Football in Brazil is so much more than just a sport: for many it’s a way of life, almost reaching the status of a religion. Sao Paulo is no exception in this regard and the city is home to some of the country’s most important soccer clubs, including Corinthias, Sao Paulo FC, Santos, Palmeiras, Juventude, Nacional, and Portuguesa. Every year Latin American teams compete for the prized “Copa Libertadores de America” and all the big Sao Paulo clubs have won it at least once in their history. Of all the Sao Paulo soccer clubs it’s surely Santos that is most celebrated: located on the outskirts of the city in the Vila Belmiro neighbourhood, this team once counted the legendary Pele among its players, and other well-known footballers have gone on from Santos to play in the top teams of the German Bündes Liga and for Real Madrid. The Santos club houses a museum devoted to its illustrious past.
Sao Paulo boasts several important and historic stadiums, most notably the “Palestra Italia” “Parque Sao Jorge”, “Rua Javari”and the “Morumbi”. The latter, home of Sao Paulo FC, is in fact one of the biggest and most beautiful sports stadiums in the world. Indeed this stadium will be one of the venues for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Curious to discover Brazil’s football culture? Then why not head for a travel agency, many of them organise guided tours to the main stadiums and will even arrange for you to watch a match. Tickets for the matches cost between R$10 and R$40 (that’s $6US and $23US). You’re can be sure that watching a football match in Brazilian will be an unforgettable experience!
Sao Paulo also offers other major sporting events apart from football, one of which is the Brazilian F1 Grand Prix, which takes place on the legendary “Interlagos” circuit (officially named “Autodromo José Carlos Pace”) which is located some 16 Km from downtown Sao Paulo. The great Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna came first place in the race on several occasions before his tragic death in 1994. Sao Paulo-born Ferrari driver Felipe Massa was the last Brazilian to win in 2006. Another major sporting event in Sao Paulo is the San Silvestre marathon, so called because it takes place every year on December 31st. Founded in 1925, this marathon is one of the world’s most renowned and draws some 15,000 participants annually.
If when it comes to sports you’re more of a doer than a watcher, you’ll be happy to hear that Sao Paulo also offers an excellent sports infrastructure. : “Esporte Clube Pinheiros”, “Clube Atlhetico Paulistano”, “Esporte Clube Banespa”, “Associação Atlética Hebraica” and “Clube Indiano” are all recommended sports clubs and you’ll be able to do all the popular sports there including volleyball, basketball, tennis, golf, swimming, water polo, handball and rugby. For water sports head to Guapiranga Lake – this is a particularly great spot for sailing. Ibirapuera Park is extremely popular for joggers, especially in the early morning or after work.
Unlike Rio, São Paulo is not especially picturesque, but it does offer some very attractive places to visit, not least of which is the Mercado Municipal (Rua da Cantareira 306). Although somewhat touristy this downtown flea-market sells fruits, vegetables and local specialities in a fine neoclassical building. But the true Paulistas (inhabitants of Sao Paulo) come here at weekends for the famous (and gigantic!) mortadella sausage sandwiches. As always, keep an eye on your things while walking around and aim to come early to avoid the crowds and heavy traffic.
The first Japanese immigrants arrived in Brazil in 1908 and Brazil is now home to the largest Japanese population outside of Japan. As a result Sao Paulo has its own "Japantown". In this neighbourhood, where Brazil meets Japan, you’ll find a fun market on Sundays and excellent sushi (reservations required). Also on weekends is the Feira Hippie arts and craft market (outside the Parque Trianon on Paulista Avenue next to the MASP the museum). You’ll find some interesting antiques on sale there too. Although the Parque Trianon itself is pleasant, pickpockets are known to operate there and it’s definitely off-limits to tourists at night time.
Somewhat off the beaten track is the Butanta Institute (Av. Vital Brasil 1500; tel.: (011) 3726-7222), one of the most renowned scientific research centres in Brazil. Founded by Vital Brasil, a Brazilian physician, biomedical scientist and immunologist, the centre was devoted to the discovery and development of polyvalent anti-snake serums that still save many lives even today. The centre is in an attractive park and a wide range of animals are on display including snakes, lizards, spiders and frogs. Limited food options available on site.