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Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Sao Paulo (City)

São Paulo, capital of the state of that name and the largest city in South America, is 72km/45mi from Santos, 408km/254mi from Curitiba, 429km/267mi from Rio de Janeiro and 586km/364mi from Belo Horizonte. Economically, politically and culturally it is the most important city in Brazil.

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Historic Center

Se CathedralSe Cathedral View slideshow
The Historic Center is the old section of São Paulo with numerous historic sites.

Mosteiro de São Bento

Rua São Bento leads to Largo São Bento, in which are the Mosteiro de São Bento (Benedictine monastery), built in the late 16th century, and its church of 1910-22. A number of notable Benedictine artists contributed to the decoration of the monastery, including Agostinho de Jesus, who carved the clay statues of St Benedict and St Scholastica between 1650 and 1652. Other notable features are the stained glass, the German-made organ, an image of the Virgin in a robe set with pearls and a crucifix of 1777.

Pátio do Colégio

The Pátio do Colégio, immediately north of Praça da Sé, can be regarded as the original nucleus of São Paulo. Here Manuel de Nóbrega and José de Anchieta founded the College of the Society of Jesus, a place of residence and study for Jesuits, and here on January 25th 1554 the first mass in the settlement was celebrated. The Pátio do Colégio is now occupied by the Historical Museum, the Casa Anchieta and the Capela de Anchieta. All that remains of the 16th century building is the doors and a stretch of clay wall.

Largo de São Francisco

On Largo de São Francisco, to the west of Praça da Sé and the Pátio do Colégio, are the church of São Francisco (1644) and the church of the Ordem Terceira de São Francisco, the Third (lay) Franciscan Order (1676-1791). The third building in the complex, the Franciscan friary, has been occupied since 1828, under an imperial decree, by the Law Faculty of São Paulo University.

Cathedral

Full view of the Cathedral in Sao Paulo.
The best starting-point for a tour of São Paulo is the old town on the hill between the Tamanduateí and Anhangabaú valleys. On the centrally situated Praça da Sé is the neo-Gothic Cathedral (Sé), built on the site of an earlier cathedral. The building of the Cathedral took 24 years, but it was finally consecrated in 1954, on the 400th anniversary of the foundation of São Paulo. On the façade are statues of Old Testament prophets and Christ's disciples. The stained glass windows depict the history of Catholicism in Brazil.

New Center

New CenterNew Center Francisco Anzola

In 1872 São Paulo had only 31,000 inhabitants - fewer than Cuiabá in Mato Grosso - and was practically confined within the boundaries of the original settlement. From 1880 onwards, however, the coffee plantations expanded considerably and the railway network was extended, while new immigrants flocked into the town. As a result São Paulo enjoyed an upsurge of prosperity and expanded at a vertiginous rate. The town now outgrew the limits set by the rivers, and new districts - the Centro Novo - developed round the historic core.

Municipal Theatre

The Viaduto do Chá ("Tea Viaduct"; 1889), which carries Rua São Bento over the Anhangabaú depression, links the old town with Praça Ramos de Azevedo, on which is the Municipal Theatre (Teatro Municipal), built between 1903 and 1911 in an eclectic mixture of Art Nouveau and Italian Renaissance. The architect, Ramos de Azevedo, modeled his building on the Paris Opéra. After comprehensive restoration work, completed in 1991, the Theatre now appears in all its original splendor.

Itália Building

On Avenida Ipiranga, at the corner of Avenida São Luís, is the 47-storey Itália Building. From its roof, at a height of 164m/538ft, there are magnificent views of the whole city.

Nossa Senhora da Luz

On Avenida Tiradentes, which skirts the Parque da Luz, are the convent and church of Nossa Senhora da Luz, typical examples of the traditional architecture of São Paulo: in spite of their late foundation (18th century) they are built entirely of clay.

