Is Sao Paulo Really Like New York?

View of Jardim

When I told people I was going to Sao Paulo for the weekend the response was: You are going to love it, it is just like New York!’ Let’s be clear, NOTHING is like New York.  The reason people say this is because they consider Sao Paulo to be the ‘New York” of Brazil while Rio is more like ‘LA’. Carioca’s think the Paulista’s (people from Sao Paulo) work all the time, are very serious and have nothing to do on the weekends because there is no beach.  The Paulista’s think the Carioca’s are slow and lazy beach bums… can’t exactly disagree with the views now that I have visited Sao Paulo. Let’s explore some of the similarities and differences between Sao Paulo and New York……

 1. Sao Paulo’s Av. Paulista closely resembles New York’s Park Ave with lots of offices located along this massive busy street as well as the subway stops, the MASP and some restaurants. However, it is wider and the traffic is much worse!

2. Ibirapuera Park is Sao Paulo’s ‘Central Park’ but instead of the most well known museums surrounding the park; in Sao Paulo the museums are inside the park. Read more here.  Fun Fact: Sao Paulo has more than 30 parks with over 15 million square meters of green space!

3. Between Jardim Paulista and Pinheiros there are tons of incredible art galleries, some with very sophisticated collections closely resembling Chelsea’s gallery district.

4. Villa Magdalena with its cute bars, restaurants and galleries is the SoHo of Sao Paulo, but nothing compares to NYC.

5. Oscar Freire and neighboring streets (see Best Shopping in Sao Paulo), I would consider to be comparable to ‘Madison Avenue‘ / Fifth Ave (42nd street and up) with global luxury brand names like Versace, Cartier, Van Cleef, Ferragamo and Cavalli with fancy restaurants scattered in between. I must admit that the actual stores setup, design and architecture is much more innovative, unique and inventive than any of the stores in New York (sort of like seeing all of the beautifully decorated windows during New York’s holiday season all year round).  **One designers store had see-through floors with large orange fish swimming below your feet!

6. Jardines is considered to be one of the most influential economic centers in South America, ie New York’s Wall Streetfor North America.  SP is actually the 10th richest city in the world!

7. Vila Olímpia and Villa Magdalena offer tons of trendy restaurants and fabulous clubs/bars, its like a variation of the Meatpacking District but with insane traffic and parties start much later (ie you head out around 1am)

8. Paulistas, like New Yorkers love to dress up when going out.  Women sport their LBDs, are on top of the latest trends and clearly put some hours in at the gym (I can’t say that for Rio- sorry guys!).

9. Yes everyone in New York speaks English, but the fact that a majority of the people in Sao Paulo speak English is pretty fantastic considering the rest of Brazil isn’t that fluent and prefers to do things in Portuguese.  Personally, since I am still working on/struggling with my Portuguese the fact that the waiters and people in stores spoke English was one of the best parts about being in Sao Paulo!

10. New York and Sao Paulo are both considered to be major metropolitan cities, however Sao Paulo is MUCH larger and more spread out than New York (imagine it taking over 30 mins in a cab to get from Union Square to the East Village).  Sao Paulo is actually the 3rd largest city in the world!

11. Scattered in between the various areas are beautiful gardens and huge stunning houses.  It turns completely residential out of no where, and the homes are similar to those in the Hampton’s, minus the beach.

12. Sao Paulo sprawls like Los Angeles and boasts enough skyscrapers to trump New York

13.  Unlike New York, in Sao Paulo because everything is so spread out you need a car.   Cabs are about $20 on average.  The traffic is SO bad, it makes New York’s ‘rush hour’ seem pleasant (could take you 2 hours when its supposed to take 20mins).

14.  Like New York’s Seventh Avenue in the Village, Pinheiros boasts a number of kinky sex shops.
15.  There is no comparison, the graffiti and street art environment of Sao Paulo, blow New York out of the water.  See: Villa Magdalena, and Batmans alley

Fun Facts About Sao Paulo:

1. Luxury: Sao Paulo boasts the highest number of private jets in the world, the highest Ferrari sales, it is the only city in the world with 4 Tiffany stores, is home to Louis Vuitton’s most profitable store worldwide, and it is the biggest market for Mont Blanc pens outside Switzerland. 60% of Brazilian millionaires live in Sao Paulo.

