São Paulo's city downtown area (Centro) is where the city was founded, in 1554. It contains many historical buildings and areas which are protected by the municipality. In the second half of the 20th century, business and upscale households have moved away from the Center, making the area meet urban degradation and rise of criminality. Many renovation projects are taking place, making the region slowly but confidently regain importance and take its place as the city's historic core and a vibrant commercial and cultural zone.
The Center is composed of the Sé and República districts, plus the ring of districts around these two: Bom Retiro, Santa Cecília, Consolação, Bela Vista, Liberdade and Cambuci.
Much of the best of the architecture of São Paulo is found in the city center. There are many baroque and neoclassical buildings, with some resemblance to those found in cities like Paris, Vienna and even Buenos Aires, as well as some impressive early-modern buildings like the S-shaped Copan. However, due to the lack of policies for protecting the cultural heritage of the city, some of these buildings suffer from vandalism and are sometimes completely covered with graffiti.
Note: Avenida Paulista is partly in the Center. For places in this avenue and up to 4 blocks from it, check the São Paulo/Paulista section.
Each district of the center has its own peculiar history and characteristics.
- Bela Vista (also known as Bexiga/Bixiga) — One of the biggest meccas of Italian culture outside of Italy. Home to the city's most important theater venues and to a vibrant nightlife, dotted with bars where bands, be they new or veteran, show off all their skills when it comes to rocking the place.
- Bom Retiro — Contains the neighborhood of Luz, one of the richest neighborhoods of the city during Brazil's coffee-based economy - which fell apart during the 1920s. Luz is a decadent area, with many streets populated by drug addicts, although a revitalization plan to relocate them is underway. Its historical importance and landmarks still make it a place not to be missed. Bom Retiro has also developed an officially-recognized Koreatown, with a large majority of shops and restaurants owned by Korean immigrants or their descendants.
- Consolação — The neighborhoods composing this district, Consolação, Higienópolis and Pacaembu, were the first to grow outside the more historical part of the center. They are considered to be the "noble" areas of the Center, and even the "Red Light" zone on Rua Augusta is gradually being cleaned up.
- Liberdade — Known as São Paulo's Japanese district, although nowadays more Chinese and Koreans inhabit this area, with many of the ethnic Japanese having moved to more upscale areas. However, the area is still visited a lot by Japanese-Brazilians and those who are fond of Japanese culture. Due to its cheap housing and high-quality cheap restaurants, the area is a very popular choice of place to live for students and temporary workers.
- República — Once the site of the most elegant residential buildings in São Paulo, República was seriously hit by an exodus from downtown in the 1970s and 80s. Nowadays, it has been renovated as the whole historical central area. The streets between Praça da República and Largo do Arouche make up the oldest gay hot spot in town. It looks decadent, but many individuals young and old cruise in the clubs, movie theaters, dark rooms, and bars from Ipiranga Avenue down to Largo do Arouche.
- Santa Cecília — Like República, Santa Cecília was an upscale residential area that turned decadent for various reasons, including the construction of Elevado Presidente Costa e Silva ("Minhocão"), one of the most ill-conceived projects that the city has met, and the most notorious landmark of the district. A revitalization plan for the district is also underway.
- Sé — At the very beginning of its history, São Paulo was comprised of only the triangle formed by the Monastery of São Bento, the Monastery of São Francisco, and the Pátio do Colégio. Within this minute hub was the River Anhangabaú, which meant "bad spirits" in the native Tupi-Guarani language. In the 18th century, the river was made into canals and buried into the ground, but the Anhangabaú valley still remains in its place. Revitalization works in the 1980s shaped the beautifully arranged square in the Vale do Anhangabaú, where nowadays you can find skateboarders and office workers hanging about.
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By metro or train
The rail network is the easiest and fastest way of getting to the center. The city center is crossed by various train and metro lines. These are the stations located at each district:
- Bela Vista — Brigadeiro, Trianon-Masp, Consolação
- Bom Retiro — Luz, Tiradentes, Armênia
- Consolação — Paulista
- Liberdade — Liberdade, São Joaquim
- República — República
- Santa Cecília — Santa Cecília, Marechal Deodoro, Júlio Prestes
- Sé — Pedro II, Sé, Anhangabaú and São Bento
Oddly, Paulista Station is on Rua da Consolação, while Consolação Station is on Avenida Paulista. If you find you have gone to the wrong one, you can use the long underground passageway that connects them.
Numerous buses run continuously to the center from other parts of the city. For a visitor, they may sometimes be more convenient than the Metro, and you save some money by taking only buses instead of buses and train (but not that much). Check the SPTrans website for routes and itineraries (only in Portuguese).
From many parts of the São Paulo, there are buses going to Parque Dom Pedro II, where the busiest bus terminal of the city is located. If you step down at this terminal, memorize the spot where the bus stopped if you plan to go back using the same bus, as you may have a hard time finding it again in the large and confusing terminal.
The Center is crossed by Corredor Norte-Sul, that links the north and the south parts of the city, and by Radial Leste-Oeste, that links the west the and east. Av. Rebouças and Av. Nove do Julho come from the Southwest, and Av. do Estado from the southeast.
On weekdays and Saturday morning, going to most parts in the Center of São Paulo by car is not recommended, unless you are masochist, rich, or have a lot of patience. Parking can cost as much as R$ 20 for a single hour! It is best to park in the street at Zona Azul areas, where you pay an amount set by the Municipality, but finding a place to park may take some time. On weekends, cheaper parking is usually available.
- 1 Praça da Sé, Sé (between ruas 15 de Novembro and Direita. Sé metrô station). São Paulo's central square has fountains, sculputures, palm trees and lots and lots of people. The Catedral da Sé and Palácio da Justiça de São Paulo are located here. Free.
- 2 Pátio do Colégio, Pátio do Colégio, 84, Sé (near Praça da Sé). Museum: Tu-Su 09:00-17:00, Library: M-F 13:00-17:00. Place were São Paulo was founded in January 25, 1554. First building of the then-village, the Jesuit School is the city's cradle. Museu Anchieta, about the life of the founder of São Paulo José de Anchieta, is here.