Museum of Sacred Art

The Nossa Senhora da Luz convent now houses the Museum of Sacred Art, which has a large and valuable collection of some 11,000 items, including statues, pictures, retablos and furniture of the colonial period (16th-19th centuries).
Address: Avenida Tiradentes 676, Brazil

State Picture Gallery

The State Picture Gallery (Pinacoteca do Estado; opened 1905, also on Praça Tiradentes), is the oldest museum in São Paulo. It contains some 2500 pictures, drawings and prints, mainly by Brazilian artists.
Address: Praça da Luz, 2, Brazil

Praça da República

Praça da República, formerly the Campos dos Curros, in the early 19th century was a halting-place for trains of pack animals and herds of cattle. The tree-shaded square, with a pond in the center, is occupied on Sundays by a craft market, at which stamps, coins and semi-precious stones are also offered for sale. On Saturdays there is a market for the sale of home-made delicacies both sweet and savory. The square is also used for various entertainments, with music from the surrounding region.

Largo do Arouche

From Avenida Ipiranga, at Praça da República, a number of streets (pedestrians only) go off in the direction of Praça Ramos de Azevedo. On the other side Rua Vieira de Carvalho and Rua do Arouche lead to Largo do Arouche, decorated with sculpture and gay with flower-stalls open round the clock. The square can also be reached by way of Avenida São João, one block south of Praça da República on Avenida Ipiranga.

Parque Dom Pedro II

One landmark in the development of the city was the opening of the Dom Pedro II Park. In the park, which extends to the east of Praça da Sé and Largo São Bento, there formerly stood the Patliament Building. The park now lies at the center of a network of streets reaching northward towards the Rio Tietà and eastward into the Brás and Moóca districts.

Museum of Art

At the end of Rua da Cantareira is the Centro Cultural do Liceu de Artes e Ofícios, a Museum of Art which covers the whole range of western art from ancient Greece to the Renaissance.
Address: Rua da Cantareira 1351, São Paulo, Sao Paulo 01024-100, Brazil

Santa Cruz dos Enforcados

The building of the chapel of Santa Cruz dos Enforcados on Praça da Liberdade (to the south of Praça da Sé and Praça João Mendes) in 1902 is evidence of the rapid growth of the city. The chapel is still used for worship, but since its construction increasing numbers of Asian immigrants - mainly Japanese, Chinese and Koreans - have moved into the district. Many streets are lit by Eastern-style lamps, and innumerable restaurants offer an exotic cuisine with characteristic Far Eastern specialties.

Museum of Japanese Immigration

The Museum of Japanese Immigration (Museu da Imigração Japonese) has some 1000 exhibits (works of art, everyday objects, books, photographs, reproductions of the boats which brought the Japanese immigrants to Brazil) showing how the immigrants adjusted to their new conditions of life and became integrated into this new world. They still maintain their old traditions, however, as is shown, for example, by the Feira Oriental, an Eastern street market held on Sundays in Praça da Liberdade, when typical Japanese delicacies, plants and craft products are on sale.

Paraíso

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To the south of the Liberdade district is the district of Paraíso.

Casa das Rosas (State Art Gallery)

Avenida Paulista starts from Praça Oswaldo Cruz, on the edge of the Paraíso district. At the near end of the avenue is the Casa das Rosas ("House of Roses"), with the State Art Gallery (Galeria Estadual de Arte), a 4-storey building with an area of 2845sq.m/3400sq.yds. It was the last building designed by Ramos de Azevedo (d. 1928), who was also responsible for the Municipal Theatre, although building began only seven years after his death. Glass panels, Belgian floor tiles and Portuguese marble were used in the interior decoration. The building gets its name from the French-style rose gardens planted in geometric patterns which surround it.
The Art Gallery, opened in 1991, displays some 300 works - prints, pictures, sculpture and installations - ranging from work by academic artists such as Oscar Pereira da Silva by way of Di Cavalcanti and Portinari to such representatives of contemporary trends as Arcângelo Ianelli.

