Transport in São Paulo can be anything from complicated to hellish. Peak hours are normally roughly 6AM-9AM and 4PM-8PM, but since city roads are constantly on the edge of their capacity, any little incident can cause major queues and delays. The cheapest way for tourists to get around is to use the subway/metro, trains and trolleybuses as much as possible, and then take a taxi for shorter distances. Even these means of transport can be uncomfortably crowded during peaks, and only a very limited carry-on is recommended. You can check the SPTrans website, which is the city’s transport administration department. There you can get itineraries using all the city’s public transportation options.
The Bilhete Único is a transport smartcard that is used for paying fares on buses, subways, and trains. In essence, a single billing of the card grants a person up to four trips in São Paulo’s public transportation system with free transfers between the subway system and buses within 3 hours. The card is issued at no cost at underground stations; charge them with the minimum amount required in newspaper stands, state-owned betting shops (known as “lotéricas”), supermarkets and other establishments – look for the red, round “Bilhete Único” logo. Fare charging rules are as follows:
- On buses: upon boarding a bus, you’ll be charged R$3,50 and can board up to three other buses in a three-hour period without being charged a second time.
- On the Metro or CPTM trains: for a single trip in the underground train system, you’ll be charged R$3,50.
- First Metro/CPTM train then bus: you’ll be charged R$2,90 when passing by a Metro or CPTM station’s turnstile. Once you board a bus, you’ll be charged an extra R$1,20 and will be able to board two other buses in a two-hour period – starting from the first validation at the train station – without any further payment.
- First bus then Metro/CPTM train: once you board a bus, R$3,50 is charged from your card. Upon entering the Metro or CPTM systems, you’ll be charged a further R$1,45. It’s possible, after leaving the Metro or CPTM system, to board up to two other buses without any further payment in the two-hour period that starts from the first validation, depending on whether you boarded one or two buses before entering a train.
Note that the discounts do not typically apply to intermunicipal buses (usually in blue color and operated by the EMTU company), although there are some exceptions.
By metrô and train
The rail network, composed of metro (subway) and surface trains, is the method of transportation a tourist is likely to use the most while visiting São Paulo. The metro is modern, safe, clean and efficient; the quality of surface trains varies, but those in more touristic areas area as good as the metro. The three companies operating the rail network are Metrô, CPTM and ViaQuatro. There are the lines which are more likely to be useful to a visitor:
- Line 1 (Blue): The first metro line built runs from North to South, passing through the Historical Center. Tietê and Jabaquara bus terminals are also reachable through via Line 1 (Blue). Operated by Metrô.
- Line 2 (Green): The Green line runs from West to East, passing through Avenida Paulista. Operated by Metrô.
- Line 3 (Red): One of São Paulo’s busiest lines, it runs from West to East (north of Line 2 (Green), and far more extensive), passing through the Historical Center. The Barra Funda bus terminal is on the west end of this line. Operated by Metrô.
- Line 4 (Yellow): Connects the Historical Center to the West (mostly south of Line 2 (Green)), passing through Avenida Paulista. It will be fully operating in 2012. Operated by ViaQuatro.
- Line 9 (Emerald): Runs from North to South (west of Line 1 (Blue)), crossing the entire West. Operated by CPTM.
Surface trains can also be used to reach a number of other cities in the metropolitan area of São Paulo and even beyond. The fee is the same, make some of these trips incredible cheap depending on where you want to go.
Fare and hours of operation
If you don’t have a Bilhete Único smart card (see above), trains uses a simple flat-price ticketing scheme – you can get only one-trip tickets, which cost R$3,50, and allows you to go as far as you wish. Free train transfers appear as white links in the map; paid transfers as black links.
The single tickets can be bought at the counters or automatic machines, which can be found in every station. Buying multiple tickets will not save you money but will save time locating a vending machine or waiting time in line, which can both be bothersome. If you plan to take buses together with trains, using a Bilhete Único is highly recommended.
Typical operating hours for trains are Sunday to Friday, from 4:30AM-midnight (or 1AM Sa) or, depending on the station, up to 12:40AM. Connections on the network operated by Metrô are guaranteed only for boardings before midnight (1AM Sa), regardless of the station. Check the operating companies’ website for more updated information.
