Sao Paulo

Overshadowed by the more glamorous Rio and its party atmosphere Sao Paulo is seen as the more serious side of Brazil but filled with art house cinema and offbeat theatre, the feel is more eccentric than you might expect. The underlying vibe is one of grown up fun without the frivolity and excesses of the carnival.

The culture of the city is influenced by the many immigrants that have visited and stayed, huge swathes of ethnic populations give this city a sense of true diversity, home to the educated and the ambitious, the conformists and the rebels, but the one thing they all have in common is a lust for life – Scratch just below the surface to see that Sao Paulo isn’t that different to Rio after all.

Hotel Unique certainly lives up to its name, the acclaimed architect designed building looks almost like a large ship with porthole windows, but don’t let the bleak exterior fool you, inside lies ones of the most luxurious hotels in the city, the rooms might err slightly on the side of minimalist but they are sleek and elegant with every convenience you could imagine; the highlight of this hotel though has to be the rooftop terrace with its amazing views over the city.

There is absolutely no shortage of budget accommodation in the city with hotels like Victory Hotel and Calamares Hotel offering little in the way of luxury but instead specialising in  plenty of welcoming smiles and clean perfectly adequate rooms; for those on a budget these are both perfect bases for your holiday.

Sao Paulo has fallen back in love with Brazilian food and now boasts world class restaurants showcasing regional dishes, Brasil a Gosto is the perfect place to start your culinary journey with its unpretentious yet elegant charm, only the very best food is served here and is all overseen by the very discerning head chef – the menu does change regularly but always offers great Brazilian food that contains the most important ingredient of all – integrity.

For a change from the Brazilian cuisine you could do far worse than to eat at one of the many Japanese restaurants, with the largest Japanese community outside Japan there is quite a demanding crowd to please and the standard is very high – Kazan is a great introduction to Japanese cuisine with its wondrous sushi buffet that allows you to sample the dishes without expecting commitment.

Most visitors to Sao Paulo head to the Banespa skyscraper, the 360 degree views over the city are absolutely breathtaking, the journey to the 34<sup>th</sup> floor is free but the attraction can become quite crowded; if possible visit in the evening as the city starts to light up, turning this busy sprawling city into a fairytale wonderland.

The very heart of the city may be filled with concrete but you are never far away from the Atlantic Rainforest,  these areas although designated as parks in order to protect them are little more than the wild outdoors and are absolutely amazing for those seeking the thrill of the rainforests of Brazil and their inhabitants, tours are available for those who prefer safety in numbers.

The high season of June to early December is a great time to visit as Sao Paulo hasn’t quite reached the popularity of other destinations and even during these months remains relatively inexpensive, this peak season is pleasantly warm with clear skies and a wide range of events taking place throughout the city including the huge annual LGBT parade which is said to be the largest in the world.

Travel immediately after this peak season is the quietest time of the year as many locals themselves leave town for their annual  vacation – if you want to bag yourself a bargain then this is the time to do it, the increased rainfall of these months is the small price that you might have to pay.

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