Museum of Art

The São Paulo Museum of Art (Museu de Arte São Paulo, or MASP for short), opened in 1968, has the most representative collection of western art in the whole of Latin America, with works by such famous Impressionists and modern masters as Renoir, Van Gogh, Matisse, Debret, Picasso, Miró, Portinari and Di Cavalcanti, 73 works of bronze sculpture by Degas and, not least, a number of Renaissance pictures. Within the complex, which was designed by Lina Bo Bardi, there is also a huge open-air arena (area 2100sq.m/2500sq.yds) which is used for concerts and on Sundays accommodates an antiques market. On the other side of Avenida Paulista is the Trianon Park (or Parque Siqueira Campos), with old trees, playgrounds and aviaries.
Address: Avenida Paulista 1578, São Paulo, Sao Paulo 01310-200, Brazil

Avenida Paulista

Avenida Paulista, originally laid out in 1891 with the villas of coffee barons and industrial magnates, is now a compact mass of concrete consisting of high-rise blocks whose roofs serve as helicopter landing-pads or are crowned by radio aerials. This business and financial center has also developed a lively cultural life. At its four Metro stations are works by Tomie Ohtake, Wesley Duke Lee and other contemporary artists.

Cultural Center

In Rua Vergeiro is the large Centro Cultural São Paulo, which has a total area of 46,500sq.km/55,600sq.yds. It contains a public library, rooms for film, video and theatre shows, music rooms, conference rooms, exhibition areas and a collection of some 1800 pictures.
Beyond the Paraíso district are two areas which play an important part in the life of São Paulo: Ibirapuera Park, the city's green lung, and Avenida Paulista, the "Centro Novíssimo", the heart of the present-day city.

Ibirapuera Park

Ibirapuera ParkIbirapuera Park View slideshow
Ibirapuera Park was laid out by Burle Marx, with buildings designed by Oscar Niemeyer. With an area of 1.8 million sq.m (2.2 million sq.yds), the park is a leisure paradise for the people of São Paulo, with a lake, fountains, children's playgrounds, keep-fit trails, a roller-skating rink and an open-air theatre for concerts and other musical events; but with its numerous monuments, museums and administrative buildings it is also of great architectural and cultural interest.
The park is on Avenida Pedro Alvares Cabral, which can be reached by way of Avenidas Manuel da Nóbrega, Brasil, 23 de Maio, Ibirapuera and Brigadeiro Luís Antônio and a number of other streets.

Museum of Contemporary Art

The Museum of Contemporary Art (Museu de Arte Contemporânea), in the Bienal Pavilion, contains over 5000 exhibits representing a wide range of art schools, from Picasso, Modigliani and Léger to Tarsila do Amaral, Portinari and Di Cavalcanti, to mention only three of the leading Brazilian painters.
Address: Rua da Reitoria 160, Cidade Universitária, São Paulo, Sao Paulo 05508-900, Brazil

Museum of Aeronautics and Folk Art

Gate 2 of the Ibirapuera Park leads to the Museum of Aeronautics and Folk Art (Museu da Aeronáutica e do Folclore), on the ground floor of which are displayed aircraft models and flying equipment; the other floors are devoted to folk art and traditions, with almost 20,000 exhibits from all over Brazil.

Bandeiras Monument

Detail of the Bandeiras Monument in Sao Paulo.
At the near end of Avenida Pedro Alvares Cabral is the Monumento às Bandeiras, commemorating the pioneers from São Paulo who opened up the interior - a magnificent work by Victor Brecheret with imposing and heroic figures.

Obelisk to Heroes of 1932

The obelisk commemorating those who died in 1932 in the struggle for a new constitution is a striking landmark in Ibirapuera Park. At its base is the Mausoleum of the Constitutionalist Soldier, who died defending the Constitution.

Lasar Segall Museum

The Lasar Segall Museum, housed in the former home (Rua Afonso Celso) of the artist Lasar Segall, an immigrant from Lithuania who was one of the driving forces of the Modernist movement in Brazil, contains oil paintings, watercolors, drawings and prints by Segall, his painting equipment, a library, an art workshop and a room for film shows.
Address: Rua Berta 111, São Paulo, Sao Paulo 04120-040, Brazil

Independence Park

Independence ParkIndependence Park Rodrigo Soldon
To the east of Vila Mariana is the Ipiranga district, traversed by a stream on which the independence of Brazil was proclaimed. An attractive feature of the district is Independence Park (Parque da Independància).

Museu Paulista

Museu Paulista (or Museu do Ipiranga), displays objects, costumes and furniture of the imperial period. Its architectural style, modeled on Italian neo-classicism, is in sharp contrast to the plain and unassuming Casa do Grito, in front of which is the Independence Monument.

