Trip Tips: Brazil's beachless metropolis is a foodie's paradise

Thu Apr 24, 2014 7:04pm EDT
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By Todd Benson

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - If your idea of Brazil is beaches and bikinis, São Paulo is not the place to go. That's what Rio de Janeiro is for.

But if you're a seasoned traveler who tends to shun traditional tourism hot spots for urban adventures off the beaten trail, then put Brazil's biggest city on your bucket list.

A sprawling metropolitan area of nearly 20 million people, São Paulo is sometimes referred to as the New York of South America. While the comparison may be a bit overstated, Brazil's business capital boasts a rich cultural life and a bar and restaurant scene that rival the world's premier cities. (Map:

It is also Brazil's most global city, with long-established immigrant communities from Portugal, Spain, Italy, Japan and the Middle East. More recently it has attracted waves of immigrants from west Africa, China, Haiti and neighboring Spanish-speaking countries such as Bolivia and Peru, giving it a distinctly international vibe felt nowhere else in Latin America.

Antonio Carlos Jobim, the late singer-songwriter who was the godfather of bossa nova, once famously said, "Brazil is not for beginners." That rings particularly true in São Paulo, whose sheer size, helter-skelter urban blueprint and epic traffic jams can wear down even the most experienced globetrotter.

But that chaos is also São Paulo's allure. Whereas Rio's natural beauty overwhelms the senses, São Paulo plays hard to get. It takes time and tenacity to discover its many charms, but once you do, you'll feel like you've joined a select club of travelers who have cracked one of the world's toughest cities.

Soccer fans will get a chance to do so in June and July, when São Paulo will hold six World Cup games at a brand-new stadium on the city's long-neglected east side. In addition to the opening match between Brazil and Croatia, the stadium will host Uruguay vs England, Netherlands vs Chile, South Korea vs Belgium, plus a Round of 16 showdown and a semi-final.

Here are tips for getting the most out of a trip to São Paulo from Reuters, whose 2,600 journalists in all parts of the world offer visitors the best local insights.   Continued...