5 tips for Sao Paulo

Cable-stayed bridge aerial view. Sao Paulo, Brazil

Sao Paulo is the capital of the Brazilian state of the same name and, with its estimated 22 million inhabitants, not only the largest city in the country, but also the largest city in the southern hemisphere. Thanks to immigration, Sao Paulo has also acquired a very multicultural face – German, Italian and Portuguese influences are just as tangible in the city today as Lebanese and Japanese. Unlike Rio de Janeiro in the north, Sao Paulo is not a tourist city. This fact should not discourage, but on the contrary encourage a visit, because Sao Paulo has in any case much to offer worth seeing.

Tip 1: Sao Paulo Museum of Art

The Museu de Arte de São Paulo, also known as MASP, only opened in 1968, but has the most representative and extensive collection of Western art in Latin America. In the museum you’ll find works by Impressionists and modern masters – Renoir, Van Gogh, Matisse, Manet, Debret, Picasso, Miró, along with 73 bronze sculptures by Degas alone. Although the museum’s collection dates back to the Renaissance period, the majority of the works are from modern and contemporary art of the 20th century.

Sao Paulo Museum of Art
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Designed by Brazilian-Italian architect Lina Bo Bardi, the building itself is a landmark of modernism. Markets are held in the plaza beneath the floating structure on Sundays.

Tip 2: Sao Paulo Cathedral

The Catedral Metropolitana, the Cathedral of São Paulo, is located in the Cathedral Square. It is one of the largest neo-Gothic churches in the world.

The church itself is younger than its appearance suggests, it was only built in 1954 after almost 40 years of construction. The German architect Maximilian Emil Hehl was in charge.

Sao Paulo Cathedral
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Although the Catedral da Sé is not that old, the site that the church occupies is very historic. A church was first built there as early as the 16th century, but over the centuries it was repeatedly demolished and replaced by a larger facility.

Today’s Catedral da Sé has two towers almost 92 meters high and was provided with a dome reminiscent of Florence’s Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral. More than 800 tons of marble were used.

Worth seeing is the interior decoration, which was mainly decorated with works of art from Brazil. During a visit you should also see the crypt, the sculptures by Francisco Leopoldo e Silva describe the story of Job and Jerome.

Tip 3: Municipal Theatre

Begun in 1903 and completed in 1911, the Municipal Theater, built in the merging architectural styles of Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau, presents itself as one of Sao Paulo’s most beautiful and popular landmarks. It is also emblematic of the era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, during which the city experienced a tremendous economic boom. The theater’s program is packed throughout the year and a visit to at least one of the performances is highly recommended. The theater is also the home base of the Municipal Symphonic Orchestra, the world-famous Coral Lírico (Lyric Choir), and the Sao Paulo Municipal Ballet.

Municipal Theatre of Sao Paulo
© Alf Ribeiro | Dreamstime.com

A number of the most famous artists in world history have performed in the theater during the 20th century, such as Maria Callas, Enrico Caruso, Isadora Duncan, Benjamino Gigli, Vaslav Nijinsky, Anna Pavlova, Arthur Rubinstein, Magdalena Tagliaferro, Arturo Toscanini and many others.

The theater has noble stained glass windows and numerous works of art. Its interior is divided into six tiers, whose balcony fronts are covered with gold leaf, and its dome presents the different phases of human life. The central chandelier has 260 lamps and about 6000 crystal pieces. Adjacent to the building is the Theatre Museum.

Tip 4: Municipal Market

One of the most famous tourist destinations is in any case the “Mercado Municipal”, translated this means nothing more than Municipal Market Hall.

The old Mercado Municipal covers around 12,000 square meters. For not a few, it is the most interesting and beautiful market in the world.

Municipal Market in Sao Paulo
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Built and inaugurated in 1933, the market hall was intended as a wholesale market mainly for fruits and vegetables, as well as for cereals, meat, fish and spices.

In the course of time, however, this market hall lost its importance after the new wholesale market was inaugurated due to the enormous population growth. Due to its special interior design, which features many display cases arranged in rows and box-shaped stalls, the Mercado Municipal is now used as a sales hall for the finest and best fruits, spices and meats in the city. Each box is rented by a merchant, who in turn stocks up on high quality goods at the actual wholesale market and then sells them at very high prices to locals and tourists. Most people don’t come here to stock up on fruit for their daily needs, but to buy, stroll, or just sample exotic fruits.

Tip 5: Parque do Ibirapuera

Parque do Ibirapuera is the most interesting park in the city. It offers 1.6 million square meters of landscaped gardens and lakes, as well as culture, for example the Planetário, equipped with the most modern equipment of space exploration.

Parque do Ibirapuera at Sao Paulo
© Rafael Paulucci | Dreamstime.com

Ibirapuera is undoubtedly one of the most important green spaces in Sao Paulo; it was inaugurated in 1954, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the founding of the city. Designed by the landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, the park gathers the most important native plants of Brazil. Explicit care was taken in the design of the plantings to use indigenous plants instead of imported species. The park is often referred to as Sao Paulo’s “Central Park” and is one of the main destinations for Paulistanos on Sundays.

On the grounds, in addition to a number of museums, are the “Velódromo,” a course for bicycle and motorcycle racing, an aluminum-roofed stadium for indoor sports, with room for 20,000 spectators, the “Pavilhão Japonês,” a Japanese pavilion, originally imported from Japan, with a salon for the tea ceremony, and many pedestrian and bicycle paths.