- 3 Viaduto do Chá, Sé (near Metro station Anhangabaú). Linking Rua Barão de Itapetininga to Rua Direita. Marks the transition from old to the new part of the center.
- 4 Vale do Anhangabaú, Sé (near Metro station Anhangabaú). The valley is a giant boulevard with gardens, sculptures and a view of the main downtown office buildings. Edifício Altino Arantes and Palácio dos Correios' are here.
- 5 Largo São Francisco, Sé (Near Stations Sé and Anhangabaú). Church and Convent of Saint Francis and the historic Law School of the University of São Paulo.
- 6 Largo São Bento, Sé (Near Station São Bento). The square holds São Bento's church and monastery, a 17th century monastery, where mass is still held against a backdrop of Gregorian chants. The monks' bakery is a temptation. Give in, it’s no sin.
- 7 Monumento à Duque de Caxias (Monument to the Duke of Caxias), Praça Princesa Isabel, Luz.
- Largo da Memória, Sé (near Vale do Anhangabaú). The obelisk in this square dates from 1814, which marks São Paulo becoming a city.
- 8 Praça da República, República. There are buildings that bear witness to many different architectural styles: the 1935 Edifício Esther, considered the first with a modern architectural design; the S-shaped Edifício Copan designed by Oscar Niemeyer; and Edifício Itália (see Historical buildings).
- 9 Jardim da Luz (Next to Luz station, adjacent to Pinacoteca de São Paulo). The park in front of Luz station was a meeting point for São Paulo's high society in the early 20th century. It is now a calm and beautiful environment that contrasts with the urban chaos and degradation of its surroundings.
- 10 Parque Dom Pedro II, Sé (near Pedro II station). Inaugurated in 1922, this park used to be one of the most beautiful spots of the city, but is now in a degraded state, due to being crossed by roads, viaducts and containing the extremely busy bus terminal Pedro II. An urban renovation plan aims to restore the park to its former glory. Palácio das Indústrias is here.
- 11 Minhocão (Elevado Presidente Costa e Silva), from Praça Roosevelt to Largo Padre Péricles. The Minhocão ("Big Worm"), a 2.7-km-long highway opened in 1970, is considered to be a monument to poor urban planning and to the chaotic growth of the city in a not-so-distant past. Its construction turned a large portion of the city center into a degraded area. The highway is closed to cars, but open for pedestrians and bicycles, everyday from 21:30 to 06:30 and Sunday the whole day. Over the Minhocão, you have a unique view of the west part of the city center, mostly the Santa Cecília district. Seeing the Minhocão from below is also interesting, as it has been covered with works of art.
- 12 Palácio das Indústrias (Catavento Cultural e Educacional), Parque D. Pedro II, Sé. Former São Paulo city hall, constructed during the 1920s in an eclectic style. It now hosts Catavento Cultural e Educacional, an educative and cultural center with many activities aimed at children.
- 13 Estação Luz, Praça da Luz, Luz. The Luz train station, constructed in 1867, is the oldest train station in the city, and still probably the most important train station - linking three CPTM and two Metro lines. Luz was the gateway of European and Japanese immigrants who landed in Santos, and its clock tower is a memory of the glory of Brazil's coffee-based economy. Don't miss the pretty garden on Avenida Tiradentes, inside the Parque da Luz (Luz Park).
- 14 Edificio Banespa (Edificio Altino Arantes), Rua João Brícola, 24, Sé (at junction with São Bento, Metrô São Bento). Weekdays. The Edificio Altino Arantes, more commonly known as the Edificio Banespa after the bank that occupies the building, was the tallest skyscraper in the city between its completion in 1947 and the construction of the Edificio Italia in 1965. Visitors with identification can take a lift to the 35th floor and climb up to the tower, from which there are panoramic views of Downtown, Av. Paulista and beyond. Free.
- 15 Edifício Itália, Avenida Ipiranga/Avenida São Luís, República. Dating from 1965, with 44 floors, and on top, a bar, restaurant and view to take your breath away. It was for years the highest in the city, with its 160 meters. The bar and restaurant are on the 41st floor, but for the best experience ask to visit the open-air walkway around the restaurant. You may be expected to buy a drink in the bar first; cover charge is R$15 and it's around R$8 for a bottle of beer.
- 16 Palácio dos Correios, Praça do Correio, Sé. Home to the state's mail service. Constructed in 1922.
- 17 Palácio da Justiça de São Paulo, Praça da Sé, Centro. Home to the Higher Courts of Law of the State of São Paulo since 1933. Hosts a museum about law in the state.
- 18 Estação Júlio Prestes, Praça Júlio Prestes, Santa Cecília. Another historical train station, from 1872, it was the arrival point of the Sorocabana trains that brought coffee beans from Western São Paulo and Paraná states to São Paulo to be exported to the world via the port of Santos. It also transported passengers - as it does until nowadays.
- 19 Solar da Marquesa, Rua Roberto Simonsen, 136, Sé (next to Sé station), ☏ . Tu-Su 09:00-17:00. Emperor Dom Pedro I's powerful concubine, the Marchess of Santos is one of the most popular monarchy figures in Brazilian popular culture. Her colonial house is now a museum. Free.
- 20 Theatro Municipal, Praça Ramos de Azevedo, s/nº, Centro (Near Anhangabaú station), ☏ . M-F 10:09-19:00. São Paulo's first theatre has been refurbished, and gas a beautiful, French-style façade. Keep tuned for ballet and opera concerts.
- 21 Palácio do Anhangabaú (Edifício Matarazzo, Banespinha), Viaduto do Chá, 15, República (Near Anhangabaú station). São Paulo's city hall is a building from the 1930s in modernist architectural style. The building had been the home of Indústrias Matarazzo, which used to be the most powerful manufacturing company in Brazil.
