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Many people in Brazil use to joke about making tourism in Sao Paulo, saying that the best thing about it, is that the city is not too far from Rio. In a country with dozens, hundreds of cities and towns by the sea, some people got used to the idea that there is nothing better for a vacation than sea and sand. So, what can we say about places like New York or Tokyo, are them boring places? Sao Paulo, with its 17 million people, is the largest city in the south hemisphere. A place absolutely full of exciting things to do everywhere. Music, arts, museums, culture, excellent restaurants, dance, opera and a lifestyle that can’t be matched anywhere else in the country. Also an industrial giant, commercial metropolis, where dozens of different languages are spoken, this immense cultural melting pot is always remembered in the country as the place where money is, a place where everything is available. Definitely a place for people who enjoy the best and refined things in life.

Video: Landing in Sao Paulo Viracopos Airport

Don’t be intimidated with the sea of tall concrete buildings in town. The city has an reliable subway network and it’s easy to go almost everywhere. Start you tour in Sao Paulo with the traditional tourist attractions. Visit Cathedral da Se, the downtown metropolitan Cathedral, built in neogothic style, with room for 8,000 worshippers and stained-glass windows which tell the story of Catholicism's role in the country.

Then go to Building Italia, the tallest in town. Its name honors all the settlers who came from that country to Brazil. The restaurant on the 42nd floor is excellent, but the real attraction is the incredible view. Also Nossa Senhora da Luz Church, built in 1774, is one of the city's most interesting remaining colonial buildings. It houses a sacred art museum with relics dating from the 17th century. Sao Paulo Modern Art Museum has an excellent collection of 2,000 works by Brazilian from early 20th century. The MASP Museum (Sao Paulo Art Museum) is the most important museum of Western art in Latin America. It has permanent collections of works by European painters and sculptors, including some by the old masters, and also some interesting works by Brazilian artists.


Take a time to visit Independencia Park and Casa do Grito, historic places in the country. The park contains the monument built to celebrate Brazil's declaration of independence from Portugal. The tomb of the first emperor, Dom Pedro I, lies underneath it. Sundays are the best option to visit Ibirapuera Park, the largest in town. It has pleasant lakes, trees and wide-open space. There you’ll also fine Modern Art, Folklore and Contemporary Art Museums, as well as a planetarium. Now, if you enjoy Theme Parks the place to go is Hopi Hari, the biggest one in Latin America, linked by regular buses leave from the Eldorado Shopping Center (3970 Reboucas Ave) or visit Playcenter, a modern theme park with 25 white-knuckle rides, including many roller coasters.


Sao Paulo prides itself on the quality and variety of its cuisine because eating out is a favorite in town. Head to Liberdade quarter for Japanese, Korean and other Asian cuisines. Bela Vista quarter is home to traditional Italian cantinas and first-rate pizza houses, and Jardim Paulista provides sophisticated dining courtesy of the city's best chefs.


A newcomer to Sao Paulo attractions is Latin America Memorial, designed by acclaimed Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. The neighboring pavilions house a permanent exhibition of handicrafts from all over Latin America and an extensive library of books, magazines, newspapers and videos. There's also a restaurant and free concerts on the weekends. A more traditional attraction is Museu do Ipiranga, built in 1895 in an European palace architectural style. It houses religious relics, weapons, furniture and jewelry, most from the 19th century. Visit also its lovely ornamental garden, which is a miniature replica of the Versailles gardens. There’s no better place in southern hemisphere to go shopping than Sao Paulo, and three great options for checking this are Shopping Ibirapuera, the biggest mall in Brazil, Shopping Iguatemi, with a large number of favorite shopping locations rated number one. It is located at famous Avenida Paulista (left), the very beating heart of downtown Sao Paulo. Also Shopping Jardim Sul, considered the Rodeo Drive of Sao Paulo, is the place to find anything from Louis Vuitton to Cartier and Versace. 


