The Centro, downtown, holds the “soul” of São Paulo. This is where the city began as a settlement back in the 16th century. One of the oldest buildings is the Benedictine Monastery (Monastério de São Bento) at the Pátio do Colégio. You can enjoy the delicious cakes baked with the monk’s recipes at Padaria do Mosteiro. Until the early 1960s the area was very much the center of the action in São Paulo, with banks, shops and restaurants. The first skyscrapers were erected near the Anhangabaú Valley, along Líbero Badaró Street with a Manhattan feel. The Banespa Building’s shape resembles the Empire State in New York. The São Paulo Stock Exchange is still in the area, drawing office workers to the many small restaurants at lunchtime. There are guided tours if you are interested.
The area fell into hard times in the 1980s onwards but it is slowly becoming trendy again with a new generation moving into the vintage high rises. Niemeyer’s Copan Building is undergoing a facelift. Some cool bars and parties happen in Centro, like the ones at Terraço Itália. The area is full of architecture landmarks and great to explore on foot during the day. In the evenings there is now more and more people around since part of the city’s nightlife is shifting here.
The República, Sé, Anhangabaú and São Bento subway stops are good starting and finishing points for your visit. The crossing of Avenida São João and Avenida Ipiranga under the drizzle can be a very poetic picture and is sang in of of the anthems to the city by Caetano Veloso called Sampa.