- 22 Edifício Copan, Av. Ipiranga 200, República (Near República station). The S-shaped building, the largest residential building of Latin America, was projected by famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer and was the symbol of the emerging "modern" São Paulo during the 1960s. As the rest of the Historic Center, the building entered a period of decadence, but its inhabitants now have a middle class profile, and it is still one of the most beautiful skyscrapers of the city center.
- 23 BM&F Bovespa (Bolsa Mercadorias São Paulo), Rua XV de Novembro, 275, Centro/Praça Antonio Prado, 48 (near São Bento station, opposite Edifício Altino Arantes), ☏ , . The BM&F Bovespa exchange is probably the largest in South America. It was founded in 1890 by Emilio Rangel Pestana. It hosts tours inside its historical buildings free of charge to visitors from Monday to Friday, 10:00-17:00. The tour includes a visit to the trading floor (even though trades are done electronically nowadays), a 3D cinema with an educational video, an interactive museum with the history of BM&F Bovespa, and a cafe.
- 24 Catedral da Sé (Catedral Metropolitana de São Paulo), Praça da Sé, Sé. São Paulo's most famous church, with 14 towers, built in a Gothic and Renaissance style. Although the current construction was finished in 1954, the original cathedral, at the same spot, dates from the early history of São Paulo - 1616.
- 25 Capela dos Aflitos, Rua dos Aflitos 70, Liberdade (near Liberdade station). A creepy-looking church that in a small creepy street near Praça da Liberdade, it is one of the oldest suriving churches of the city, dating from 1774, when it was built to be the chapel of the city's first cemetery.
- 26 Igreja da Consolação (Igreja Nossa Senhora da Consolação), Rua da Consolação, 585 - República (Near República station). The church was built in neo-gothic style in 1909, when the surroundings were still a semi-rural, very poor area. Contains paintings of Benedito Calixto and Oscar Pereira da Silva.
- 27 Igreja da Ordem Terceira do Carmo (Venerável Ordem Terceira NS Monte do Carmo), Avenida Rangel Pestana, 230 - Sé (near Condomínio Edifício Rangel Pestana), ☏ . A church from the colonial period, finished in 1758, with the original church dating from 1592. Contains a significant number of pieces of art from the colonial area.
- 28 Igreja da Nossa Senhora de Boa Morte (Igreja da Boa Notícia), Sé, R. do Carmo, 202 (Near Sé station), ☏ . The historical church dates from 1810, and its curious name ("Our Lady of Good Death") is possibly due to the fact that the church was a place of prayer for African slaves sentenced to death.
- 29 Igreja de Santa Ifigênia (Basílica de Nossa Senhora da Conceição e de Santa Ifigênia), Rua Santa Ifigênia, 30 - República (near São Bento and Luz stations). The church, built in neoromantic style with neogothic details, resembles medieval churches in northern Europe. It was temporarily the cathedral of São Paulo between 1930 and 1954. Contains paintings of Henri Bernard, Benedito Calixto and Carlos Oswald.
- 30 Santuário Basílica de Nossa Senhora do Monte Carmelo (Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel), 114, Rua Martiniano de Carvalho, Liberdade (near Rua Humaita), ☏ . A vast baroque Basilica decorated with frescos by Benedito Calixto.
- 31 Templo da Glória de Deus, Avenida do Estado, 4568, Sé (near Dom Pedro II station). One of the largest temples of Brazil, the main building of the evangelical church Igreja Pentecostal Deus é Amor, is not (until now) historical, neither has any remarkable architectural style (besides being painted in rainbow colors). However, its colossal size, as well as its location just in the crossing between two of the most important avenues of the city (Radial Leste-Oeste and Avenida do Estado), makes the construction impossible to not notice and personifies the growing power of evangelical denominations in the country.
- 32 Pinacoteca do Estado, Praça da Luz, 2, Luz (between Jardim da Luz and Avenida Prestes Maia,), ☏ . High quality temporary exhibits share the stage with the museum’s fantastic painting and sculpture collection. Free on Saturdays: come early to avoid the crowds.
- 33 Museu de Arte Sacra, Avenida Tiradentes, 676 - Luz, ☏ . Tu-Su 11:00-19:00. With its wealth of religious images (Museu da Natividade is housed there), it is where Carmelite Nuns prepared Frei Galvão pills, which many consider to be miraculous. R$4.
- 34 Museu da Língua Portuguesa (Museum of the Portuguese Language), Praça da Luz (near Luz station, entrance by the side of the plaza, in front of Pinacoteca), ☏ . Tu-Su 10:00-18:00. A interactive linguistics museum that shows the different accents and dialects of Portuguese in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America, as well as its relation to other tongues and their developments and influence of African, Amerindian, Asian and European languages on Brazilian Portuguese. R$4.
- 35 Museu de Arte Brasileira, Rua Alagoas, 903, Consolação, ☏ .
- 36 Museu de Energia, Alameda Cleveland, 601, Luz, ☏ .
- 37 Cemitério da Consolação (Cemetery of Consolação), Rua da Consolação, Consolação. Beautiful sculptures on the final place of big names from Brazilian society, since the early 20th century.
- 38 Parque Buenos Aires, Avenida Angélica, Consolação (entrance on streets Alagoas and Bahia). One of the few green areas in the Center.
- 39 Estádio do Pacaembu and Museu do Futebol (Municipal Stadium Paulo Machado de Carvalho and Soccer Museum), Praça Charles Miller, Consolação, ☏ . Tu–Su 09:00–17:00. One of the country's most important and iconic stadiums, Estádio do Pacaembu was built in 1940, and 10 years later hosted six matches of the 1950 FIFA World Cup. Since then, it hosted several finals for national and continental tournaments, and also big concerts for famous performers, such as Paul McCartney, Iron Maiden, Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton.
Nowadays, it's where the Museum of Football is located, one of the most prestigious and visited museums in the city. R$ 20.
