By Narbeh Minassian
As a city of high skylines and vibrant urban presence in a country of rainforests and sandy beaches, it is little wonder why São Paulo attracts the tourist’s attention with such regularity that it has virtually become an obligatory destination for those passing through Brazil or South America. As the leader in international aviation, American Airlines flies directly from New York JFK to this magical city twice a day. With them, get there safely and in comfort and style. And say, “Cheers!” too when flying in the Main Cabin on American Airlines on your way to Brazil because you can enjoy complimentary beer and wine – the perfect way to start a journey.
São Paulo is the biggest city in South America with a most interesting layout. The Southern half, and greater part of the city, is mostly covered by forest, farm and water. By complete contrast, the northern half is almost completely urban. The city was born in the downtown area, which is why many of the historical buildings are concentrated in the center. Contemporary architecture takes over around its circumference.
This municipal diversity is reflected by the paulistanos (São Paulo locals), particularly in the city center, where bankers, government employees and other such financial pursuers are responsible for São Paulo’s claim as the champion of Brazil’s economy, while the more creative, art-driven locals buzz around in this Brazilian beehive. São Paulo is a place of juxtaposition, diversity and carnival atmosphere, making this city the absolute peak of South American flair.
São Paulo is a city seeped in history, which can be seen first-hand in the Historic Center of São Paulo, otherwise known as the Downtown district. Over four and a half centuries ago, Jesuit priests founded the village of São Paulo de Piratininga. Their initial aim was to convert the local inhabitants to Christianity, and so they established the Colégio de São Paulo, which was a mission made to achieve that end. The first Church was constructed in the early 17th century and was located where the Páteo do Colégio stands today. Here you can also discover more about the founder, José de Anchieta, at the Museu Anchieta.
Since its founding, São Paulo has had a strong link to Christianity. Some of the oldest churches in the Southern Hemisphere can be found here, including the Catedral da Sé, whose original structure was built in 1616, and the Capela dos Aflitos, which dates back to 1774. There is also the Jardim da Luz, where the elite of São Paulo society traditionally met, and the Palácio das Indústrias, which is one of the more innovative buildings in its design and used to serve as the town hall. All in all, there are plenty of historical sites to visit in the city.
São Paulo is considered a paragon of art and original style. Going to the city and not checking out its art scene would be like going to France and not trying cheese. In truth, even for the art resisters, it would be impossible to miss out as its art scene is simply inescapable and is likely to convert even the most stubborn members of the anti-art brigade. Street art is huge in São Paulo. Just by walking around, you can see the works of graffiti like those of artist Alex Hornest, street artist Fefê Talavera, and Zezão, whose trademark graffiti is called pixação.
The epicenter of these art waves however is undoubtedly the Museu de Arte de São Paulo. This museum is found on the iconic Paulista Avenue and its standout architecture has made it a landmark and symbol of Brazil. The art collection itself is internationally recognized as one of the finest displays in the world, particularly for its European art. It is home to artwork from around the globe, but it doesn’t neglect its own country’s pieces and boasts an emphatic assemblage of Brazilian art, prints and drawings.
You can find practically anything in São Paulo. While the city has a plethora of street shops and retail hotspots, the two most popular ‘shoppings’ -- as the locals call shopping malls -- are the Rua 25 de Março and Cidade Jardim. The Rua 25 de Março belies its name in the sense that it winds through many streets to form the most famous commercial street in the city. A walk down this route takes you through the Arab, Middle Eastern and, to a lesser extent, the Chinese district of the city, so even if you have no interest in making a purchase, a leisurely stroll still offers a view into the cross section of São Paulo.
The Cidade Jardim is the polar opposite of the Rua 25 de Março, considered to be a ‘rich only’ shopping mall. It is certainly the most upscale boutique in São Paulo. One of the most impressive buildings in São Paulo, Cidade Jardim is adjacent to the Tietê River and home to high-end shops and spas. You won’t be left wanting when you visit here.
Given that São Paulo has one of the most diverse populations in the world, there are no prizes for guessing that this city has restaurants with cuisines from countries far and wide. However, it would be a shame if this wide range distracted from the native cuisine. The signature dish of São Paulo is the Virado à paulista, which consists of rice, tutu de feijão (a paste of beans and manioc flour; sometimes made of corn flour, in order to be drier than the manioc flour), sautéed collard greens (couve) and pork chops, typically bisteca. It is usually accompanied by pork rinds, bits of sausage, a fried egg and a fried banana. São Paulo is home to D.O.M., which was recently awarded fourth place on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. It goes without saying that this is the best place to try authentic Brazilian cuisine.
This takes us on to São Paulo’s nightlife, which simply needs no introduction. I challenge you to find a major city anywhere that does not have a significant Brazilian, salsa or samba bar. It is the most widely recognized form of partying, and while its imitators do a decent job of spreading Brazil’s party fever, nothing beats the real thing. Paulistanos party until the early hours. The southern tip of Rua Augusta is the center for São Paulo’s nightlife, particularly among the youth. While here, be sure to stop by the popular Z Carniceria. Even Avenida São Luís in the traditionally old city center is undergoing something of a Renaissance as its modernization now happily accommodates avid partiers.
As the next host of the FIFA World Cup in 2014, Brazil regards soccer with the utmost importance. No nation has won more World Cups than Brazil, nor, arguably, has any nation produced more iconic footballers than the Samba Boys. While in America our attention seems to be divided between ice hockey, baseball, basketball and American football, it is soccer that reigns supreme in Brazil. With no less than four soccer teams in São Paulo, including global powerhouses Corinthians and São Paulo, this city, alongside Rio and Buenos Aires, is the best place to experience the most passionate and vivacious pastime on the continent. If England is the birthplace of the beautiful game, then Brazil is its home.
São Paulo is the economic and cultural heartbeat of Brazil. Rarely does a city engage the senses with such colorful vivacity and yet leave a ravenous urge for more. While São Paulo is a shining paradigm of the famed Brazilian lifestyle, Sampa (as it is often called) is unique in its own right. This is a city of flair, creativity and diversity. The irresistible soul of Brazil has manifested itself in the shape of São Paulo. •
AA 967 New York JFK – São Paulo GRU
Depart: 11:20 a.m.
Arrive: 11:55 p.m.
AA 951 New York JFK – São Paulo GRU
Depart: 9:45 p.m.
Arrive: 10:25 a.m. (next day)
AA 966 São Paulo GRU – New York JFK
Depart: 9:45 a.m.
Arrive: 4:40 p.m.
AA 950 São Paulo GRU – New York JFK
Depart: 11:05 p.m.
Arrive: 6:05 a.m. (next day)