Daily use of public transport may be quite stressful to Paulistanos; many take more than 2 hours to get to work or school! As consequence, manners are often left aside on train and metro, and on peak hours, pushes are common. When boarding, walk as far as possible into the train after the door opens, and if you wish to wait for the next train, step outside of the boarding area immediately. Otherwise, you may end up being forcefully pushed into the train.
Inside of the train, it is not uncommon to have a lot of people blocking the way to the door, even if they are not leaving the train in the next station. Unless it is a hub station, politely ask Vai descer aqui? (Are you going to step out here?) to make people move on for you to get out.
As weird (or stupid) as it may seem, Paulistanos do not typically wait for people to get out of the train before getting in. If you are confronted with a mass of people outside when stepping out, walk vigorously, otherwise they may end up pushing you back.
Do remember to keep on the right side of a metrô escalator in order to give way to other people in a hurry – you may be pushed aside if just standing on the left side of it, especially on the busiest hours. Also, should you sit in the assento reservado (reserved seats), be kind enough to give them up for the elderly, pregnant women, parents with babies and disabled people.
Buses are the most popular way to get around the city. Even though drivers really step on it through the bumpy streets of São Paulo, buses are not the fastest way to get around. In addition, they can get really crowded. However, unlike the metro/train, they do reach every neighbourhood.
Tickets are R$3,50 one way. You can pay for the ride inside the bus, or use a Bilhete Unico card topped up with credits before boarding. If paying for the ticket on the bus, simply hand over the money to the teller sitting by the turnstile, and he or she will let you pass through. Note that children under 5 years old are allowed by law to slip under the turnstile for free! If you have the Bilhete Unico magnetic card, then a single fare payment allows you to take other buses for free for the next 3 hours after touching in the card. Simply scan the card in front of the card reader, and the turnstile will be released.
Most Brazilians move straight to the back of the bus when they board, which can make it difficult to get off the bus, but it’s considered the polite thing to do. Also, if you are holding a large bag and standing, another person may offer to hold your bag for you. This is a perfectly alright thing to do, as they’re really just being kind and polite. Use your best judgement if the offer seems like anything other than a friendly gesture.
If you are carrying large suitcases, try to avoid rush-hour traffic as buses can become incredibly packed. It is not always wise to take the bus late at night, especially if you find yourself all alone waiting at the bus stop – consider calling a cab instead, or asking someone you know for a lift.
Taxi ranks in São Paulo are white, with a distinctive luminous green “TAXI” sign on the roof top. Check out for the white color of the taxi rank (unless it’s a radio taxi), the official license sticker with the driver’s name and photo on the passenger side of the control panel, and the red license plate.
There are two kinds of cabs: cheaper street-hail and radio taxi. White taxis are often found at stands near city squares and big venues. Radio taxis can be ordered by telephone; ask reception at your hotel for help to call a radio cab, or just call a company. Some companies, such as the radio taxi company Sao Paulo Airport Transfers, now provide an on-line, fixed price, quote and book service. Taxis in São Paulo are relatively expensive compared to other large cities worldwide and, depending on the neighborhood, there is a risk of being overcharged if you’re a foreigner. To check app. taxi fares in advance, check out http://precodotaxi.com/sao-paulo/.
Unlike you may have heard otherwise, incidents of tourists being brought by taxists to be robbed are extremely rare. Taxis are one of the safest ways to get around the city, and certainly much safer than riding your own car if you are only for a few days of visit in the city.
Cars are an important tool in the life of every paulistano. By commuting to and from work, one can spend several hours a day inside a car, stuck in the traffic. Some places can be reached only by car, and if you have to travel long distances in town, it is usually the most convenient means of transport. It is also part of the Sao Paulo’s own urban culture.It is common for some middle- and upper-class young people to receive a car from their families if they passed the entrance exams for university.
However, as it is the case in many big cities, getting around by car is borderline crazy if you’re not used to São Paulo. Traffic can be chaotic and parking is a nightmare. It is also not so straightforward to find your way in certain neighbourhoods where streets can get windy. So be warned that visitors to Sao Paulo don’t really need a car.