2. The Santa Cecilia and Bras neighborhoods in downtown São Paulo have vegetation levels rivaling that of the Sahara desert.

3. São Paulo is devoid of billboards. The Clean City law passed in 2006 outlaws any such “visual pollution.”

4.  More people of Japanese descent live in São Paulo than in any other city outside of Japan.

How do you feel about the Sao Paulo- New York comparison?!

13 Comments to "Is Sao Paulo Really Like New York?"

  1. andreyroth's Gravatar andreyroth
    July 25, 2012 - 4:25 pm | Permalink

    God I love my city! Don’t forget our state of the art metro inaugurated in 2010 called “Linha 4 – Amarela”. The yellow line, and wait til 2020 when our first bullet train will be ready…

    Nothing against NYC but this place is awesome…

  2. Carlos Zatara's Gravatar Carlos Zatara
    August 22, 2012 - 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Well, it’s nice that you’ve been to the dark side and made it safely back to Rio… As any true carioca knows, the best thing in São Paulo is the ticket back to the “Cidade Maravilhosa”!

  3. matt drinkwater's Gravatar matt drinkwater
    March 7, 2013 - 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Love the fun facts. Curious, where did you find those facts?

    • October 16, 2014 - 10:28 am | Permalink

      he invented all of those, Sp is look like Mexico City never NY.

  4. January 22, 2015 - 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Your comparison between NYC and Sao Paulo is not objective. I do not know if you are being biased or simply speak out of ignorance. The data you seem to be considering is not accurate at all. I am from Queens, NY and actually live in the Zona Sul in Sao Paulo, SP and I find your comparisons (Av. Ibirapuera to Park Avenue, Parque Ibirapuera to Central Park, SOHO to Vila Madalena, etc) completely fetched off. You seem to be comparing NY, NY (Manhattan) to the whole city of SP (in this case, NYC is much larger). But if so, why don’t you talk about the dirty, filthy, run-down, dangerous, drug-trafficking infested, prostitution infested downtown Sao Paulo? I believe Sao Paulo beats Manhattan (Harlem is not as dangerous as people think) in many other things you seem to ignore. What happens to the many huge favelas in Sao Paulo, you ddn´t know they existed? inhabitants that descend into the heartless Parque Ibirapuera during the weekends, so you can mingle with them in the free funk concerts in the park? Most people speak English in Sao Paulo? Most people need a car because the city is so spread? Are you talking about the ABC? Which Sao Paulo are you talking about? Did you even know that the city has power and water shortage? Thank you for your useless comparison.

    • simeon's Gravatar simeon
      July 27, 2016 - 1:10 pm | Permalink

      Actually, New York (all Boroughs included) is a lot smaller in population and land size than Sao Paulo. Harlem as a whole is not dangerous, but it is not completely safe also. If you want to mention Favelas, we can mention New yorks many drug ridden Public Housing Projects (in all Boroughs, especially Brooklyn and the Bronx, where Housin Projects in neighbourhoods like Brownsville and East New York, and in the South Bronx, are literally war zones and nearly comparable to any of the worst favelas in Brazil. Even Queens, which has the huge Queensbridge Housing Projects, can be a little dicey. Also, unlike many other American cities with lots of violent Housing Projects, New York has no intention of tearing them down and replacing them). I understand your opinions on comparing parks, museums etc, may be a little off, and agree the comparison is more Manhattan v Sao Paulo.

  5. Taina's Gravatar Taina
    November 16, 2016 - 3:26 pm | Permalink

    I’m from São Paulo and I live in NY! I think SP can’t compare to NYC at any level. SP is dirty, dangerous, and very badly organized. Avenida Paulista is the closest thing we have to NYC and yet it feel absolutely nothing like it. SP buildings are old and quite small compared to NYC. Other than at Vila Madalena and Vila Olimpia the night life is pretty much dead.. I’m sorry SP, I love your feira-livres (pastel and caldo de cana included), how close you are to Guaruja, and all you can eat sushi places, but NYC is the greatest city in the world, and the only comparison I can make is that you are like a poor cousin.

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