and wealthiest city in Brazil, São Paulo is a sprawling multicultural
metropolis of nearly 11 million inhabitants. It is financial centre of the
country, as well as a cultural hotbed that attracts residents from all over
Brazil and internationals from around the world. Becoming a paulistano (a resident of São Paulo) means living in one of the world’s fastest
growing economies, as well as experiencing some of the planet’s most epic
What is it known for?
São Paulo, or Sampa as it is called locally, is a multi-ethnic city with a diverse
mix of immigrants. It experienced waves of migration over the past century from
countries such as Italy, Portugal, Japan, Germany, Korea and the Middle East,
all of whom brought their cuisine and culture with them. Nearly six million
inhabitants have an Italian background, making it the largest ethnic group in
the city, and more than half a million are Japanese. This multicultural legacy can
be seen in the makeup of various neighbourhoods, such as Italian-influenced Bixiga
and Japanese-influenced Liberdade. The recent booming economy also drew
Brazilians from throughout the country, “so there is the chance to meet people
and learn about different aspects of Brazilian culture,” said Catherine
Balston, a British journalist and editor who has lived in the city for nearly
has world class museums, such as the São
Paulo Art Museum, and is home to South America’s most high-profile Fashion
Week in January and June, where A-list Brazilian designers such as Alexandre
Herchcovitch show off their couture creations. In a nation as football mad as
Brazil, São Paulo has three of the country’s top teams: the Corinthians,
Palmeiras and São Paulo. The city will also host the opening kickoff of the
2014 World Cup -- provided the new Arena de São Paulo in Itaquerão is completed
on time -- as well as one of the semi-final matches.
urban sprawl means that even with large parks such as Ibirapuera Park, there is not a
lot of green space. “The proportions of the city are just mind blowing when you
get the rare chance to see it from the top of a tall building,” Balston said.
“There will always be more to explore.” The growing middle class also means an
ever-increasing number of cars on the road, where 180km-long traffic jams are
common, especially on Friday nights when everyone is heading out of town for
the weekend. So instead, many of the city’s high-flying executives -- literally
-- take helicopters to avoid the snarled highways.
Where do you want to live?
In São Paulo, where you
live is often influenced by where you work, as fighting traffic is a daily
battle. Centro, the downtown district full of older buildings and large renovated
apartments, is seeing a resurgence, according to Claudio Bernardes, the
president of Secovi, São Paulo’s real estate union. The Jardins, the garden districts southwest of
the centre, are some of the city’s most desirable and high-end neighbourhoods, with
their leafy streets and low-rise housing stock. They are also close to the
Avenida Paulista, an important business district, and the Rua Oscar Freire, São
Paulo’s upmarket shopping street. Other popular areas include Higienopolis,
known for its Modernist architecture; Vila Madalena, with its botecas (pubs) and cafes; and Pinheiros,
a bohemian neighbourhood that is rapidly getting more expensive.
Itaim Bibi are middle-class neighbourhoods with high-rise apartments in the
city’s south. “They are new money districts with lots of upmarket restaurants,
but slightly bland,” said Balston. Morumbi is a wealthy suburban district near Graded, the American School of São Paulo.
Many paulistanos head out of the city
every weekend to the beach or the mountains. The beach at Guarujá is less than
an hour away, and the beaches of Maresias, Juquehy and Camburi, located up the north
coast of São Paulo state, are also popular. “They are about a two hour drive,
but can be up to five hours if the traffic is bad,” said Balston. In the
winter, residents head to towns in the Mantiqueira Mountains, such as Campos do Jordao and Monte Verde, about an hour from the city, for Alpine
architecture, hiking and cycling .
has a domestic airport, Congonhas,
where it is easy to hop on regional flights around the country. It is less than
an hour’s flight to Rio de Janeiro. Guarulhos,
the international airport, is about 30 miles north of the city. Flights to New
York take 10 hours, while London is about an 11 hour flight away.
house sales slowed in 2011, there is still great demand for certain types of
real estate. “The price of available land is very high,” said Bernardes. “There
are also many bureaucratic hurdles to get projects approved.” Some new high rises
have three- and four-bedroom apartments to appeal to families, but many developers
are also pushing two-bedroom apartments to appeal to singles and young couples.
After a brief drop in 2011, the real estate market is white hot again, with an
18.8% jump in house prices between January and July 2012. Fuelled by foreign
and domestic investment pouring in due to Brazil hosting the 2014 World Cup and
2016 Summer Olympics, some fear that housing is overvalued and Brazil is now
entering a property market bubble.
recently, the residential rental demand outpaced supply, but that is changing,
according to Bernardes. A one- or two-bedroom apartment goes for anywhere from
700 to 1,000 reais a month, while a three-bedroom apartment rents for 1,000 to
The Rio Times: English-language newspaper
covering news in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and the rest of Brazil
Gringoes: Resource site for expats, includes forums and
Discovering São Paulo: a British
expat blogs about the perks and quirks of life in the city