If you’re comfortable enough to adventure yourself and feel more like a paulistano, feel free to explore the city from behind a steering-wheel. There is some information about driving in town that you should know beforehand:
Rotating transit policy (Rodízio): In order to reduce the congestion and the air pollution in Sao Paulo, the city council has adopted a mandatory rotating transit policy: cars whose license plate number ends in 1 and 2 cannot circulate on Mondays; if it ends on 3 or 4, Tuesday is off; 5 or 6, stay home or take a cab on Wednesdays; 7 or 8, Thursday is the unlucky day; 9 or 0, on Fridays you can walk. The prohibition is valid only on the so-called Expanded Center (blue street plates with grey bottom stripe), and for peak hours: 7AM-10AM and 5PM-8PM. During the remaining hours, cars are allowed to circulate freely.
Provisory driving licence: Being able to drive around the city is a great advantage for visitors staying in town for a longer period of time. You’ll need a Brazilian provisory driving licence, valid for 6 months and renewable, that can be obtained at Detran (State Transit Department), on Avenida do Estado 900, near the Armênia metro station (blue line), tel. (11) 3322-3333. If you have an International Driving Licence, you’ll still have to go to Detran and register it. Submit the following documents to “Setor de Atendimento ao Estrangeiro” (4th floor of the main building, also called prédio principal):
- your original valid driving licence from your home country and a photocopy of your licence
- an original ID document and a photocopy of a valid leave to remain in Brazil (passport with a valid visa or stamp)
- Translation of the driving licence by a sworn translator or your country’s Consulate in Brazil
- A document (such as a utility bill, a bank statement or a letter from your landlord) proving your local residential address.
Drinking: Please be aware that, according to the national transit authority laws, it is illegal to drink and drive. Even tiny traces of alcohol detected in your blood (0.2g per litre, or the equivalent of a glass of wine) are enough for the police to apprehend the driving licence, apply a fine of around USD 600 and prosecute the drinking driver. The police will often search for drivers that seem to be under the effects of alcohol in large avenues and areas with an active night life – locals call this kind of searches a blitz.
Parking fees (Zona Azul or “Blue Zone”): The city council charges a parking fee of R$2 for one-hour parking in some of the main streets in the central area, so be careful not to be fined for not paying the charge. Check for signs in the sidewalk and yellow lines on the pavement. There are plenty of authorised shops, newspaper stands and transit guards selling parking tickets (Zona Azul) in the streets, which have to be filled in with the car plaque number, the date and the hour of the parking and placed inside the car, on the frontal window pane. These tickets are valid for one hour only, but they can be renewed if you plan to stay longer. Only two one-hour tickets can be placed at one time, which means that you’ll have to check on you car every two hours to renew them. The fee is charged M-Sa 7AM-7PM, and charging hours may vary across neighbourhoods.
Driving at night: Buses stop at 1AM and the metro around midnight, so it can be tricky to get to many of the famous bars and night clubs unless you take a taxi, or… drive. If you go out at night by car, expect to pay a small fee to unofficial “car keepers” in order to park your car along the streets. This is a common use in many busy outing hubs around town, which may seem unfair given that parking your car in the streets is free of charge after 7PM, but they occasionally may check your car against stereo robbers. If the neighbourhood seems a bit dodgy or deserted, try to find a parking lot rather than parking in the streets.
Valet services: Most bars and restaurants offer non-compulsory parking and valet services to customers, for which you will be charged a fee (it might be as costly as R$ 25 in upscale places). These services are often covered by insurance, nevertheless, whenever using valet services, do not leave valuables such as handbags, wallets, electronics and sunglasses in the car, as these items are usually not covered by the insurance policies in parking spaces.
Fuel: At petrol filling stations, you’ll notice that ethanol is as common as traditional fuels in the pumps. That is because, after the oil shocks in the 1970s, the Brazilian government encouraged car makers to develop and improve the existent ethanol-fueled engines. This policy, applied over the years, has resulted in a large number of people choosing to buy this type of car. Ethanol tends to be cheaper than petrol, but the consumption in litres is around 30 percent higher. Many flex-power cars can now be fueled with either ethanol or gas, or a mixture of both in any proportion. Staff in petrol stations will fill in the tank for you, so you don’t even need to step out of the car, unless if you’re paying by credit card, in which case you will need go to the cashier to swipe it.
São Paulo is definitely not one of the easiest places in the world around by bike. Most drivers respect cyclists, but unfortunately, there are also many drivers (including bus drivers) who don’t. Most of the city is flat or moderately steep, with only the extreme north part of the city being extremely hilly. The basic “survival tips” are: use a helmet, follow the direction of traffic at all times, watch out for car doors opening without warning, never ride in freeways, and use a cycleway whenever possible.