Casa do Grito

Casa do Grito is a house built on the spot where Dom Pedro I uttered the "Grito do Ipiranga", the cry "Independence or Death".

Jardins

The name Jardins ("Gardens") covers a number of districts in São Paulo's Zona Sul (Cerqueira César, Jardim Europa, Jardim América, Jardim Paulistano, Itaim, etc.) which are well provided with high-class restaurants, hotels and exclusive shops. In addition they have now become the main center of the city's night life. These districts lie south-west of Avenida Paulista, which runs through Cerqueira César, west of Ibirapuera Park, south of the Pinheiros district and east of the Rio Pinheiros; but slowly and surely the elegant shops and houses are reaching out beyond these limits. There are various roads leading to the Jardins, including Rua Augusta, one of the city's most celebrated streets, and Rua Oscar Freire, a shopping street for luxury articles.

Museum of Image and Sound

Among cultural institutions in the Jardins are MASP (Cerqueira César), and the Museum of the Image and Sound (Museu da Imagem e do Som, MIS for short). MIS, one of the most active museums in São Paulo, has valuable material on the history of film-making.
Address: Avenida Europa 158 - Jardim Europa, São Paulo, Sao Paulo 01449-000, Brazil

Pinheiros

Pinheiros, the oldest district of São Paulo, with a history going back 430 years, lies on the right bank of the Rio Pinheiros, opposite the Cidade Universitária. This middle-class residential area, with a high proportion of students, is now being invaded by night spots, fashionable boutiques and restaurants, which have extended the Jardins area beyond Avenida Rebouças. This street, Avenida Teodoro Sampaio and Rua Cardeal Arcoverde run through the district towards Avenida Paulista. The road following the Rio Pinheiros leads to the western and northern districts on the Rio Tietà, while Rua Henrique Schumann (the continuation of Avenida Brasil) and Avenida Sumaré run through the western districts of Perdizes and Sumaré.
In the section of Avenida Henrique Schaumann between Avenida Rebouças and Rua Cardeal Arcoverde are numerous night spots, bars and restaurants frequented mainly by students and young professionals. Near Avenida Schaumann, bounded by Avenidas Teodoro Sampaio and Rua Cardeal Arcoverde, is Praça Benedito Calixto, on which the Mercado das Pulgas (Flea Market; works of art and antiques) is held on Saturday.

Hospital das Clínicas

On Avenida Dr Arnaldo, between Pinheiros and Cerqueira César, are the buildings of the Medical Faculty of São Paulo University and the largest hospital complex in Latin America, which includes the Hospital das Clínicas, the Emílio Ribas Hospital and the Instituto do Coração (Cardiac Institute). Also in the complex is the Historical Museum of the Faculty of Medicine.

Peridizes

The district of Peridizes, located in the Zona Oeste region has numerous attractions.

Catholica University

In Perdizes is the campus of the Pontifícia Universidade Católica of São Paulo, with the Teatro da Universidade Católica. Round the University are numerous bookshops, cafés and restaurants catering mainly for young people. The district is traversed by a number of cross streets off Avenidas Sumaré and Pacaembu and by Rua Cardoso de Almeida, which runs from Largo Padre Péricles, in the Agua Branca district, to Avenida Dr Arnaldo.

Address: Rua Cardoso de Almeida, 990, Brazil

Fernando Costa Park

From Large Padre Péricles Avenida Francisco Matarazzo runs between the Agua Branca and Barra Funda districts and then heads for Pompéia. On this avenue is the entrance to the Fernando Costa Park (or Parque da Agua Branca). Laid out in 1928, the park has an area of 110,000sq.m/131,500sq.yds, with beautiful expanses of grass and woodland, lakes, a children's play area, a small zoo and the Museum of the Geological Institute. Markets and livestock shows are also held in the park.

Latin America Memorial

On the other side of Avenida Francisco Matarazzo, near the terminus of the Metro line to Barra Funda, is the Memorial da América Latina, a monumental complex covering an area of 80,000sq.m/96,000sq.yds and consisting of seven buildings set round two squares linked by a pedestrian bridge. This huge architectural project designed by Oscar Niemeyer is notable for its great areas of open space and its curving slabs of concrete. Some of the roof structures are borne on supporting beams up to 90m/295ft long.

