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Visit Sao Paulo

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São Paulo is a municipality located in the southeast region of Brazil.

The largest city in South America, São Paulo sits on the Piratininga plateau and is surrounded by rivers that fan out into the interior. Almost from its founding in 1554, São Paulo became the gateway to the sertão (Brazil's backcountry), and explorers known as bandeirantes made expeditions from the city into this region. Today's main highways to interior cities still follow the routes of the bandeirantes.

Immigrants from all over the world have always been a part of São Paulo, and you'll still see the influence of Portuguese, Spanish, German, African, Jewish, Arab, and Japanese residents on its life and culture. There is an entire museum devoted to Japanese immigration, for example, and another to the contributions of Africans in Brazil. Perhaps the most difficult thing to grasp about the city is its sheer size. A good way to get an idea of how far it spreads is from the observation deck of the 46-story Itália Building on Avenida Ipiranga. Many of São Paulo's tourist attractions are widespread, so you'll find the Metro a good way to travel between them.

Cathedral Metropolitana de São Paulo

Reproduction Gothic cathedral that is large enough to inspire the fear of God in mortal sinners. Mass is resonant inside an auditorium built for 8,000 worshippers while the decorative interior blends prophets and apostles with native toucans and armadillos. Tours are also available to view its crypt where the remains of Chief Tibiriçá, the first citizen of Piratininga (old São Paulo), lie. The cathedral is best visited on a weekend morning when the surrounding palm-tree fringed plaza throngs with life. Don't miss the nearby Igreja do Carmo, which dates from the 17th century.

Edifício Martinelli

Be wowed by a breathtaking panorama of São Paulo's never ending skyline from the 26th-floor roof terrace of this striking Beaux Arts building. Built in 1929, by the Italian immigrant-turned-shipping magnate Giuseppe Martinelli, this was the city's first skyscraper. Free tours are available to visitors on the half-hour. Unlike some of the other skyscraper observation decks in downtown, this one is also open on weekends.

Gregorian Chant at Mosteiro de São Bento

Sunday morning mass within the Basílica de Nossa Senhora da Assunção is a lyrical affair amid a fug of incense and Gregorian chanting. This twin-towered church and monastery was designed in the early 20th century and features a large organ with over 6,000 pipes. Get there early on a Sunday at 1000 to bag a pew.

Jardim Botânico

For a refreshing escape from the concrete jungle, it's worth making the trip down to these lush botanical gardens. Amid verdant tree-lined paths, you'll find more than 3,000 different plant species including some 350 natives. Orchids, aquatic plants and Atlantic rainforest species are among the thriving bounty. This is also a fine bird watching spot, so bring binoculars as over 100 bird species have been spotted here. The only catch is the location: the botanical gardens are in the southern suburb of Agua Funda, located some 13km (8 miles) south of downtown. Bring a picnic and have a peaceful loll on the grass.

Museu de Arte de São Paulo

Perched like a red-legged tarantula on fashionable Avenida Paulista, this contemporary structure exhibits old European masters alongside surrealist and abstract Brazilian artworks. Its classical collection is the finest in Latin America. Among a veritable who’s who of old maestros are Van Gogh, Renoir, Picasso, Dali, and Toulouse-Lautrec. The building itself was designed by architect Lina Bo Bardi and is considered a classic of brutalist modern design.