Cyclists with bicycles are allowed in the metro/train network at the following times:
- In the metro (Metrô/Via Quatro): Monday-Friday starting from 20:30, Saturday starting from 14:00, Sundays and Holidays the whole day
- In surface trains (CPTM): Saturday starting from 14:00, Sundays and Holidays the whole day
There are public bicycle parking lots in many metro stations (06:00-22:00 daily), and in some it is also possible to borrow a bike using a credit card. Parking lots (mainly the ones designed for cars) may not accept your bicycle, so if you are to chain yours to a pole, use a good chain with a strong lock. In metro/train stations, cyclists are allowed to put their bicycles on escalators to go up, but not to go down.
São Paulo has about 55 km of cycleways; On sundays, it is also possible to use the Ciclofaixa de Lazer. The cicleways that cover more than one region are listed below; others are described in the individual district sections.
- Cycleway Marginal Pinheiros, from Cidade Universitário to Jurubatuba train stations. The longest cycleway of São Paulo, running in the east shore of the Pinheiros River and linking the West, South Central and Far South regions. Offers very nice views of the city, although the bad smell of the river may take some time to cope. The only problem of the cycleway is that it is isolated from the city by a train line and a motorway, so it is only possible to enter and leave the cycleway at specific points. 21.2 km.
- Cycleway Radial Leste, from Tatuapé to Corinthians-Itaquera train/metro stations. Goes from the middle of the Southeast to the middle of the Far East regions, running in parallel with the Line 3-Red metro line and the Radial Leste avenue. The cicleway gives an extensive view of suburban residencial areas in São Paulo’s East region. 12 km.
Although required by the national transit law, pedestrians are definitely not the priority in Sao Paulo, where cars dominate the streets and roads. Take care whenever crossing the streets, watching out for cars that may come unexpectedly, even if the pedestrian lights are green. Do not try to cross large roads with a high volumes of car traffic: usually there will be a pedestrian viaduct or bridge at some point in the sidewalk.
Despite the aggressiveness found in the transit, one can still have peaceful walks across town. The Historic Center area and Avenida Paulista are definitely places to be explored on foot. Check the individual district listings for other nice walks.
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. Gay nightlife is intense on Consolacao and Haddock Lobo Streets.
São Paulo’s Historic Center met a period of degradation, but it is gradually recovering with recent projects and investments. Even through 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 appartments 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 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 ecossystems, and contain limited recreational facilities. They are suited for those seeking an adventure. These include Parque Estadual da Cantareira, APA Capivari-Monos 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 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.
Check the individual district listings for a more comprehensive list of parks and more detailed information.
Museums and cultural centers
As the art center of the country, São Paulo offers inumerous 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).
Check each district section of this guide for a comprehensive list of museums.
São Paulo 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. São Bento Metrô station, ☎ +55(11) 3249-7180. 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, Skye serves excellent fusion food under the supervision of chef Emmanuel Bassoleil. 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.
Theaters and concert halls
The two most important concert and opera houses of the city are Theatro Municipal and Sala São Paulo. São Paulo has a great number of theaters, most of which feature plays in Portuguese. The British Cultural Centre, Goethe Institute, Instituto Cervantes and Alliance Française occasionally have plays in English, German, Spanish and French, respectively; check individual District listings.
Ciclofaixa de Lazer
Now it is possible to safely cycle in the city during Sundays and holidays, using the Ciclofaixa de Lazer. It is a 255,2 km route that passes mainly through middle and high class residential areas in the West and South Central parts of São Paulo, passing also through cycling-friendly parks such as Parque Villa-Lobos and Parque do Ibirapuera. Check the map of the route on, which also contains other information.
Fun for the family
Both adults and kids are ensured to have fun by seeing the animals in the São Paulo Zoo, Zoo Safari (with animals roaming freely) and in the São Paulo Aquarium. São Paulo also has educative spaces aimed both at adults and children, including Catavento Cultural and Espaço Ciência. Finally, Mundo da Xuxa is a theme park only for the small ones.
