As Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo is something of a cultural mish-mash, home to an imported assortment of cultures and outlooks as well as an impossible-to-miss mix of the rich and poor. Many argue that the city’s main attraction is simply the city itself, as opposed to the chance to see any particular sight, also citing the array of restaurants as a major draw.
That’s not to say, of course, that the city is devoid of more touristified sights. In amongst the adventure parks, zoos, greenery and even lakes of this mammoth city you’ll find destinations like the Instituto Butantam, where you can watch researchers milk snakes for anti-venom, or the Banespa Skyscraper, from which you can ogle the entire city with a birds eye view. The mammoth BOVESPA stock exchange is a worthy stop off for the financially curious, while the more daring will enjoy heading into the poorer districts of the city and getting a taste of the charismatic, less accessible side of the city.
Sao Paulo Airport (Guarulhos International Airport) is also the countries busiest is the hub in South America with most major airlines flying in and out to almost 30+ different countries.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Sao Paulo without an utter fixation with soccer, and watching one of the local sides kick a ball around in front of their impassioned fans can become a highlight of your trip. Home colors only and an abundance of oversized flags are the order of the day, here, amongst a scene that can turn violent, though rival fans tend to be the target, so no need for too much concern.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Sao Paulo for Carnival, you’ll find a scene that’s second only to Rio in terms of its flamboyant atmosphere, best enjoyed at the last minute from one of the paid standing areas (worth the cost for the improved view), though if you’re in town a little early, be sure to check out the samba schools in advance of the festival, too, and experience the colors and rhythms of the festival close up before the day itself. You might even have the chance to get involved in the parade.
It might struggle to compete with picture-perfect Rio in terms of tourism, but Sao Paulo is still an essential Brazilian experience, one that arguably portrays the country in a more ‘real life’ light than the party capital.