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The third largest city in the world has 17 million people spread over an area of 30.000 square kilometres. São Paulo might be huge but it has humble beginnings. In 1554, Portuguese Jesuit priests founded a small mission on a hill close to the River Tietê, which soon became a trading post. Later, when the area around São Paulo was found to be perfect for growing coffee, the city´s future prosperity was sealed. Today São Paulo is the business and unofficial political capital of the country. A good place to orientate yourself in São Paulo is by Avenida Paulista, lined with high rise office buildings, which divides the city centre from São Paulo´s exclusive and glamorous district, the Jardins, where you find the best hotels including Fasano and the Unique. From here, you can easily reach most parts of the city. Praça da Sé and Praça da República, the two squares divided by Vale do Anhangabaú is the old centre of São Paulo. On Rua Boa Vista, you will find the whitewashed Baroque Pátio do Colégio, the site of which dates back to the Jesuits first mission in 1554. Nearby, Triângulo is the city´s main financial district and home to São Paulo´s imposing stock exchange, the BOVESPA. A few blocks away you can find the calm of São Bento. North east is the imposing neo-gothic central market, the Mercado Municipal. South of here is the commercial district of Bela Vista, nicknamed Bixiga, and the city´s ”Little Italy” centred around Praça da Liberdade, now a centre for east Asian immigrants. Rua Augusta slices across Avenida Paulista into the Jardins. Around Praça Franklin Roosevelt are many of the city´s best shops and restaurants. South west of the Jardins is the fashionable neighbourhood of Pinheiros, with some of the best bars and nightclubs in the city. Across the Rio Pinheiros is the vast campus of the Universidade de São Paulo. South east from here is the huge green space of Parque Ibirapuera. To the east of the centre you find the barrias, once the industrial hub of the city. Of note here is the Museu da Hospedaria. North of here across the Rio Tietê is the city´s main bus station, the Rodoviária Tietê.
Most of São Paulo's main attractions are located in the city centre, the area bounded by the Tietê River on the North, the Pinheiros River to the West, Avenida dos Bandeirantes on the south and Avenida Salim Farah Maluf to the East. São Paulo has something for everyone, the culture vulture, the jazz fan, the clubber, the football fanatic and the gourmand. To take in the scale of São Paulo's history visit Pátio do Colégio to see its beginnings. Then visit legendary Brazilian architect and designer of Brasilia, Oscar Niemeyer's space-age OCA museum. For a breathtaking glimpse of where São Paulo is going, you cannot beat the view from the top of the Italia Building on Avenida Ipiranga at the corner of Avenida São Luís.
São Paulo’s best restaurants are to be found in the Jardins, Itaim Bibi, Pinheiros and Vila Madalena where you can sample local bahian and mineiro cuisine as well as international fusion dishes. However for those on a smaller budget, R$5 can get you a delicious healthy meal at side street restaurants called lanchonetes, which are more a mix between a café and a bakery. But even in top restaurants, prices rarely exceed R$100. The best non-Brazilian cuisine tends to be Middle Eastern, Korean and Chinese. Head to Liberdade for Japanese and Cerqueira César for Middle Eastern. The Portuguese restaurants are pretty spectacular too. Lunch is the most important meal of the day in Brazil so for the more popular restaurants, it is advisable to book a table in advance, even during the weeks.
Paulistanos are a fast-moving, dynamic bunch so there is an abundance of cafés and fast food outlets, from local Lanchonetes serving snacks and cheap meals to the inevitable MacDonalds and Subways. São Paulo does not have a big café tradition, but locals like to drink cafézinhos, small cups of strong, black coffee.
The hometown of electro hipster group CSS, São Paulo's eclectic nightlife is the best in Brazil. Bela Vista has plenty of live music and draws a mixed crowd, while Vila Madalena and adjoining Pinheiros are full of trendy, bohemian-nightspots, and clubs where you can enjoy a Brahma beer and check out the scene. The Jardins offers upmarket bars for a more mature and LGBT crowd. Head to the bar at the Fasano for the best Caipirinha you are likely to taste anywhere. Itaim Bibi and Vila Oliímpia are where you will find the trendy up and coming clubs. Wednesday and Thursday nights are very popular. For listings of what is going on check weekly Veja magazine and
São Paulo’s shopping possibilities are extensive and the city offers lots of intriguing browsing. The success of São Paulo Fashion Week has drawn many top designers here but there are other delights on offer, from food markets to huge air-conditioned shopping malls. The main shopping hub is in Centro around the Praça da Republica, particularly off Avenida Iparanga and Rua 25 de Marco.
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