Football is an inherent part of Brazilian culture, and São Paulo is no exception, being home of four football teams that generally run in the 1st division: São Paulo, Corinthians, Palmeiras and Portuguesa. The four large football stadiums in the city are Morumbi, Parque Antarctica , Pacaembu and Canindé . A new stadium was constructed in the São Paulo/Far East region to host the opening and some games of the FIFA World Cup 2014. A word of warning, however: although most matches are safe and fun events, games between the biggest local rivals (Corinthians, Sao Paulo, Palmeiras and, to a smaller extent, Santos) have had episodes of violence flaring up (the majority of cases, such incidents happening outside of the stadium), due to a minority of violent fans (ultras). Going to such games can be a risky proposition.
Estadio de Morumbi is not easily reachable from the center (e.g Av. Paulista) by public transport. A taxi from Av. Paulista costs about 50 R$ (Nov. 2014). Invest this money instead of splitting the trip to Morumbi into metro and Taxi combinations, it will only save you about 10 R$. If you want to watch a game there, try to get tickets before the match day (Online tickets are available until 3 days before the match) because they might get sold out easily.
- São Paulo Historical City Tour is a panoramic tour for those keen to have an introduction to the history, culture, and the lifestyle of the biggest city in the Southern Hemisphere. The city tour takes about 3 hours, during which the visitor will pass by places in São Paulo Old Centre and get familiar with highlights such as the Cathedral of Sé, Pátio do Colégio (short stop at the square, the site where the city was founded), Monastery of São Bento, the Banespa Building (São Paulo’s “Empire State Building”), Martinelli Building (the first skyscraper in South America), Viaduto do Chá (Tea Viaduct), the Municipal Theater, Sala São Paulo concert hall, Estaçao da Luz train station and the Municipal Market.
- SP Up Close is run by Americans who love São Paulo and have experienced the ins and outs of the city and are able to showcase the best of the local flavors. SP Up Close operates Culture, Architecture, Shopping, Food & Custom Tours to meet any visitor’s needs. The price of their Tours includes transportation, snacks & drinks.
- TurisMetrô offer a variety of city tours every weekend. The tours are mostly walking but with some use of the metro. There is no charge but you will need to take some money with you to buy metro tickets during the tour as necessary. Tours start at the TurisMetrô desk in Sé metro station at 9am and 2pm on Saturdays and Sundays; you need to arrive half an hour earlier to sign up. The desk is inside the ticket barriers, so if you arrive by metro don’t leave the station while looking for the desk or you’ll have to pay for an extra ticket to get back in, and if you’re already in the area you will have to pay for a ticket to gain access to the desk, although you will use it to make the first journey of the tour so it’s not wasted. The guides speak English.
According to the São Paulo Convention & Visitors Bureau, São Paulo hosts 90,000 events a year, from meetings and conferences to sports and cultural events. Information in English and Spanish about the events happening in the city can be found on. Events tied to a particular region are listed in the individual district sections. The following events are considered important to the city as a whole:
- São Paulo Carnival, Avenida Olavo Fontoura, 1209, Santana (at the Sambódromo from Parque Anhembi, near Armenia and Tiete stations), ☎ 11 6226-0510. If you’re in São Paulo during the annual Carnival, a national bank holiday between the end of February and March. This is where the typical Carnival parade takes place, with dancers dressed up in costumes and musicians play samba songs on the top of fancy cars. If you can afford it, get tickets closest to the “pista” (standing area, close to the parade itself). This will give you a premium view of the parade, and the possibility of comfortably sitting down on benches. Waiters pass to and fro selling chocolate, chips, beer, soft drinks and booze. Another option is to visit one of the various samba school in town, where you can see the rehearsal concerts of musicians and dancers. You can even have the opportunity to join the parade at the time of Carnival holidays by acquiring the costume from a samba school and getting in touch with the people organising the event in one of the schools. However, São Paulo is not a traditional Carnaval destination for Brazillians, like Rio. The city will usually be less crowded on Carnaval then usual, as Paulistanos leave for the Paulista Coast or other states.
- Gay Pride Parade, Avenida Paulista. Every year, during Corpus Christi holidays (usually between May and June), around 3 million people take part in the largest Gay Pride parade in the world. It takes place on a Sunday, and Avenida Paulista is the spot to head to. Floats bustling with eletronic music parade from MASP to República, while every type imaginable marches along. The drinks are plenty and the rave party feel keeps the paraders dancing way pass sunset.
