Although São Paulo’s Carnaval is not as spectacular or glamorous as its carioca sister, neither is it low-key. São Paulo has its own enthusiastically supported samba schools, which spend all year preparing for the festival and collectively form the union of paulistano samba schools, UESP (t 11/3171-3713, w www.uesp.com.br). As in Rio, the samba competition takes the form of a massive parade, held in the Oscar Niemeyer–designed sambódromo, a 530m-long stadium that can accommodate around 26,000 and is part of the huge Parque Anhembi leisure complex, near the Tietê bus terminal north of the city centre. Ticket prices are cheaper than their Rio counterparts, starting at around R$15 for a bench seat up in the gods – where you’ll get a flavour of the event but won’t see very much – and rising to around R$1000 for a seat in a VIP box. In general, the closer you are to the ground, the better the view and the more you pay. Many local travel agents sell tickets (see Around São Paulo); alternatively, try Ticketmaster (w www.ticketmaster.com.br) or the city tourist office in Anhembi (t 11/6226-0400). In the weeks leading up to Carnaval, you can sometimes attend rehearsals at the city’s samba schools – one of the best to visit is Rosas de Ouro in Barra Funda (t 11/3931-4555).

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