São Paulo is the largest city of Brazil and also the richest. It is an enormously stretched out city: the whole metropolitan area is three times larger than that of Paris. At first glance São Paulo is a large gray stone mass, but every neighborhood has its own character and attractions. There are many interesting museums in São Paulo and the various districts have their own entertainment center where you can be entertained till late at night and feast on delicious meals in the restaurants.
The city itself has about 12 million inhabitants (estimate, no one really knows...), but up to 20 million live in the metropolitan area of São Paulo. The city has always had strong appeal to emigrants. So there is a large group of Japanese, and Italian influence is also noticeable in the city. Furthermore, there are significant Jewish and Arabic communities.
São Paulo lies in the southeast of Brazil, about 70 kilometers from the coast. The city lies on a plateau on the edge of the Brazilian Plateau on an average altitude of 800 meters. The highest point in the city is Pico do Jaraguá (1135 m). In the north of the city runs the Tietê river, springing from the Pinheiros river in the west.
In the 20th century São Paulo was primarily an industrial center, but towards the end of the century the focus shifted to the service sector. The city hosts many offices of national and international banks, law firms and multinationals. The headquarters of the Brazilian oil company Petrobras is located in the city. There is also a large establishment of the German software maker SAP amongst others, and it is home to one of the largest South American media groups, Globo. São Paulo is also a financial center, with the biggest and most important trade fair in South America.
The international airport São Paulo – Guarulhos lies about 25 kilometers northeast of the city center. If you drive with a rental car to the airport, keep in mind the busy traffic in São Paulo: depart well ahead of time. The airport is reachable via two highways: the Ayrton Senna or Presidente Dutra highway.
São Paulo has a good public transportation system: buses, metro lines and trains run to the suburbs. The Bilhete Único, a smart card that allows you to pay for any form of transportation, is convenient. You can buy these cards at newspaper or tobacco stores and also recharge them there.
Driving around in São Paulo is, let's say, an adventure. The roads are extremely busy and every little mistake can lead to chaos in the far periphery. It is absolutely not advised to drive during rush hour (06:00 - 09:00 and 16:00 - 19:00). To somewhat reduce traffic in São Paulo there's a rule that cars with a license plate ending in a certain number is not allowed on the street for one day in the week. Keep in mind the mopeds and motorcycles that slip through every gap. These are mostly couriers, in order to deliver their parcels and letters to the customers on time.
Yet a rental car is an ideal way to visit more distant attractions.
In the city center you must pay for street parking. You can buy tickets which are valid for one hour at kiosks and parking attendants, and place it behind the windscreen.
As the economic heart of Brazil, there is no lack of hotels in this city. Naturally a lot of business hotels (in or near the central business district), but also guest houses or hotels in other categories, from very simple to utterly luxurious. You will find many tourist hotels in the Centro Histórico. It is recommended to book your room well in advance, especially if you have your eye on a specific hotel.
For more information on São Paulo, we recommend Google and the following sources: