Sao Paulo and São Paulo (city) redirect here. For other meanings, see São Paulo (disambiguation).
Landmark buildings  Edifício Italia (at left) and Copan (curved façade at center), in São Paulo Downtown.
Landmark buildings Edifício Italia (at left) and Copan (curved façade at center), in São Paulo Downtown.

São Paulo (meaning Saint Paul in English) is the capital of São Paulo state in southeastern Brazil. It is located at Template:Coor dms, 250 miles (400 km) from Rio de Janeiro, and 640 miles (1030 km) from Brasília.

The city has an area of 1,575 square kilometers (575 sq miles) and a population of approximately 10.9 million (according to CityMayors, 2003), which make it the largest city in Brazil by far and the second largest city of the world in terms of population. (

About 20 million people live in the Greater São Paulo metropolitan area, which is currently ranked as the sixth-largest in the world and the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.



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Old downtown area seen from Altino Arantes building's observation deck

São Paulo is a major business center in Brazil. The city has a multicultural metropolitan area, which some have compared to New York City, with heavy Portuguese, Italian, Arabian and Japanese influences. São Paulo is known for its varied and sophisticated cuisine, ranging from Chinese to French, from fast food chains to five star restaurants. Its night life is animated by thousands of bars, pubs, lounges and discos that cater for a variety of music tastes and are often open all night.

São Paulo is home to University of São Paulo, to a major art museum (MASP), a major symphonic orchestra (OSESP), a Formula One Grand Prix race track (Interlagos), and the world's largest private-owned sports stadium (Morumbi, São Paulo soccer team stadium).

There are two major airports in the São Paulo metropolitan area: Guarulhos (GRU, for domestic and international flights) and Congonhas (CGH, for domestic and local international flights).


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Pátio do Colégio (the first construction)

The city was founded on January 25, 1554, by Portuguese Jesuit missionaries José de Anchieta and Manoel da Nóbrega, who established a mission — the Colégio de São Paulo de Piratininga — to convert the Tupi-Guarani Native Brazilians to Catholic religion. Located just beyond the Serra do Mar cliffs overlooking the port city of Santos, and close to River Tietê, the new settlement became the natural entrance to the vast and fertile plateau that would eventually become the State of São Paulo.

First named São Paulo de Piratininga, São Paulo became officially a city in 1711. It experienced a boom during the coffee cycle, starting in the late 19th century — chiefly because of its privileged position next to the port of Santos, through which most of the country's exports were shipped.

After 1881, waves of immigrants from Italy, Japan and many other countries arrived in São Paulo, at first to work at the enormous coffee plantations established in the State. In the 20th century, with the increasing industrial development of the country, many of them moved to Sao Paulo, which also attracted new contingents of immigrants.

Another important historical landmark is the Universidade de Sao Paulo's Law School, also known as Largo São Francisco, claimed to be the first academic institution in Brazil. First installed into a monastery, it was founded ( in 1st. March 1828, right after the beginning of the Brazilian Empire, following the increasing need for lawyers and politicians. As rich Brazilians used to go to Lisbon to take undergraduate Law courses, the Brazilian regent, Dom Pedro I, decided it was high time to create a national Law School. The university attracted students from all over the country, who gave São Paulo a bohemian lifestyle.


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Sky view of Paulista Avenue (Avenida Paulista) neighborhood.

São Paulo is the financial and industrial center of Brazil. The city is said to have more German companies than any other single city outside Germany.

São Paulo's stock exchange market is the Bovespa, while its futures exchange market is BM&F. Its financial districts are located on the surroundings of Avenida Paulista and in the Centro Velho (Old Downtown). Other important business districts are located near Avenida Berrini, Itaim Bibi, Vila Olímpia and Chácara Santo Antônio neighbourhoods.

There are a number of highly specialized regions, like Bom Retiro and Brás (wholesale garment districts), Consolação (lighting equipment), Rua Santa Ifigênia (electrical and electronic parts), Rua Teodoro Sampaio (furniture and musical equipment), the posh Rua Oscar Freire (designer and label stores) and the crowded Rua Vinte e Cinco de Março. São Paulo is also home to a large number of advertising and broadcasting companies.

