What to see in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Avenida Paulista (Paulista Avenue) is one of São Paulo‘s most popular postcards, as it is the pride of Paulistanos. It is one of the largest business centers, and probably the largest cultural region in the city. Its architectural contrast reflects the fact that the avenue is located between the “old” and “new” parts of the city.
The avenue and its surroundings, such as Rua Augusta, Alameda Santos and Rua Oscar Freire, contain numerous shop galleries, art galleries, theatres, movie theaters, pubs, hotel, coffe shops, bookstores, and gourmet restaurants.
São Paulo’s Historic Center met a period of degradation, but it is gradually recovering with recent projects and investments. Even though it still has some problems, it is an area to not be missed due to its historical and cultural value for the city. Here you can find many constructions and landmarks from glorious moments of São Paulo’s history, ridiculously crowded commercial areas, and a multitude of theatres and cultural activities.
Regarded as an “ugly and gray concrete jungle” even by many Paulistanos, São Paulo’s city center indeed does not conform to a standard definition of “beauty”, but nonetheless, it has become a source of inspiration for countless artists and photographers who can see on it much of the personality of the city.
Rio Pinheiros river area
The Pinheiros river crosses the West of São Paulo in North-South direction, and although heavily polluted, the river and its shores are among the most beautiful and interesting areas of the city. The East shore is filled with skyscrapers that compose the business centers of Brooklin Novo and Vila Olímpia, and contains the longest cycleway of the city, as well as one of the most vibrant nightlife areas. The West shore is home to University of São Paulo and exhibits a stereotypical portrait of São Paulo’s social inequality, contrasting luxurious apartments and mansions with low class suburbs and favelas. In the middle of the river, stands the magnificent Ponte Octavio Frias, more known as Ponte Estaiada. The Line 9-Emerald train line runs alongside the river, making all spots quite easy to reach.
Although São Paulo is commonly associated with gray, concrete, and lack of green space, the Atlantic rainforest still covers large portions of the city and even of the municipality. These green areas are constantly under threat by irregular ocupation, so the government has turned many of them into into public parks in order to better protect them.
Parks in the city can be divided into three types:
Leisure parks are those with plenty of recreational, sport and cultural facilities, but do not contain considerable amounts of original vegetation. Parque do Ibirapuera (see São Paulo/South Central) is certainly the most famous park of this type in the city, hosting various museums, monuments, and cultural activities;
Ecotourism parks are those which are mostly covered by the Atlantic rainforest and other natural ecosystems, and contain limited recreational facilities. They are suited for those seeking an adventure. These include Parque Estadual da Cantareira (see São Paulo/Northeast and Guarulhos), APA Capivari-Monos (see São Paulo/Far South) and Parque Estadual do Jaraguá.
Mixed parks are a mix between the two above types: they have both leisure facilities and preserved nature areas. They are a nice option if you think that nature is best enjoyed with the company of other people, or if you want to do something more relaxing and less adventurous. These include Parque do Carmo, Parque Ecológico do Tietê (see São Paulo/Far East) and Horto Florestal.
Represa do Guarapiranga is not exactly a park, but a huge dam where there are recreation areas with nature mostly preserved. On weekends, some families go there to practice nautical sports like riding jetskis , wakeboard and some sailboats . There you can rent some of these boats and enjoy an almost bucolic landscape in the middle of the concrete jungle.
Museums and cultural centers
As the art center of the country, São Paulo offers innumerous museums and cultural centers. Two museums to not be missed, due to their size, architecture, and historical importance, are Museu do Ipiranga (Southeast) and Memorial da América Latina (West).
Appreciators of art should also check Museu de Arte de São Paulo (Paulista), Pinacoteca do Estado (Downtown), Instituto Tomio Ohtake, Museu de Arte Contemporânea (West) and Museu de Arte Moderna (South Central).
São Paulo, Brazil is a beautiful city seen from above, so spare some time to go to one of the few points where you’ll be able to see how far this city extends to, specially at sunset.
Banespa Tower, Rua João Brícola, 24, Centro. M-F, 10AM-5PM. The observation deck is on the 34th floor, 160 m above ground. For many decades, it used to be the highest building in town. There is a small museum on the top of the building.” Make sure and bring ID (passport) because it is required for entrance. Free entrance.
Restaurant Skye, Hotel Unique, Avenida Brigadeiro Luiz Antônio, 4700. On the rooftop of posh Hotel Unique. Good for night views of the area around Ibirapuera Park. Free entrance.
São Paulo Jockey Club, Av. Lineu de Paula Machado, 1263. There are two bars and a couple of posh restaurants with a great view of the River Pinheiros, especially around 6PM, when you can go straight from work or a busy day walking about to watch the sun set above town. Free entrance.