Concerts and theatre
The center of São Paulo contains dozens of theatres and concert halls, with dozens of performances being carried everyday. Most theatrical performances are in Portuguese, and their price may vary from completely free to R$ 300. It is better to choose the place by the performance you want to see. A list of performances being carried in the city can be found in various websites, including: , , . The following theatres and concert halls are the ones that deserve particular attention:
- 1 Theatro Municipal, Praça Ramos de Azevedo, Sé. One of the two traditional addresses for classical music fans. This is where the historic Modern Art Week took place in 1922. The building, designed by Ramos de Azevedo in 1911, is reason enough to justify a visit. Almost directly across the street, the building now called Shopping Light, another of Azevedo’s designs, was the headquarters of an English company that first electrified the city and built the now nostalgic city streetcars.
- 2 Sala São Paulo, Praça Júlio Prestes, Luz. The other traditional address for classical music fans. Heading towards the neighborhood of Luz, this breathtaking opera house is located in the Júlio Prestes CPTM station (of Line 8-Diamond). Considered the most outstanding in Brazil, the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra (OSESP) plays its concerts there. It’s possible to pre-arrange guided visits of the theater and main hall.
- 3 Teatro Abril (Teatro Renault, Old Paramount), Avenida Brigadeiro Luís Antônio, 411 - Bela Vista, ☏ . Hosts the most popular Broadway-style musicals south of the equator, translated into Portuguese. R$ 50-260 (Setor prêmium).
The center of São Paulo is the place of cultural events that may get hundreds of thousands of visitors. Avoid going to such events by car, as you may spend more time stuck in traffic and searching a place to park than enjoying the events themselves.
- Virada Cultural. See São Paulo main section.
- Festa de Nossa Senhora Acheropita, Ruas 13 de Maio, São Vicente e Dr. Luiz Barreto, Bela Vista. The largest festival of the Italian community in São Paulo, and also a religious event. Celebrated every year around August, typically lasting the entire month. Includes typical Italian food, music and performances. Attracts around 300,000 visitors. free.
- Chinese New Year, Praça da Liberdade and surroundings (Around Liberdade station). The largest festival of the Chinese community in São Paulo celebrates the Chinese new year. Celebrated every year around the end of January and beginning of February, with typical Chinese performances and food. Attracts around 100,000 visitors. free.
- Tanabata Matsuri (Festival das Estrelas), Praça da Liberdade and surroundings (Around Liberdade station). This traditional event of the Japanese community is celebrated every year around the end of July. In this event, people write their wishes into pieces of paper and hang them into bamboo sticks. There is also a Miss contest, typical Japanese food, and performances of both traditional and modern Japanese culture. free.
- 4 Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Rua Álvares Penteado, 112 - Sé (near São Bento e Sé stations), ☏ , . Once the bank’s first headquarters in São Paulo—offers an excellent program of arts, movies, theater and music at accessible prices.
- 5 Sociedade Brasileira de Cultura Japonesa (Edifício Bunkyo), Rua São Joaquim, 381 – Liberdade (Near São Joaquim station), ☏ . Tu-Su 13:30-17:30 (museum). The most important cultural center for Japanese descendants contains the Museu de Imigração Japonesa, where the visitor can learn about the history of the Japanese community in Brazil. A lot of activities are available to those interested in Japanese culture, including Japanese courses and the youth group (Seinen Bunkyo). These are activities are open to everyone, not only Japanese descendants. R$ 6 (museum).
- 6 Biblioteca Mário de Andrade, Rua da Consolação, 94 - República (near Anhangabaú station), ☏ . The largest library in the city, with 3.8 million titles.
- 7 Centro Cultural São Paulo, Rua Vergueiro, 1000, ☏ . Liberdade. Nearest Metrô station Vergueiro. Hours Mon 10:00-19:00, Tu-Su 10:00-20:00. Free, although some activities may require a fee entrance.
- São Paulo Night Walk, Praça Ramos de Azevedo, Sé, ☏ . Th 20:00. The historical part of downtown is known for its lack of security at night, so to compensate for that, local NGOs organize a nocturnal walking tour every Thursday. It is an opportunity to have a different look at some of downtown's most famous sights. Unfortunately, the tour is only given in Portuguese. Free.
- Feira de Artesanato da Praça da República, Praça da República, República. Sa Su 09:00-17 /:00. São Paulo's most traditional open market of handcrafts and art, that happens since 1956. About 800 exhibitors.
- Escola de Samba Vai-vai, Rua São Vicente, 276, Bela Vista, ☏ . Traditional Samba school that participates in the São Paulo carnival parade. The listed price is if you want to become a member. R$ 30/month.
- Porque Sim Karaokê Box e Lamen House, Rua Tomaz Gonzaga 75, Liberdade, ☏ . For those who love singing, Japanese-style karaoke boxes can be found here. Songs in Portuguese, English, Japanese and romanized Japanese are available. The restaurant is also very nice and reasonably priced (and crowded).
All these listed high education institutions are private and located in the district of Consolação.
- Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie, Founded in 1870 as the American School, is one of the oldest institutions of higher education in Brazil. The university is regarded, nationally and internationally, as a center of excellence having graduated numerous important names of Brazilian history. The nickname Mackenzista is often used to refer to Mackenzie present or former students.
- Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado - FAAP, Rua Alagoas, 903, tel. 11 3662-1662. The institute's college, or facul as the students call it, offers prime education for Brazil's super rich kids. After the museum and theater, the bodyguards on the surrounding of the campus are the main attraction. 
- Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV-SP), Av. 9 de Julho, 2029, Bela Vista, 01313-902, tel. (11) 3281-7777, . This university is one of Brazil's most traditionals, famous for its Economics and Management departments. It has two other campi, in Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia.
- Instituto Europeo di Design, Rua Maranhão, 617, ☏ .
A little bit of everything is available in Centro. The Old City Center, especially around the Law School on Largo São Francisco, is the place to go if you’re looking for rare, discounted or out-of-print books. There are several good used bookstores in the area, some—such as the Messias—are traditional São Paulo favorites.
- 1 Rua 25 de Março, Sé (near São Bento station). For costumes, accessories, kitchen gear and other knick-knacks, don’t hesitate to go this place, the most famous collection of warehouses in Brazil. Several specialty business streets are also in this area. The shopping malls Galeria Pajé and Shopping 25 de Março are located here. The Ladeira Porto Geral is a hub for cheap costumes and accessories. This area is known for commerce of smuggled goods, but this activity has been reduced considerably due to intense police action.