Did you know that Sao Paulo has the largest Japanese community outside Japan? The best way to discover their history here is at Museu de Imigracao Japonesa, which traces their arrival in the city in 1908 to the present days. Going back to shopping, you can also take a tour at Jardins (gardens) quarter. Here are the top names of brazilian haute couture, stylish galleries and antique stores. This is a part of town suggested for those who don’t mind some expending. At right Monumento as Bandeiras, built to honor the founders of Sao Paulo.


Open markets in Sao Paulo are many. Among the most interesting are Benedito Calixto market, with hundreds of stalls selling arts, crafts and antiques. This open-air beer garden is a great place to hang out on a Saturday afternoon, when the city's young and trendy gather to drink and listen to live Brazilian folk music. Also famous Bexiga, in the Italian quarter of Bela Vista, is known for its open-air crafts and antiques fair. In the center of Liberdade, the Japanese quarter, Feira da Liberdade is a great option for Asian arts and crafts. Stalls sell good Japanese food and medicinal plants and herbs. Mini Mundo Market has become an institution and can make a great night out. Attracting an open-minded and alternative crowd, this huge fair, usually held in an old warehouse in Barra Funda, has hundreds of stalls that offer jewelry, fashion, dance music, tattoos and piercing. At left a shot made at Sao Paulo Municipal Market.


Vila Madalena, a burgeoning nightlife district with a bohemian atmosphere, caters to the young and trendy with more alternative tastes, and after you've eaten, you can stop at one of the many bars and clubs. If you love meat, you must experience a churrascaria, or barbecue house. Choose a rodizio style restaurant where for a fixed rate you can try everything from the hot and cold dishes buffet to as a large variety of delicious beef cuts, still on the spit, brought right to your table. At right, MASP Museum, or Sao Paulo Modern Art Museum.


On the other hand, not too far from it you will find Jose Paulino St. home of hundreds of fashion factory-outlet and import stores, the best place to spend a whole day browsing, find nice clothes without spending too much. And, if you decide for a little bit more of history, visit Patio do Colegio, the very beginning of Sao Paulo. This building is a reconstruction of the college and mission built by the city's first priests and founders of the city in the year 1554, and still retains some of the original parts. Its Museum and Casa de Anchieta, features sacred art exhibits, objects recovered from the mission, as well as maps and photographs showing Sao Paulo's history.


Nightlife offers all sort of attractions. From laid-back jazz clubs to full-on techno. The swinging Vila Madelena district is the place to be at night. With a distinctly bohemian atmosphere, this neighborhood is packed with enough restaurants, clubs and bars to keep you entertained for at least a week. For more sophisticated but equally eclectic nightlife, you could head to the Jardins district behind Avenida Paulista. Or there is Bela Vista, in the Italian quarter where Continental style cafe and bars with live music are the rage.


The main area for restaurants is the Jardins district, however good quality establishments are scattered throughout the city. There are a wide choices of cuisine, as you would expect in such a multi-cultural city including German, Lebanese, Japanese, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. Some of the best are Tarsila (Hotel Inter-Continental) Antiquarius (1884 Alameda Lorena), Roanne ( 631 Henrique Martins St), Suntory (600 Alameda Campinas) and Fasano (1644 Haddock Lobo St), just to name a few. At left, Museu do Ipiranga, one of the best in town.


Sao Paulo's international airport, Guarulhos, is located 19 miles from downtown. There are many bus companies including the EMTU buses that run between the airport and the downtown Praca da Republica. A taxi is even a better choice, and won’t be expensive. Sao Paulo has it all. And, if by chance, you hear someone telling that old fashioned joke about no beaches in this town, you don’t need to worry. All you have to do is go to Guaruja Beach (right), at the Atlantic coast, just one hour drive from Sao Paulo. There you find a wonderful white sand beach to spend the weekend, as so many of the Paulistas (those who are born here) do, and will be able to tell you friends that you had it all on your trip to Sao Paulo. Even a beach.