A sprawling, high-rise megacity, São Paulo might not have Rio's beaches and sultry good looks, but for urban explorers, it's a thoroughly rewarding destination. Blessed with its own unique charisma and a kind, courteous population, charmingly unused to tourists, it's brimming with culture and boasts some of the most varied options for eating out on the continent. The incessant urban landscape in this 20-million-strong metropolis won't be to everyone's taste, but for most visitors, one taste of São Paulo will leave them wanting more.
São Paulo is Brazil's main financial hub and its most cosmopolitan city, with top-rate nightlife and restaurants and impressive cultural and arts scenes. Most of the wealthiest people in Brazil live here—and the rest of them drop by at least once a year to shop for clothes, shoes, accessories, luxury items, and anything else money can buy. Paulistanos (São Paulo inhabitants) work hard and spend a lot, and there's no escaping the many shopping and eating temptations.
Despite—or because of—these qualities, many tourists, Brazilian and foreigners alike, avoid visiting the city. Too noisy, too polluted, too crowded, they say, and they have a point. São Paulo is hardly a beautiful city with nothing as scenic as Rio's hills and beaches. But for travelers who love big cities and prefer nights on the town to days on the sand, São Paulo is the right place to go. It's fast-paced and there's a lot to do. So even as the sea of high-rise buildings obstructs your view of the horizon, you'll see there's much to explore here.