As in many other large cities in developing countries, a large percentage of São Paulo's population lives below the poverty line. The city is surrounded and permeated by extensive shantytowns (favelas and cortiços).


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São Paulo from space, September 1993

Because of its economic and demographic weight, São Paulo has always played a pivotal role in Brazilian politics. With a constituency larger than that of many Brazilian states, the mayor's office is viewed by politicians as a springboard for state and national-level offices.

São Paulo's current mayor is José Serra of the Party of the Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB). His mandate expires on December 31, 2008.

São Paulo's latest mayors were:

Mayor Entry in Left Office in Party
José Serra 2005 - PSDB
Marta Suplicy 2001 2004 PT
Celso Pitta 1997 2000 PPB
Paulo Maluf 1993 1996 PPB
Luiza Erundina 1989 1992 PT
Jânio Quadros 1986 1988 PTB
Mário Covas 1983 1985 PMDB


São Paulo is divided into 30 boroughs, whose names are:

*Aricanduva *Butantã *Campo Limpo
*Casa Verde *Cidade Ademar *Cidade Tiradentes
*Ermelino Matarazzo *Freguesia do Ó *Guaianazes
*Ipiranga *Itaim Paulista *Itaquera
*Jabaquara *Jaçanã *Lapa
*M'Boi Mirim *Mooca *Parelheiros
*Penha *Perus *Pinheiros
*Pirituba *Santana *Santo Amaro
*São Mateus *São Miguel *Sé
*Vila Maria *Vila Mariana *Vila Prudente

Each borough is divided into several districts (in most of cases, two or tree). The borough with the greater number of districts is the borough of Sé, in the historical downtown, with eight districts (Sé, República, Consolação, Santa Cecília, Bom Retiro, Bela Vista, Liberdade and Cambuci). In second place are the boroughs of Lapa, with six districts (Lapa, Perdizes, Barra Funda, Vila Leopoldina, Jaguara and Jaguaré) and Mooca, also with six districts (Mooca, Tatuapé, Belém, Pari, Brás and Água Rasa). The peripherical boroughs of Jabaquara and Ermelino Matarazzo have only one district.


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A simulated-color satellite image of the Greater São Paulo metropolitan area (center), and the coastal towns of Santos and São Vicente (below).

The Bienal is a cultural event hosted every two years. Close to 1 million people visited the 26th Bienal in 2004.

Its theme was chosen to enable a wide range of artistic positions to feel comfortable. The concept of "Free Territory" involved various dimensions: it had a physical-geographical, a socio-political as well as an aesthetic dimension – the latter, of course, being of greatest interest in the context of this exhibition.

In order to emphasize the thematic unity of the overall exhibition, the invited artists and those representing the countries are mixed together on the 25,000 square meters of the spacious Oscar Niemeyer Pavillion. Despite the complexity of individual voices, the end result was intended to be a unity.

In addition to an intensification of the North-South dialog inside Brazil, the Bienal's aims include the promoting of links between non-European cultures along a South-South orientation.

It seems that Brazil has finally entered the world of fashion with the increasing reputation of famous Brazilian top models such as Gisele Bündchen, Fernanda Tavares and Ana Beatriz Barros, and the "discovery" of some fresh talents such as Alexandre Herchcovitch by some international fashion magazines. As a consequence of this, São Paulo Fashion Week is the place to see and to be seen in Brazilian fashion scene, always attracting a number of international fashion editors and models.

Nowadays, São Paulo Fashion Week is one of the most relevant fashion events in Brazil. It takes place twice a year, at the building of Bienal de São Paulo.

Also a major event in the city, the São Paulo Gay Parade has brought to Avenida Paulista about 2 million people in 2005, according to official statistics. It is usually opened by the city mayor, and a huge carnival goes all the way downtown.