- Virada Cultural, (Downtown). Virada Cultural is a round-the-clock cultural marathon that takes place in various parts of the Historic Center (Downtown), happening yearly around April-May. It is a free event that gathers an audience of several million of people circulating during a 24-hour, non-stop cultural party. Exceptionally, the metro and train work uninterruptedly during the event. During the 2012 edition, there were about 1,300 shows and 15 km of streets were occupied. Free.
- São Paulo Indy 300, (Northwest). is an event in the IRL IndyCar Series, which opened the 2010 IndyCar Series season. The circuit is located in the Santana district, birthplace of legendary Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna and Brazilian auto racing pioneer Chico Landi. The main straightaway of the track is along the Sambadrome of Anhembi and utilizes portions of the Marginal Tietê service drive. The Anhembi Convention Center will be used for support facilities and spectator attractions. Unlike many other circuits, the pit lane is not located around the start-finish line; it is instead positioned after turn four.
- Brazilian Grand Prix, Autódromo José Carlos Pace (Far South). s a Formula One championship race which occurs at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace in Interlagos. The Interlagos circuit has created some of the most exciting and memorable races in recent Formula One history, and is regarded as one of the most challenging and exciting circuits on the F1 calendar. Along with Spa-Francorchamps, it is rare in that the circuit in its modern form is one of the few with a lengthy history in the sport not considered to have lost much of its mystique or challenge in its adaptation for the modern, much more safety-conscious era of 21st century Formula One.
You can find practically anything in São Paulo. Imported goods can be expensive, but look out for Brazilian-made bargains in all categories. Spend some time in one of the many “shoppings” (as Brazilians call the shopping malls) and also look out for areas with shops catering for specific interests.
Remember that street shops usually operate 8AM-6PM, including Saturdays (when they close earlier), but most of that are closed on Sundays. The countless shopping malls operate M-Sa 10AM-10PM and Su 10AM-8PM.
Central shopping areas
The area between Avenida Ipiranga and Parque Dom Pedro II (Downtown) is the closest to what São Paulo has from a “central shopping area”, with various pedestrianized and non-pedestrianized shopping streets. The exceptionally crowded Rua 25 de Março, with its diverse range of bargains, is perhaps the most famous commercial street of the area.
Avenida Paulista and Rua Augusta (Paulista) form a smooth transition between the popular commerce of Downtown and the affluent commerce of Rua Oscar Freire (West).
São Paulo has also many specialized shopping areas, such as Rua Teodoro Sampaio (West) for furniture and musical instruments, Rua José Paulino (Downtown) and Brás neighborhood (Southeast) for bargain and wholesale clothing, Liberdade neigborhood (Downtown) for cosmetics and Asian products, and Rua Santa Ifigênia (Downtown) for electronic equipment.
Paulistanos, especially those with higher income, have an indoor shopping culture. The fear of criminality, traffic and São Paulo’s unpredictable weather are strong factors to this. Shopping malls in São Paulo are not only centers of “shopping” but also leisure areas, typically offering spaces for kids, cinemas, food courts, and sometimes even theatres, expositions, and sport areas. Many shopping malls in São Paulo also offer miscellaneous services such as banks, laundry, repairs, and sometimes even police stations and doctors.
The selection of shops of a mall depends on the type of public predominant in the surroundings: at shopping malls located at working class neighborhoods, it is easier to find bargain department stores, while shopping malls in wealthy areas may be the only way to have access to exclusive designer stores. Check the individual district listings for a comprehensive list of shopping malls in the city.
Some shopping malls that deserve special mention are Morumbi/Market Place (South Central – with more than 600 shops and dozens of restaurants), Eldorado (West – with an immense food court), Iguatemi (West – the oldest shopping mall of São Paulo, with very upscale profile), Cidade Jardim (West – the “rich-only” shopping mall), Aricanduva (Far East – the city’s largest and most famous working class shopping mall), and Frei Caneca (Downtown – the favorite of the LGBT public).
Suburban shopping areas
Far from Downtown, there are many suburban shopping areas. The busiest of them is probably the area around Largo 13 de Maio (South Central), the “central shopping area” of the former city of Santo Amaro, now part of São Paulo.
There are also the outdoor markets (feiras livres) and municipal markets (where you can buy fresh and cheaper fruit, vegetables and meat), supermarkets and atacados (a type of supermarket where you pay less if buy at least a certain quantity, very convenient for families).
Most of these local commerce centers are not listed in this guide, but they are of extreme importance in the daily life of Paulistanos.
