Located in the southeastern Brazilian state that shares its name, Sao Paulo is the most populous city not only in the country but in all the Southern Hemisphere. The city plays an important economic role in both Brazil and South America as a whole, and although it enjoys a large degree of wealth, the class disparity can at times be shocking. Founded as a Jesuit settlement in 1554, Sao Paulo remained under Portuguese rule until its independence in 1823, and today is Brazil’s most ethnically diverse city, with the largest populations of both Japanese and Italians outside their native lands. With the Tropic of Capricorn lying just north of the city, the subtropical climate provides abundant rainfall, including frequent thunderstorms, in the warmer months of December through February.
Brazilians are notorious for throwing a good party, and Sao Paulo has some of the best nightlife to be found anywhere in the world. Thousands of cultural and sporting events fill its annual calendar, and millions flock to festivals such as the world’s largest gay pride parade. Although there’s no shortage of high-end restaurants and the culinary scene is world class, pizza is so popular that Sampa—as locals affectionately call their home—has more pizzerias than any other city on the planet. Sports are a large part of the local culture, and the city has not one but three football teams, with Formula One racing also immensely popular. The enormous population—one of the largest in the world—more often than not results in traffic jams of legendary proportions.
With more than 150 theaters and 90 museums, there’s no shortage of the arts in Sao Paulo. Among the theaters, the Municipal is perhaps the most prominent, due to its hybrid architecture of Renaissance, Baroque, and Art Nouveau and its status as the home of the city’s Symphonic Orchestra and City Ballet. One of the country’s most important museums, the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo focuses on Brazilian visual arts from the 19th century to today. When football is in season, the city’s stadiums overflow with Paulistanos, with the football museum at the Estádio do Pacaembu tiding them over until the next year. The replica of the original Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem houses a replicated Ark of the Covenant, designed to meet the exact specifications in the Book of Exodus, including the requisite gold leaf. Sao Paulo is a shopper’s dream, with numerous luxury brands and malls, including the Centro Comercial Aricanduva, one of the world’s largest.
The districts of Jardins, Consolação, and Centro have the most shopping and attractions, making them somewhat immune to the horrid traffic that often cripples the city. Jardins is so synonymous with luxury brands that is often compared to Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive. In addition to playing a large role in Sampa’s business sphere, Avenida Paulista is home to the city’s Museum of Art (MASP) and contains some of the most expensive real estate in South America. Centro contains the majority of Sao Paulo’s older buildings, with the city growing outward from there, and features the street 25 de Março, known for its shopping bargains.