- 2 Bairro da Liberdade, Praça da Liberdade and Rua Galvão Bueno, Liberdade (near Liberdade station). Liberdade means "freedom", and indeed few places are as free as the center of the Japanese district of São Paulo. Although mainly a shopping area, the place has become a meeting point for many young subcultures, from punks to kawaii girls to cosplay dressers, so you can hardly find so many different people somewhere else in the city - except maybe in Avenida Paulista. There you can find a large number of shops and restaurants selling things related to Japan, China and Korea, plus electronics, cosmetics, jewelry, clothing, CDs and DVDs. The Marukai supermarket on Rua Galvão Bueno is so well stocked with imported food and goods that you may think it has been shipped whole straight from Japan. The favorite place of young people (but not only of them) is the SoGo Shopping in Rua Galvão Buenno, very close to Praça da Liberdade. The Feira Oriental (Oriental fair) happens on weekends at Praça da Liberdade; there you can buy typical Asian food and handcrafts.
- 3 Galeria do Rock (Shopping Center Grandes Galerias), Av. São João, 439 - República (near República, São Bento and Anhangabaú stations). Rock, samba and guitar enthusiasts and fans of all types of music coexist peacefully in the corridors of the Galeria do Rock, a prime example of pre-mall architecture. There, you can search and buy from T-shirts sporting underground Japanese bands, to hard-to-find CDs. More than 300 shops.
- 4 Rua Santa Ifigênia, República (near Luz station). This street is tha place for bargains on anything related to electronics, from microchips to ultra-modern monitors.
- 5 Rua José Paulino, Bom Retiro (Near Luz and Júlio Prestes stations). M-F 08:00-18:00, Sa 08:00-14:00. The most popular place in the city for bargains on clothes, especially womenswear, due to the existence of plenty of clothing factories and workshops around the area. This neighbourhood used to be known for Jewish shops in the 1960s, but since then, Koreans have been acquiring the clothes shops and taking over businesses. Many of the clothes that stock elegant shops in the city's more upscale malls come from here, and so do many of the fashion trends that will take over Brazilian mainstream shops, imported by Korean shop owners straight from New York and Paris.
- 6 Feira de Antiguidades do Bixiga (Antique Fair of Bixiga), Praça Dom Orione, Bela Vista (between Rua 13 de Maio and Ruy Barbosa). Su 08:00-18:00. Sells everything "old", from furniture to books and discs. Sacred art is available at Velhiquário. Nice Italian restaurants are nearby.
- 7 Shopping Pátio Higienópolis, Avenida Higienópolis, 618 - Higienópolis, ☏ . Shopping mall with a more upscale profile, attending the district of Consolação. It has cinemas and a nice theatre room - Teatro Folha. About 305 shops.
- 8 Shopping Frei Caneca, Rua Frei Caneca, 569 - Consolação. The shopping mall has become a favorite among gay and lesbian couples in São Paulo. The 9-room cinema, Itau Arteplex, shows both mainstream and alternative films, and is reputedly one of the best cinemas of the city. About 140 shops.
Contrast is the area's middle name. You can eat well both in traditional local eateries or elegant restaurants
- 1 Mercado Municipal (Mercadão), Rua da Cantareira, 306 - Sé (Near São Bento station), ☏ . M-Sa 06:00-18:00, Su and holidays 06:00-16:00. A truly traditional outing in São Paulo, the Mercadão is a mosaic of color and flavor that showcases a little something from all the different nationalities that settled in the capital. Pop in to sample the most beloved pastries and sandwiches in the city; a locals' favorite is the sanduíche de mortadela. And don’t forget to pick up some other local delicacies, spices and fruits.
- Feira Oriental (Feirinha da Liberdade), Praça da Liberdade - Liberdade (Near Liberdade station). Sa Su 08:00-18:00. At this weekend open market, you can taste Asian delicacies like gyoza, takoyaki and okonomiyaki as well as non-Asian treats like Acarajé from Bahia. Look for unusual sweets like ginger ice cream or even tempura-fried ice-cream.
- 2 Restaurante Zé do Peixe, R. Rui Barbosa, 181. Simple traditional place with fish options and moqueca every Friday, close to Bixiga theaters. The served fish is very good. Well seasoned homemade food. Good quality. Great and friendly place. Service 10.
- 3 Skina do Bixiga Bar e Lanche, R. Treze de Maio, 265. It's a simple place with delicious homemade food. Cooked fast and delicious. Tasty snacks. The staff always strives to serve you well. Polite attendants. Very cozy place.
- 4 Portal Restaurante, R. Itapeva, 227. Great self service restaurant. Varied buffet. Well seasoned food which is always fresh. Great variety of vegetables. The place's service is super attentive and helpful.
- 5 Pop Vegan Food, R. Fernando de Albuquerque, 142/144. Very good food. A vegan restaurant in the Augusta region, with all-you-can-eat self-service for less than R$20. The feijoada is wonderful. The attendants are very nice people, the food is very well prepared. The vegan pepperoni pizza is the best.
- 6 Restaurante Recanto Trasmontano, R. Augusta, 1278. Simple, good, varied food. The meat is very tender. Homemade food with good seasoning. A hearty buffet with a variety of salads and side dishes, including fruit. Pleasant atmosphere. Quiet location. The service is wonderful.
- 7 BH Lanches, R. Augusta, 1533. Best late-night snack, great vegetarian options. The best jackfruit coxinha. Great quality in the products offered. It has a wonderful ham sandwich, accompanied by a house pepper, super tasty. The service is attentive without fail, with a smile on thr face and a lot of politeness.
- 8 Restaurante Lamen ASKA, Rua Galvão Bueno, 466, ☏ . Tu-Su 11:00-14:00, 18:00-21:30. Typical Japanese ramen shop, where you are greeted with an irasshai-mase (Welcome in Japanese) at the door and noodle-slurping noises from the Japanese customers. R$15-25 (May 2019), cash only.