On the square by the Metro station are the reception building for the whole complex, a restaurant, a library and the Salão de Atos (Athos Hall). In the Athos Hall, in which important decisions of the state government are taken, are a large (18m/60ft by 3m/10ft) wall painting of Tiradentes by Portinari and 15m/50ft high bas-relief panels by Carybé and Poty depicting the peoples and the history of Latin America. The library has 50,000 volumes as well as videos, films and records.

In the square are a piece of sculpture by Franz Weissmann and a monumental hand (7m/23ft high) designed by Oscar Niemeyer, with a map of the American continent carved on the palm.

Jaraguá Park

In Pirituba, a district in the extreme west of São Paulo, is the city's highest point, the Pico do Jaraguá (1135m/3724ft). At the foot of the hill is Jaraguá Park (area 45sq.km/17sq.mi), with an expanse of forest, sports facilities, children's playgrounds and various kiosks. It is reached on the Estrada Turística do Jaraguá, which branches off the Via Anhanguera at km18/mi12.

Horto Florestal

Above the Campo de Marte are the districts of Santana (the business and night life center of the Zona Norte), Mandaqui, Tucuruvi, Tremembe and Horto. In Horto is the Horto Florestal (Forest Park; area 174 hectares/430 acres), with lakes, wooded areas and springs of drinking water. Also in the park are the summer residence of the Governor and the Octávio Vechi Forest Museum.

Brás

Towards the end of the 19th century the outlying settlement of Brás, near Praça da Sé, which had hitherto been occupied by craftsmen and small traders, began to be transformed into an industrial suburb of São Paulo inhabited mainly by Italian immigrants. Although it has kept its old cantinas (typically Italian restaurants) and its folk traditions like the Festa de San Gennaro, it is now one of the districts of São Paulo occupied mainly by impoverished immigrants from north-eastern Brazil.

Casa das Retortas

The Casa das Retortas in Rua Figueira, a 100-year-old building in British industrial style which housed the city's first gasometer, is evidence of the industrial development and urban spread of the late 19th century. The building is now a research center concerned with artistic activities in São Paulo.

São Miguel Paulista

São Miguel Paulista, a settlement founded in the colonial period, lies north-east of the city center, near Garulhos and the Tietà Ecological Park. It has one of the oldest churches in São Paulo, the chapel of São Miguel (1622), on a square plan.

Parque Chico Mendes

Inn the São Miguel Paulista district is Chico Mendes Park, established in 1989 on the Chácara da Figueira (also known as Vila Curuça) to protect one of the last areas of mata atlântica in São Paulo. The vegetation in this park includes chorisias (floss-silk trees), guapuruvurs or baquerubus and jatobás or jataís (two trees belonging to the Leguminosae), bromeliads, samambaias-açu or xaxims (trees related to the ferns) and many other species.

Itaquera

Itaquera Parque do Carmo
The Itaim Paulista and Guaianazes districts to the east of São Miguel Paulista lie on the eastern boundary of the city. Farther in, below São Miguel, are Ermelino Matarazzo and Itaquera.

Parque do Carmo

The main feature of Itaquera is the Parque do Carmo, one of the largest open spaces in São Paulo. The park, established in 1976 on the old Fazenda do Carmo, has an area of 1.5sq.km/370 acres, making it comparable in size with Ibirapuera Park. It contains children's playgrounds, street traders' stalls, an amphitheatre and five lakes (one of them with three islands) inhabited by ducks and geese. The Festa da Cerejeira (Cherry Blossom Festival), a celebration of Japanese origin, is held in the park in July. The paths which run through the park lead into unspoiled areas of woodland in which 210 species of plants, including ten different kinds of cherry-tree, have been recorded. The cherry-trees were introduced into Brazil in 1977, when the country's Japanese colonies celebrated the 70th anniversary of their arrival in Brazil.
The Carmo Park lies on Avenida Afonso de Sampaio e Souza (Rua da Fazenda) and can be reached by way of the streets following the banks of the Rio Tietà, the Radial Leste (East Radial Road) and Avenida Aricanduva.
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