The São Silvestre Marathon takes place every New Year's Eve (31 December). It was first held in 1925, when the competitors ran about 8,000 metres around the streets. Since then, the distance raced has varied, and it is now fixed at 15km. Registration takes place from 1st October, with the maximum number of entrants limited to 15,000.


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Sky View of Sao Paulo (from the top of an Avenida Paulista building)

The city is crossed by many of the most important expressways of the country, like the BR-116, SP-270, SP-280, Rodovia Anhanguera, Rodovia Anchieta, Rodovia Castelo Branco and Rodovia dos Imigrantes. Some railways also cross the city. They are, however, very old and were constructed intending not to attend people, but to transport coffee to the Santos seaport.

São Paulo has two airports. Congonhas Domestic Airport operates domestic and regional flights mainly to Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Brasília. Campo de Marte handles some private and small airplanes. Guarulhos International Airport, located 25 km northeast from downtown in the neighbouring city of Guarulhos, operates domestic and international flights to the city.

The city has approximately 60 km of subway system (known as Metro), complemented by another 270 km of CPTM (Companhia de Trens Metropolitanos - Company of Metropolitan Trains) railways. Both CPTM and the subway lines carry some 3.5 million people on an average weekday, and a few new underground lines to be constructed are expected to add another million people to the system within the next 5 years.

The bulk of the public transportation (public and private companies) is composed by more than 10,000 buses. Also, there is a strong presence of informal transportation (dab vans).

São Paulo grew quickly from the 1940s to the 1980s and many roads and buildings were constructed without major planning. As a result, heavy traffic is common in the main avenues of the city, and traffic jams are relatively common in its larger highways (mainly during floods). The main mean of commuting into the city is by car and by bus.

Ethnic diversity

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Eastern cultural influence in Liberdade neighborhood

São Paulo has a great ethnic diversity that can be compared to other major cities:

  • 3 million people are direct or indirect descendants of Portuguese.
  • 3 million people are direct or indirect descendants of Italians. There is a building named Edifício Itália (Italy Building), in honor to the Italians. It was once the tallest building of the city (165m).
  • 3 million people have direct or indirect African heritage.
  • 1 million people are direct or indirect descendants of Japanese. São Paulo has the largest number of Japanese outside Japan.
  • 1 million people are direct or indirect descendants of Germans.
  • 350 thousand people are direct or indirect descendants of Lebanese.

Other considerable groups are:

Current critical problems

Since the beginning of the 20th century, São Paulo has been the major economic city of Brazil. With the advent of the two Great Wars and the Great Depression, exportation of coffee to the US and Europe was critically affected, which led the rich coffee farmers to invest in industrialization in the city. This fact attracted many people from other regions of the country, especially from the Northeastern. From a population of merely 32,000 inhabitants in 1880, São Paulo increased its population to approximately 250,000 in 1900, 1,800,000 in 1940, 4,750,000 in 1960 and 8,500,000 in 1980. The effects of this population boom in the city are:

  • São Paulo grew quickly and in a very disorganized manner. With no proper organization, the city grew without leaving much space for highways and parks. Major traffic jams are relatively common in many roadways of the city.
  • Migrants, especially from the Northeastern region of the country, often move to São Paulo with hopes of a better life, but more often than not are unable to find work on the city's saturated market and end up living in sub-human conditions or returning to the regions from which they originally came.
  • Approximately 1,500,000 people live in favelas in São Paulo and surrounding areas.
  • There crime ratio is high, and kidnappings and robbery are considered relatively common in the city.
  • Floods are common in São Paulo, as a consequence of rare green areas and relative impermeability of the ground. Rainwater cannot be properly drained and water accumulates quickly, causing floods in specific regions of the city.
  • Air pollution is high and the two major rivers crossing the city, Rio Tietê and Rio Pinheiros, are critically polluted, although these rivers are currently being depolluted.
  • Although there are several parks across the city, the per capita green area of São Paulo is very small. This fact, associated with high criminality, led to a reclusion in the lives of many people in the city. Condominiums equipped with cameras and homes and apartments with windows equipped with bars are common in the city.

Major holidays

External links



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