- 9 Rong He Liberdade, Rua da Glória, 622A, ☏ . Tu-Su 11:30-23:00. Chinese restaurant with a huge menu specializing in noodle dishes. At the right-hand corner of the main room, behind a glass window, the cook displays his ability to shape yakisoba noodles by hand. Seafood yakisoba is a good choice for 2 or 3 persons to share in.
- 10 Restaurante Sato, R. Galvão Bueno, 268. Oriental restaurant that serves very good Brazilian homemade food. The bean flavor is unusual and very good. You need to try the kare and the miso ribeye. Individual dishes and friendly servers. The entrance is kind of hidden.
- 11 Bar Estadão, Viaduto 9 de Julho, 193 (where it meets Major Quedinho), ☏ . 24 hours. Burgers and sandwiches. Try the famous sanduíche de pernil, barbecued ham sandwich, a confort food of many generations of journalists and students that roam around that region.
- 12 Hot Pork, R. Bento Freitas, 454. They turned the hot dog into a modern, different and delicious sandwich. The sausage is special and very good. The salsinha is tasty. Homemade sauces. Relaxed and young atmosphere.
- 13 Morena Tropical, R. Boa Vista, 274. Wonderful service. Delicious food. Pleasant atmosphere. The restaurant offers a variety of prepared dishes and a self service buffet with barbecue. The dishes are from R$18 including meat, fish, omelet. The attendants are agile and helpful, always with good manners.
- 14 Angelo's Place Restaurante, R. Direita, 65 - 1º Andar. Honest, homemade food, very tasty and well seasoned. The service is also very good. Quiet environment, self service system with variety and quality. No queues. Family place. Pleasant atmosphere.
- 15 Lago Verde Restaurante, R. José Bonifácio, 191. Best feijoada. It has great variety. Relaxed atmosphere. Very attentive guys. Very nice service. Organized place. Great place for lunch.
Bixiga's cantinas and pizzerias are amongst the best in the city. Try authentic fresh Portuguese rolls or Italian loaf with butter and "pingado," or "café com leite" —coffee with cream— from the bakery at the corner of Conselheiro Carrão and 13 de Maio streets. You won't regret it!
- Cantina Roperto, Rua 13 de Maio 634, ☏ . Su-Th 11:30-00:00, F Sa 11:30–01:00. Cozy and comfortable Italian restaurant that serves typical Italian fare. Be sure to try the baby goat's leg with potatoes and tomatoes — it's a speciality of the house.
- Cantina Taberna do Julio, Rua Conselheiro Carrão, 392, ☏ . Tu-Sa 12:00-15:00 and 19:00-01:00; Su 12:00-18:00. Italian cuisine in a rustic atmosphere. Live music on weekends.
As in all of São Paulo, the variety of gastronomical options in this section of town are plenty, so feel free to just stroll down the streets without a pre-fixed plan. Vilaboin square, nearby FAAP, holds options for every taste.
- Carlota, Rua Sergipe, 753 - Higienópolis, ☏ . M 19:00-00:00, Tu-Th 12:00-16:00 and 19:00-00:00, F 12:00-16:00 and 19:00-01:00, Sa 12:00-01:00, Su 12:00-18:00. A bright, cheerful restaurant with a multi-cultural menu with items from a variety of countries from Peru to Italy to Thailand.
- La Villette, Praça Vilaboim, 113, ☏ . Paulista specialties in a suave bar atmosphere.
Liberdade is a paradise for fans of Asian food. Although the best Japanese restaurants may be in the East, those do not nearly match the cost-benefit of the ones in Liberdade. Besides, here you can find some interesting mixes of Asian and Brazilian food, like at Sukiya.
- Chi Fu, Praça Carlos Gomes, 200, ☏ . A Chinese restaurant famous for authentic and tasty Cantonese dishes with cheap and generous portions. The service is not a strong point, and communicating with the staff can be a challenge, as many only speak Chinese, but the food is worth the while. Reservations only for groups. All the tables are large, so if going alone or in a smaller group of 2-4, you may have to share a table with other customers, Chinese-style. Check out the interior decoration of the restaurant, fitted with golden fixtures, a small elevator, and large paintings on the walls. Try the mariscos com alho, clams with garlic. cash-only.
- Deigo, Praça Dr. Almeida Júnior, 25, ☏ . Sushi and Okinawa-style dishes such as souki soba and champuru tofu. cash-only.
- Kabura, Rua Galvão Bueno, 346, ☏ . R$50-100, cash only. Japanese restaurant with an extensive menu. Try the fried oysters or the yosenabe, stewed white fish with vegetables. M-Sa 19:00-1:30AM.
- Nandemoyá, R. Galvão Bueno, 451 (Near Liberdade station), ☏ . M-F 11:30-15:00, Sa Su 11:30-16:00. If you are the kind of tourist who doesn't like to feel at all like a tourist, check this "factory-style" restaurant immensely popular among workers in the region, with long lines, self-service cattering, and capacity for 400 people. The quality and diversity of food (Japanese, Chinese and Brazilian) will surely impress you. Many people come here to pile on high-quality sashimi at prices much lower than typical a-la-carte Japanese restaurants.
- Sukiya, Rua Vergueiro, 20 (Near São Joaquim station), ☏ . Daily 11:00-23:00. Japanese food chain from Yokohama which sells cheap popular Japanese dishes such as gyudon, donburi and kare. Known for its mixed Japanese/Brazilian dishes like gyudon with feijoada. Negui-Tama gyudon (rice covered by fried beef slices, onions, spring onions, a softly cooked egg and Sukiya's special sauce) is their most popular dish.
- Lótus, Rua Brigadeiro Tobias, 420 (corner Senador Queiroz), ☏ . M-Sa 11:30-15:00. Vegetarian Chinese per-kilo buffet with 25 cold and 25 hot options.
- O Gato que Ri, Largo do Arouche 37/41 - República, ☏ . Su-Th 11:00-23:00, F Sa 11:00-00:00. Traditional Italian restaurant from the Center. Since 1951.
