For the chance to explore the city's historic centre, or the gleaming towers and old mansions around Avenida Paulista, join one of the free, English group tours run by the functionally named SP Free Walking Tour.
The guides speak reasonable English, though some of their explanations are a little dubious, such as the statement we heard that Brazil was 'discovered' by Portugal, glossing over its many indigenous cultures. On our tour, the guide went to some length to criticise the high cost of cultural activities in São Paulo, which is not always the case – at the Theatro Municipal, for example, tickets for the 2013 season go for as little as R$10.
That said, with four hours of walking, plus stopping at key spots such as the city's birthplace the Pátio do Colégio, the guides do a sterling job of keeping the group together at a good rhythm, all the while successfully side-stepping the areas's loitering ne'er do wells.
- The Centro tour meets at 11.30am on Wednesdays and Saturdays at Praça da República, next to the tourist information centre (Metrô República, 3).
- The Avenida Paulista tour meets at 3.30pm on Thursdays and Sundays at the corner of Rua Augusta and Avenida Paulista, in front of the Banco do Brasil (Metrô Consolação, 2).