São Paulo in Brazil is one of the largest cities in the world. As a result, it has dozens of big – and dozens of small – neighborhoods, many of which overlap. Do you fancy the trendy Vila Madalena decorated with street art? Or perhaps Pinheiros with its diverse market. Active types should head to Moema for the expansive Ibirapuera Park. Whether you want to hangout in a wealthy neighborhood or quirky, hipster area, this guide will help you decide where to stay in São Paulo.
Considered the hippest neighborhood in São Paulo, Vila Madalena is the place to visit for funky shops, fashionable bars, restaurants and avant-garde art galleries. One of the must-see attractions here is the Beco do Batman, a small one-way street filled with street art. Head to Lá da Venda for homemade Brazilian fare in a quirky cafe setting. Come the weekend, the neighborhood hosts an open-air market selling everything from food to antiques.
One of the most stylish neighborhoods in the city, Itaim Bibi is very near other fashionable areas, such as residential Jardins and eclectic Pinheiros. In addition to being one of the priciest residential areas in São Paulo, it has a diverse mix of bars, restaurants, cafés and nightclubs. The Museum of Art of São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand is a must-visit here, it has the best collection of European art in Latin America.
With its streets lined with trees, Moema is the preferred neighborhood for those who want to escape the busy, noisy atmosphere of a big city. Restaurants and cafés border the popular Ibirapuera Park, spanning almost two square kilometers, where you’ll catch many Paulistanos jogging each morning. If you come in January or July, there will likely be hoards of fashionistas heading to the Biennial Pavilion for São Paulo Fashion Week.
Tucked among one of the busiest and most crowded regions of São Paulo is Liberdade, representing Japan’s largest colony outside of Japan. As a main attraction for visitors and city residents alike, Liberdade has dozens of sushi establishments and specialized food stores where one can find Japanese, Thai and Korean products for sale. The tight knit community even has its own Japanese-written newspaper and hosts several annual Eastern culture festivals, including Chinese New Year.
Located right near trendy Vila Madalena, Pinheiros seems to have welcomed some of the Vila’s overflowing cultural centers, restaurants, clubs and art galleries. Once a corridor to get to Vila Madalena or Itaim Bibi, Pinheiros now holds its own as one of the most diverse and interesting neighborhoods in the city, with a park and a great municipal market. Due to the ease of public transport in the area, this area is where people come to have lunch or sink a few happy hour drinks with friends before heading home.
Not apparently as large as Liberdade, Bixiga is another neighborhood founded by immigrants in São Paulo. In this case, Italian immigrants who came to Brazil in the late 1870s. Today, its inhabitants today still cultivate their ancestral roots, with many of São Paulo’s best pizza parlors and Italian cantinas located here. This is also home to one of the largest and most traditional festivities in the capital: the Feast of Our Lady Achiropita, celebrated since 1926 during the weekends of August, in honor of the patron saint of the neighborhood.
Once named one of the best four places on Earth for its nightlife, São Paulo owes much of this title to the clubs located in Baixo Augusta. The region, near Avenida Paulista, is filled with restaurants, cinemas, theaters, shops, bars, and food trucks. During the day, Baixo Augusta is a busy region between the financial district and the center of town, but when the sun goes down transforms itself and has quite a vibrant nightlife. Welcoming the most diverse tribes of the city, the place has options for all profiles. If you are hipster or punk, rocker or pagodeiro, vegetarian or gourmet, Baixo Augusta is the place to be.
The Luz neighborhood was one of the most elegant regions of the city in the 1950s. However, with the installation of the old bus terminal nearby, the area fell into disrepute in the 1960s and 70s; thousands of poor migrants arrived from the north-eastern region of the country and camped out on its streets. In the late 1980s, the neighborhood went through a renovation and today is one of the main tourist areas of the city. It houses the incredible Sala São Paulo within the Julio Prestes Rail Station and three important museums: the Sacred Art Museum, the Portuguese Language Museum and the Pinacoteca do Estado.
The center of São Paulo is one of the most interesting and most visited places by tourists and locals. Here you will find the famous Galeria do Rock, with tattoo parlors and heavy metal stores, the Municipal Theatre and the Viaduto do Cha. The city’s old center has so many beautiful 19th century buildings that you may choose to spend the entire day roaming its streets. The Praça da Republica delights visitors on weekends with more than 600 stands selling everything from stamps, to handicrafts from north-eastern Brazil to food from Peru.
The Bela Vista neighborhood sits atop one of the highest locations in the city, and its main representative is Avenida Paulista. The avenue has the most famous museum in the city, MASP; one of the most charming parks, Trianon; plus a great number of cinemas, bookstores, and coffee shops. Avenida Paulista hosts all the city’s main events, from New Year’s Celebration to major social protests and demonstrations. On Sunday, the avenue closes to automobiles, and people share the six-lane avenue with roller skates and bicycles.
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