- Ponto Chic, Largo do Paiçandu, 27 - República (Near São Bento and República stations), ☏ . M-Sa 11:00-02:00. Founded in 1922, this is the place where the famous bauru - a sandwich that comprises 4 types of cheese melted into a fondue, along with roast beef and tomato slices - was invented.
- Theatro Municipal, Praça Ramos de Azevedo, not numbered (Anhangabaú Station), ☏ . M-Sa 09:00-11:00 and 12:00-15:00. Apart from being a historically and architecturally relevant building, this opera house also offers breakfast and complete and varied all-you-can-eat buffet. It also offers wine, beer, coffee and a wide array of desserts, including Brazilian favourites, such as quindim. All of the tables in the restaurant have been fitted with mirrors, so that customers can see the intricate details of the paintings in the ceiling while they enjoy their meal.
- Templo da Carne Marcos Bassi, Rua 13 de Maio, 668, ☏ . The exception is a meat specialist.
- Templo da Carne Marcos Bassi, Rua 13 de Maio, 668, ☏ . Renowned chef Marcos Bassi's "temple of meat" is one of the city's most famous steakhouses.
- Ici Bistrô, Rua Pará, 36 - Higienópolis, ☏ . M-Th 12:00-15:00 and 19:99-00:00, Sa 12:30-16:00 and 19:30-00:30, Su 12:30-17:00. Cozy French cuisine bistro with honest food and prices. Expect to find some of the classic dishes, such as steak tartare, steak poivre and moules et frites (mussels and chips). Really worth a visit if you find yourself in Higienópolis or Avenida Paulista, as this restaurant has been elected one of the best value French restaurants in town.
- Jardim di Napoli, Rua Dr. Martinico Prado, 463 - Higienópolis, ☏ . One of the most traditional Italian cantinas in São Paulo. Try the polpetone, a kind of flat meatloaf filled with melted mozzarella cheese, for which special recipe this restaurant became famous for.
- Famiglia Mancini, Rua Avanhandava, 81, ☏ . Su-W 11:30-01:00, Th 11:30-02:00, F Sa 11:30-03:00. Very popular and traditional Italian restaurant. All dishes are made to serve two people. Buses of tourists come and go at the door. If going at peak time, expect a long wait to be seated.
- Le Casserole, Largo do Arouche 346, Centro, ☏ . Tu-Th 12:00-15:00 and 19:00-00:00, F 12:00-15:00 and 19:00-01:00, Sa 19:00-01:00, Su 13:00-18:00. Charming French bistro that is adorned with vintage posters and offers culinary delights such as homemade cherry strudels and roast lamb.
- Terraço Italia, Avenida Ipiranga, 344, 41st floor, ☏ . M-Th 12:00-00:00, F Sa 12:00-02:00, Su 12:00-23:00. 360º view of the city.
- Cafe Piu Piu, Rua 13 de Maio 134, ☏ . Opening time varies. The place to go for live music, especially jazz and blues. Has an old world feel with marble bar tops and antique balconies, but its the perfect place to hear good music. Cover R$15-20.
- Inferno, Rua Augusta, 501 - Consolação, ☏ . Club.
- Choperia Liberdade, Rua da Glória, 523, ☏ . A mix of restaurant, karaoke and snooker bar, this unimaginable place packs on Thursdays and Fridays and is often featured on TV. Get in after 22:00.
- Bar Leo, Rua Aurora, 100, ☏ . Since 1940. Go for the beer, reportedly the best beer in town, served with a minimum of three fingers of foam. Always full and popular with locals and visitors alike.
- Bar Brahma, Av. São João 677, Centro, ☏ . M 11:30-01:00, Tu-Th 11:30-02:00, F 11:30-04:00, Sa Su 11:30-last customer. One of the best places in São Paulo for live music, especially on Thursday and Sunday, when traditional samba plays. This bar was opened on the 1920s and is the most traditional place to hear classics of Brazilian Popular Music (MPB).
- Cantho, Largo do Arouche, 32, ☏ . Gay club.
- 1 Beats Hostel Sao Paulo (Party Hostel.), Al Ribeirão Preto, 258 Bela Vista (Close to Metro, Station Brigadeiro or Station Trianon Masp (green line)), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Party Hostel. Come here to have a beer and a good time, not just for sleeping. Bar open until 01:00, and free shots every night! Go out with staff to discover the ins and out of this Humongopolis. R$40-50.
- Hotel Calstar, Rua Epitácio Pessoa, 97 - República, ☏ . This centrally located hotel is clean and quite decorated modernly. It offers breakfast buffet. Staff are kind and helpful and they use innovative method for communication since they don't speak good English. Single from R$ 110, double R$150.
- Ibis Budget Sao Paulo Sao Joao (Formerly Formule 1), República, Avenida São João, 1, ☏ . double from R$130 (€34).
- Pousada dos Franceses, Bela Vista, Rua dos Franceses, 100 - Bela Vista, ☏ . This amazing Mediterranean feel hostel is located close to the subway Brigadeiro in Sao Paulo. It is safe with quite neighborhood, decent communal digs, pleasant and bright common areas and private rooms of varying sizes and comfort. This venue is more of a hostel than a pousada, with dormitories offered alongside small individual rooms. It has pretty garden with beautiful flowers and trees. Dorm R$ 55, single (shared bathroom/suite) R$ 92/100, double (shared bathroom), for one/two R$ 92/140, double suite for one/two R$ 100/160, couple suite for one/two R$ 125/190, triple/quadruple suite master for one/two/three pers. R$ 125/190/220/250.
- VOA Hotel São Paulo Downtown, República, Rua Barão de Campinas, 94 (at junction with São Joao, Metrô República), ☏ . Check-in: 14:90, check-out: 12:00. A HI-affiliated hostel is housed in a seven-story building, with clean rooms and large bathrooms for each dorm room. Wi-fi is available only on the top floor, which also houses a bar open in the evenings (except Sundays). Security is tight, which also means check-in and check-out times are tightly enforced. Non-members/members dorms R$41/33; singles R$69/57; doubles R$88/76; triples R$106/94.
