What’s Doing in São Paulo

Interior of Ibirapuera Auditorium

Interior of Ibirapuera Auditorium

By Karin Sun on 11 June 2014
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São Paulo, situated on Brazil’s southeastern Atlantic coast and one of the largest cities in South America, is at its core a warm, vibrant, and festive metropolis. Standing in contrast to the refined intellectual atmosphere of European capitals, São Paulo is a lively and passionate city known for its sports, nightlife, bustling street markets, and captivating samba dancers. The sprawling city is predominantly Portuguese-speaking, though many residents also speak English, Spanish, French, and Italian.

São Paulo was founded in 1554 as the location for a Jesuit college by priests who traveled to Brazil as missionaries. The town was officially elevated to city status in 1711, after a group of Portuguese explorers known as the bandeirantes helped settle the area and boost its trade. São Paulo continued to thrive in the post-colonial era after Brazil gained independence from Portugal, when coffee production and exports became a major factor in the city’s economy. The city was also the site of the Constitutionalist Revolution of 1932, a bloody military conflict in which as many as 2,200 city residents perished defending the national Constitution of 1891.

Renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer had a profound and lasting impact on today’s city. Known for his bold, futuristic architecture, in the 1950s and 1960s he designed many of the skyscrapers, buildings, and monuments gracing São Paulo as well as several other Brazilian cities including Brasília and Rio de Janeiro. Niemeyer’s most notable contributions to São Paulo include several buildings in the Ibirapuera Park, downtown’s Edificio Copan, and the Latin America Memorial.

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Monumento às Bandeiras

As you stroll through the streets of São Paulo, you will have an opportunity to take in these cultural landmarks as well as many of the city’s memorable local traditions and pastimes.


Begin your exploration by heading to the 1.7-mile (2.8-kilometer) Avenida Paulista, which is home to many financial and cultural institutions, shopping venues and malls, and the city’s most comprehensive art museum. This boulevard began as a residential area featuring Hindu and Middle Eastern-style residences that once belonged to the city’s wealthy industrialists and coffee barons. Most of these mansions were torn down in the 1950s during the area’s redevelopment and only a few remain among the modern skyscrapers lining the avenue today. A small native forest park, as well as two outdoor markets selling antiques, handicrafts, and homemade food are attractions worth a look.

The São Paulo Museum of Art, located on the Avenida, is an important center for art and cultural education that opened to the public in 1947, although its current structure was erected in 1968. The museum is noted for its collections of European art, Brazilian prints and drawings, and ancient artifacts, totaling over 8,000 pieces. The museum was founded and developed by Assis Chateaubriand, a Brazilian entrepreneur and media tycoon along with Pietro Maria Bardi, an Italian art dealer and curator whose wife, architect Lina Bo Bardi, later designed the museum’s present building.

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