Sao Paulo: Brazil's Answer to New York

All eyes may be on Rio de Janeiro's carnival this week but another Brazilian city -- Sao Paulo -- can easily compete as Brazil's party capital. It's the city that never sleeps, the concrete jungle, a fast, furious corner of the tropics that is not all that it seems at first sight. It's the economic powerhouse of Brazil -- and it even beats Rio de Janeiro as the country's cultural center.

While Sao Paulo has no beaches or any of the breathtaking scenery that define Rio as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, it more than makes up in other ways. It features world-class restaurants, museums, theatres and boutiques. It is only a couple of hours away from lush, tropical beaches fringed by Atlantic rainforest.

If you are a business traveller to Brazil, Sao Paulo -- the country's economic capital -- is more than likely to be part of your itinerary than Rio. It is one of South America's largest and most vibrant cities, so there'll be much to explore there.

Where To Stay

The city is huge and traffic gets gridlocked. So staying somewhere close to the main areas downtown or around Avenida Paulista, the city's main artery, is a good idea.

There are many apartment services to chose from. The apartments are clean, comfortable and sometimes cheaper to stay at than hotels. The Jardins area of the city is always a good bet, with many good self-service rooms for the travelling executive. It is also a secure part of the city.

There are also hotels aplenty, from the opulent Renaissance to the trendy Fasano, which boasts one of the best bars and restaurants in the city and is an architectural gem.

Where To Eat

Sao Paulo is a place of gastronomic delights. The city is powered by an ethnically diverse group of peoples, all of whom have left their mark on the city.

Sao Paulo is home, for example, to nearly half a million people of Japanese descent -- the largest community outside of Japan -- and you'll find sushi bars in most neighborhoods.

The best place for Japanese food is the area known as Liberdade, Sao Paulo's 'Little Japan.' You can head out to the Moema or Vila Olimpia, the location of the famous Nakombi restaurant. It offers traditional private rooms for you and your clients.

Sao Paulo also boasts good Italian restaurants. Try as Appolinari on Rua Oscar Freire, or La Buca Romana on Avenida Paulista. For more traditional fare, head to the famous Familia Mancini downtown, which is where the hub of the city's theatre crowd will gather for a post-performance supper.

If you're looking for more of a head-spinning experience, try the Terraco Italia restaurant , located on the 44th floor of the Edificio Italia building downtown. You'll get a sweeping view of the city as well as a delicious meal.

The city's large Syrian and Lebanese communities also mean that Middle Eastern food is easily to be found. Try Arabia, located in the Jardins district. The food here is just as good as any to be found in Beirut.

Sao Paulo is teeming with churrasco, or barbeque, restaurants, where waiters float among the tables, offering different cuts of meat until you've had enough. Fogo de Chao is part of a chain found around the city. It gets a thumbs-up from diners as does Paulista Grill on Av. Joao Moura.

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