term exhibition, portraying mainly Brazil, some countries from the African Continent, Cuba, Haiti and the United States. It is located in the Pavilion Padre Manuel da Nóbrega, It is a 11.000 m2 building designed by the renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. It is inside the most important urban park in São Paulo, Ibirapuera Park.

Municipal Market

This covered market is a belle époque confection of stained glass and a series of vast domes. Inside, a fabulous urban market specializes in all things edible. It’s also a great place to sample a couple of classic Sampa delights: mortadella sandwiches at Bar do Mané and pasteis (pockets of dough stuffed with meat, cheese or fish and then fried). The Municipal Market (Mercado Municipal) opened in 1933, is a 10-meter high building with columns, domes, and windows with agricultural themes imported from Germany. It is an important supply and leisure center that offers a great variety of products, from fruit, vegetables, and poultry to seasonings, some of which available only there. It is the only place in the city where it is possible to find all types of fruit, regardless the time of the year. The Municipal Market opens to the general public from 5.00 a.m. to 16.00 p.m., from Mondays to Saturdays (closes on Sundays). It offers parking facilities. It is located at Rua Cantareira, 306, downtown, between Rua 25 de Março and Parque D. Pedro II.

Estação Júlio Prestes

This grand turn-of-the-century Beaux Arts–style working railway station (actually completed in the 1930s) is the Estação Pinacoteca , an annex of the Pinacoteca do Estado hosting Sampa's three best contemporary art halls and an excellent permanent collection of modernist Brazilian art. Also here is the powerful Memorial da Resistência , occupying cells where dissidents were tortured during Brazil’s military dictatorship. The Estação Júlio Prestes is located at Largo General Osório, 66.

Ibirapuera Park

The biggest green space in central São Paulo, Parque do Ibirapuera makes a fine escape from the city's seemingly infinite stretches of concrete. In addition, the leafy 2-sq-km park serves as a thriving center of the city's cultural life, with a series of museums, performance spaces and the grounds for São Paulo's renowned Bienal. Inaugurated in 1954 to commemorate the city's 400th anniversary, the park was designed by renowned landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. A series of landmark buildings in the park are the work of modernist master Oscar Niemeyer; most of them are linked by a long and distinctively serpentine covered walkway.

Theatro Municipal

São Paulo’s most splendid construction, this theater was begun in 1903 in the style of Paris’ Palais Garnier. Its heavily ornamented facade seems to combine every architectural style imaginable, from baroque to art nouveau, and its interior is clad in gold and marble. Free English tours run twice daily Tuesday to Friday at 11am and 5pm, and Saturday at noon.

Travel information

For hotel reservation or information regarding traveling to São Paulo (or Brazil) please send an e-mail to Travel SCL 2016.