- Plaza Hotel, República, Av. Sao Joao 407 Centro, ☏ . Cheap rates apply for this small hotel, with rooms furnished simply and basic amentieis. Single R$95, double R$126, triple R$168, quad R$216.
- Banri Hotel, Liberdade, Rua Galvão Bueno, 209 (3 blocks down from Metro Liberdade), ☏ . Clean, inexpensive, good service, good breakfast. Excellent value. Doubles R$119, 10% discount with advance payment (2011).
- Nobile Downtown São Paulo, Rua Araújo, 141, Sao Paulo, CEP 01220-020, Brazil (In the centre), ☏ , fax: . Three-star hotel. This sound insulated hotel offers 260 air-conditioned apartments, swimming pool, conference center, business center, free internet, lobby bar, fitness centerm and walking for non-smokers. From R$ 202.
- Hotel The Universe Paulista by Intercity, Rua Pamplona, 83 - Bela Vista, ☏ . A family friendly venue in Bela Vista,Sao Paulo near Paulista Avenue and Siqueira Campos Park. It has 119 air-conditioned guest rooms equiooed with outdoor pool, fitness center, sauna, internet, complementary breakfast, bar, garden, safes and kitchenettes units. From R$ 207.
- H3 Hotel Paulista, R. Rocha, 217 - Bela Vista, ☏ . Three-star hotel. A modern accommodation venue with contemporary décor, anti-allergic flooring, private bathroom, telephone facility and provide air conditioning. It offers buffet breakfast, cakes, fresh breads and tropical fruits. Varies rooms R$149.
- ibis Sao Paulo Barra Funda, Santa Cecília, Rua Eduardo Viana, 163, ☏ . From R$144.
- Bourbon São Paulo, República, Avenida Dr. Vieira de Carvalho, 99., ☏ . Single from R$220, double R$260.
- Maksoud Plaza, Bela Vista, Alameda Campinas, 150 - Bela Vista, ☏ , fax: , email@example.com. Five star hotel. This elegant venue is surrounded by traditional and elegant neighborhoods of Sao Paulo and it is equipped with 416 spacious suites and rooms. Van service to and from airport is available as well. Limousine service could be obtained upon request. Maksoud Plaza serves altogether different kind of destination, surrounded by wonderful architecture and sumptuous service. It offers state-of-the-art amenities such as remote-controlled air conditioning, secure magnetic keys, fire protection system, lighting scenes, roomy seating areas, Wi-Fi and video conferencing. Rooms single from R$280, double R$314 suites R$700-800.
- Transamerica Classic Higienópolis, Consolação, Rua Alagoas, 974, ☏ . R$213.
- Hotel Luz Plaza São Paulo, R. Prates, 145 - Bom Retiro, ☏ . It is a 4-star hotel with panoramic views over downtown. It is equipped with restaurant, bar, free private parking, sauna, whirpool, gym and rooftop swimming pool. Offers non-smoking rooms and Facilities for disabled guests. From R$239.
- Meliá Comfort Higienópolis, Consolação, Rua Maranhão, 371, ☏ . From R$439? (2014).
- Nikkey Palace, Liberdade, Rua Galvão Bueno, 425, ☏ . Three-star hotel. Probably the fanciest place to stay in Liberdade. Single from R$210, double R$186.
- Novotel São Paulo Jaraguá Conventions, República, Rua Martins Fontes 71 - R Major Quedinho 44, ☏ . With 27 floors and 220 hotel rooms, be sure to ask for a room on the upper floors, for great views over the city. Ideal location for those wishing to explore downtown São Paulo, with the hotel located less than a five minute walk from a metro station. Good buffet breakfast served, somewhat pricey but will fill you up. Single from R$181.
- The Park Hall Residence, Consolação, Rua Aracajú, 66, ☏ . From R$330.
Safety in the Downtown region has largely improved. However, the Centro Velho ("Old Town", the area composed by the Sé and República districts, plus the adjacent Luz neighborhood in Bom Retiro/Santo Cecília), precisely the area where most historical sights are contained, is still problematic in terms of safety.
During the day (except on Sundays), the Old Town is considerably safe. You will see many homeless people in the streets, but there will be ostensive presence of police, and most streets will be quite crowded for anything to happen. Homeless people generally ignore passersby, but pickpockets in very crowded streets are common, just like annoying vendors. Watch your belongings all the time.
There are some particular areas to be aware even during the day:
- The Santa Ifigênia neighborhood in República, often called Crackland, the area delimited by R. Mauá in the North, R. São João in the South, Av. Duque de Caxias in the West and Av. Ipiranga in the East. It is okay to walk in the commercial, crowded streets (like Rua Santa Ifigênia), but the empty and run-down streets should be avoided as they are home to a large number of drug addicts.
- Parque Dom Pedro II and most of its surroundings. This area contains also many drug addicts, and potentially violent robbers that stalk pedestrians. If you want to reach Catavento Cultural (Palácio das Indústrias), a safer route is to go from Mercado Municipal to the rear entrance of the palace, passing through the 25 de março parking lot.
- The surroundings of Rua Glicério, in the east part of the Liberdade district, form a desolated area with a large number of homeless.
With so many skyscrapers, the Old Town may look a densely populated area, when in fact, it is not. The center of town is alive during week days because of offices and shops. During the night and Sundays, there is still some life in certain parts, like the bars/clubbing area between Largo do Arouche and Praça da República, but many streets may also become desolate, containing few people other than homeless and drug addicts. The "Crackland" should be completely avoided during the night unless you are in a trustworthy guided tour.
For the rest of Downtown, follow the general advice for São Paulo.
Near Bela Vista, Liberdade and Paraiso, the Fellowship Community church caters to English speakers in the morning and services are spoken in Portuguese in the evening. Calvary Baptist church in Campo Belo features services in American English and Saint Paul's Anglican in Alto da Boa Vista, in British English.