São Paulo travel guide
«State of Sao Paulo
«City of São Paulo
São Paulo is the most expensive city in Brazil; according to this report, in 2006 São Paulo ranked #34 among other 144 important cities in the World (up from #119 in 2005, thanks to the devaluation of the dollar against the Real); Rio de Janeiro was at a close #40.
It is possible, however, to spend the day walking around the tourist spots in São Paulo spending little or no money; every day there's a free - or almost free- play, concert or exhibition. Visitors can get around without having to rent a car or be stuck with a guide; a subway ticket and is of unlimited usage (you can take a trip from any one station to any other one). And there's always a hot dog stand or a shop selling Arabian meat pies when your stomach starts to growl.
Coming out of the Sé underground station, you'll be in front of the Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral of São Paulo), one of the five largest gothic temples in the world; Sé is the Portuguese word for See, as in Vatican, the Holy See. From there head towards the Pateo do Collegio, where the city's History started; and you can start your day there, too: have breakfast at the Café do Páteo, in a pleasant outdoor area surrounded by trees; you may want to try the typical breakfast of the working class: bread-and-butter and coffe-and-milk.
From there, go towards the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil; this neoclassical style building housed the first branch of Banco do Brasil in the city. There is always an excellent - and free - exhibition there (music, photos, paintings, etc); films are also shown in the space, and tickets are only 4 reals; Banco do Brasil uses several tax breaks to maintain the cultural center.
Continue your tour in the direction of the edifício Altino Arantes, better known as Edifício Banespa. From its Banespa Tower, open to the public, you can see a good part of the city; for some time, this was the tallest building in town, but no longer (the highest building today is Terraço Itália (see a photo at the bottom of this page). However, because Banespa is atop of a small hill, it has a broader view span; the landscape is prettier on sunny days.
Close by is the Ladeira Porto Geral. Follow the street vendors and you'll run into Rua 25 de Março, the main wholesale center of Latin America; here you can buy everything at minimum prices (check out some shops here and here). Some products can only be found there, such as stones and beads for making jewelry and fine embroidery, specialized sewing needles, silk flowers and wooden furniture for doll houses.
To move around, you'll have to dodge walking vendors, pedestrians and chaotic traffic, but it's worth it (during the busiest holidays, such as Mother's Day and Christmas season, more than one million people visit the area).
Not far from there are Santa Efigênia street, specializing in electronics (several shops have websites; check out google) and São Caetano street — where bridal gowns and accessories are sold.
If you want to buy warehouse footwear you'll have to go across town to Rua João Cachoeira, at Itaim — one of the many specialized shopping streets spread out through other neighborhoods. But if you want to exchange buying things for bargain cultural events, it's best to get off at the Luz underground station and got to the Consolação station on Avenida Paulista.
Walk along Avenida Paulista, observing the richness and diversity of the buildings and people. Have lunch at the Masp restaurant; the refined sideboard offers a reasonably priced meal.
Afterwards, walk over to the Brigadeiro subway station and take a train to the Vila Mariana station to go to the Museu Lasar Segall. This museum occupies the house where naturalized Russian painter Lasar Segall lived, and contains 3 thousand of his works. Take note of the modernist houses on Rua Berta, designated as historic landmarks.
The Rancho da Empada isn't far from there; sample one of their 25 stuffed pastries for 2.70 each.
Evening and Night
The various theater presentations are among the best things in the city.
The Centro Cultural São Paulo, right next to the Vergueiro subway station, always stages excellent shows and plays at popular prices (the place has also a large collection of books and movies, free for consultation). The same is true of the Teatro Popular do Sesi in the Fiesp building in front of the Trianon Masp metro station on Paulista.
At dinner time, some Arabic food might be nice; Baal-beck, on Alameda Lorena, combines a select offering of the good and the inexpensive. If you are a bohemian, you'll invest the money you saved during the day in your evening. Sarajevo Club (from 10 reals at the door) has live music and cheap beer.
Afterwards, you just have to wait for the subway to open at 4:40 a.m., and then it's back to the hotel.
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