São Paulo has the highest living cost in the Americas, and it’s the 10th most expensive city in the world, according to the Mercer Worldwide Cost of Living 2011 Survey. However, it should be remarked that such rankings are based on averages, which hardly describe a city as huge and with so many contrasts as São Paulo.
It is absolutely possible to enjoy the city’s attractions while spending a moderate amount of cash in both accommodations and food. For example, a set meal, drinks included, in a reasonably good place is around R$43. Ask locals for tips how to make the best out of your money if you’re on a tight budget.
São Paulo is home to a superb diversity of restaurants and cuisines, where you can enjoy typical dishes from literally all over the world. The price range is as wide as the diversity of the restaurants in the city, from cheap snacks and meals in simple and cozy restaurants and food tents in popular markets, to the hugely expensive high end cuisine and internationally recognized restaurants, such as D.O.M, which was (in 2012) elected the 4th best restaurant in the World and the best in South America by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
The city is also home to a vast array of Brazilian and international fast-food chains, offering varying options ranging from burgers, to sushi and kebab. The fast-food chain Habib’s, which originated in São Paulo, is the favorite of lower class Paulistanos due to its cheap “Arab-Brazilian” snacks.
In São Paulo, the ever-present beans-and-rice accompaniment typically involves brown beans instead of black beans, as in Rio. Another typical food in São Paulo is the Virado à Paulista, which consists of rice, tutu de feijão (a paste of beans and manioc flour; sometimes made of corn flour, in order to be drier than the manioc flour one), sautéed collard greens (couve) and pork chops, typically bisteca. It is usually accompanied by pork rinds, bits of sausage, a fried egg and a fried banana.
Another typical type of restaurant in São Paulo, are the world famous churrascarias where an enormous range of meats and cuts, comes to your table by the stick, offering also a range of sides and salads. In those places, you can eat as much as you want, paying a single fee whose price range may vary from R$45 to R$115. This system is called rodízio, and it has been very successful in the city, spreading to other types of cuisine like Italian, where you can find the rodízio de pizza and Japanese, with the rodízio de sushi.
The cuisine of São Paulo shows the influence of European, Middle Eastern and Asian immigrants. The majority of immigrants in São Paulo arrived from Italy, and other European countries like Portugal, Spain and Germany. There’s also big numbers of Asian and Middle Eastern immigrants from Japan, Lebanon and many other nationalities. Therefore, it is possible to find a wide array of cuisines in the city of São Paulo. Pizza is a particularly popular dish, which can be found with and endless range of toppings, and paulistas will swear their city has the best pizza in the country, if not in the world.
When eating out, a tip of 10 percent on the value of the bill is usually included. Some restaurants don’t include this service charge (when you may come across the message “Serviço não incluso” at the end of the bill), but unless the staff are upsettingly rude, do pay the standard 10 percent tip as it is usually part of their wages.
You will have no trouble finding bars in São Paulo, where you can enjoy an ice cold beer, a shot of cachaça or a caipirinha – or anything else for that matter. A chopp (a 300 ml glass of draught beer) will set you back between R$3 and R$10 (in extreme cases), depending on the bar, but anything around R$4, R$5 is fine. Vila Madalena and Itaim have a very high concentration of bars, and are great spots for an all-nighter. For specific suggestions of bars, check the district section.
Sao Paulo history is connected directly to the coffee cultivation so Brazilian coffee is the real deal here. In fact, Brazil is the world’s largest producer of coffee, and if you watch the locals, you will see that they drink plenty of it, too. Stop at a café or padaria and order a cafezinho (espresso), cafe com leite, or cafe pingado (hot milk with a shot of espresso added to it, slightly stronger than cafe com leite).
This city has an unbelievably rich and diverse night life, and is able to provide entertainment for all tastes, from traditional samba-rock live music to electro-pop night clubs, raves and even some fetish clubs. It is worth planning at least one night out while you’re in town. On the other hand, São Paulo’s nightlife can be quite expensive; most clubs charge an entrance fee. Usually, entrance hovers around R$25, but they can be over R$250 (US$145) in some upscale places.
The main areas for nightlife in the city are Vila Olímpia, Vila Madalena, and Barra Funda (West), Moema (South Central), Tatuapé and Mooca (Southeast), and Santana (Northeast). Be sure to check the individual District listings.
Visit vejasp.com.br or buy one of the paper editions to have the latest clubbing updates.