The third largest city in the world has 17 million people spread over an area of 30.000 square kilometres. São Paulo might be huge but it has humble beginnings. In 1554, Portuguese Jesuit priests founded a small mission on a hill close to the River Tietê, which soon became a trading post. Later, when the area around São Paulo was found to be perfect for growing coffee, the city´s future prosperity was sealed. Today São Paulo is the business and unofficial political capital of the country.
A good place to orientate yourself in São Paulo is by Avenida Paulista, lined with high rise office buildings, which divides the city centre from São Paulo´s exclusive and glamorous district, the Jardins, where you find the best hotels including Fasano and the Unique. From here, you can easily reach most parts of the city. Praça da Sé and Praça da República, the two squares divided by Vale do Anhangabaú is the old centre of São Paulo. On Rua Boa Vista, you will find the whitewashed Baroque Pátio do Colégio, the site of which dates back to the Jesuits first mission in 1554. Nearby, Triângulo is the city´s main financial district and home to São Paulo´s imposing stock exchange, the BOVESPA. A few blocks away you can find the calm of São Bento. North east is the imposing neo-gothic central market, the Mercado Municipal. South of here is the commercial district of Bela Vista, nicknamed Bixiga, and the city´s ”Little Italy” centred around Praça da Liberdade, now a centre for east Asian immigrants.
Rua Augusta slices across Avenida Paulista into the Jardins. Around Praça Franklin Roosevelt are many of the city´s best shops and restaurants. South west of the Jardins is the fashionable neighbourhood of Pinheiros, with some of the best bars and nightclubs in the city. Across the Rio Pinheiros is the vast campus of the Universidade de São Paulo. South east from here is the huge green space of Parque Ibirapuera. To the east of the centre you find the barrias, once the industrial hub of the city. Of note here is the Museu da Hospedaria. North of here across the Rio Tietê is the city´s main bus station, the Rodoviária Tietê.