In Brazil , they say that Rio  is all play while São Paulo is all about work. Indeed, the world’s fifth-largest city is an economic force that generates a significant portion of Brazil’s wealth. And yes, the majority of travelers who check into São Paulo’s ultramodern hotels and dine at its internationally renowned restaurants are in town for business, not pleasure. It’s also true that when you climb to the 35th floor of the landmark Banespa building and glimpse what appears to be an endless concrete jungle that extends a full 360 degrees, you might wonder what the appeal could possibly be.
Few vestiges remain of São Paulo’s early days as a Jesuit missionary settlement, or as a thriving 19th-century trade center where coffee barons lived it up in grand style. However, its bustling downtown nonetheless offers a vibrant mishmash of history and architectural styles, ranging from surviving colonial churches to belle epoque and art deco apartment buildings. The clean lines of Brazilian modernism are on display in the elegant residences of the neighborhood of Higienópolis , and the city’s version of the Champs-Elysées, Avenida Paulista , offers a daunting collection of ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s skyscrapers that if not beautiful are undeniably impressive.
Just as varied as the city itself are its residents (known as Paulistanos). Aside from Portuguese, São Paulo boasts particularly large Italian, Japanese, and Lebanese communities. Working class and “popular” bairros exist alongside heavily guarded, posh residential areas. The aptly named Jardins  (Gardens) neighborhood is home to the city’s rich and powerful, as well as some of the most luxurious boutiques, galleries, and bistros on the planet. Indeed, “Sampa”—as it is lovingly referred to by residents—is all about highs and lows: If you’re after foie gras, you’ll find it, but you can just as easily enjoy a cheese-filled pastel washed down with sugarcane “juice” at a street market.
This mixture is reflected in unparalleled eating opportunities, as well as cultural offerings that rival those of New York and London. A vibrant arts scene, great museums, and an intense and varied nightlife ensure that Paulistanos play harder than anyone else in Brazil . And when they tire of both work and play, there is always Parque do Ibirapuera , a vast oasis of green that is the perfect place to recharge one’s batteries.
By Air: São Paulo has two airports. Guarulhos International Airport (tel. 11/6455-2945), also known as Cumbica, is 30 kilometers (20 miles) northeast of the center of the city. The larger of the two airports, it is used for all international flights and a large portion of domestic flights. The majority of international flights land in Guarulhos before continuing on to other major cities—this usually involves a connecting flight. Much closer to the center is the older and smaller Congonhas Airport (tel. 11/5090-9000). Limited to domestic flights, it also operates frequent air shuttles that connect São Paulo with Rio de Janeiro  (a speedy 30-minute jaunt).
At both airports, you will find kiosks for taxis that can take you into the city for a fixed price, calculated according to your final destination. Expect to pay around R$75–85 from Guarulhos and R$30–40 from Congonhas. A much cheaper alternative is to take an executivo bus.
Airport Bus Service (www.airportbusservice.com.br , tel. 11/6221-0244, R$28) offers regular service from Guarulhos to Praça da República, the major hotels around Avenida Paulista , the Tietê and Barra Funda bus stations, and Congonhas. Buses leave daily at 30-minute intervals 6 a.m.–11 p.m., with less frequent service throughout the night.
By Bus: São Paulo has three major bus terminals. All are conveniently connected to Metrô stations (which bear the same names as the bus terminals) and can be easily reached by numerous municipal buses. To the north, Rodoviária Tietê (Av. Cruzeiro du Sul, Santana, tel. 11/3235-0322) is the second-largest bus terminal in the world. From here, you can catch a bus for anywhere in Brazil  as well as Argentina , Chile , Uruguay, and Paraguay. You can also take express buses to Rio , which leave at 10-minute intervals during the day and at 30-minute intervals at night.
Near the Memorial da América Látina , Rodoviária Barra Funda (Rua Maria de Andrade 664, Barra Funda, tel. 11/3235-0322) has buses that service the interior of São Paulo state and the state of Paraná  (including Iguaçu Falls).
Close to Congonhas airport, Rodoviária Jabaquara (Rua dos Jequitibás, Jabaquara, tel. 11/3235-0322) is the departure point for buses to the region surrounding Santos and the southern coast of São Paulo state.
Socicam (tel. 11/3235-0322, www.socicam.com.br ) is a private company that operates all of São Paulo’s bus terminals. Its website lists all bus companies, routes, and schedules. You can buy bus tickets at the terminals themselves or at travel agents throughout the city. It’s advisable to purchase tickets in advance during weekends and holidays.