São José dos Campos is a city and a municipality in the Brazilian state of São Paulo. The city is the birthplace of Brazilian aerospace industry, and until nowadays the most important center of aerospace manufacturing and research in the country.
São José dos Campos, often abbreviated simply as "São José", is the largest and most important city of the industrial region known as Vale do Paraíba. The city is the home of Embraer, the third largest aircraft manufacturer of the World, and of important aerospace research centers including the Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica (ITA) and the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE).
For obvious reasons, most visitors to the city come for business rather than for tourism. Yet, São José dos Campos is a lively city, with many options of culture, nightlife and gastronomy, plus exhuberant nature in the district of São Francisco Xavier. Its convenient location also provides easy access to São Paulo and the wonderful beaches of the North Coast of the state.
The best areas to explore on foot are the Centro (Downtown) and Vila Adyana neighborhoods, southeast of the Banhado. There you can find most of the city's historical buildings, street commerce, and pleasant green areas like the Vicentina Aranha and Santos Dumont parks, plus of course the Banhado itself.
Buses linking downtown to the suburbs are relatively frequent, although quite crowded during peak hours. Suburb-to-suburb transport, on the other hand, is extremely limited. Many companies and research institutes are located in areas with limited or almost non-existent bus coverage, making public buses an impractical means of transport for many business tourists. Large companies, however, will typically operate private buses to and from various points in the city.
Taking a cab is a practical way for visitors to move around the main district. Taxi costs R$ 4,50 + R$ 2,25/km (flag 1) or + R$2,90/km (flag 2). A tariff calculator is available online . Be aware that during the month of December, flag 2 applies all day long.
Renting a car may be more cost-effective than a taxi for long-distance travel, including going to São Francisco Xavier or exploring the areas beyond the municipality. The city grew has grown faster than its road network and public transport capacity, and as a result, São José dos Campos suffers from severe traffic during the peak hours.
Navigating the main district isn't too complicated. It is crossed by two freeways that form an "X" shape: the Anel Viário (southwest to northeast) and the Av. Jorge Zarur/Rod. Nova Tamoios (northwest to southeast), and most of the time you will be not too far from one of them. São José is also crossed by the Rod. Presidente Dutra (BR-116) (southwest to northeast) that inappropriately functions as one of the main avenues of the city, as it is necessary for people commuting to and from remote suburbs and various factories.
To get around the districts:
Main district => Eugênio de Melo: Take Rod. Presidente Dutra (BR-116) towards Rio de Janeiro
Main district => São Francisco Xavier: From either Rod. Presidente Dutra or the Anel Viário, take Av. Dr. Nélson D'avila/Rod. Monteiro Lobato (SP-050) and get to Monteiro Lobato. Afterwards take the municipal road Monteiro Lobato-São Francisco Xavier
Memorial Aeroespacial Brasileiro, Avenida Brigadeiro Faria Lima, s/nº (taking the access to the airport), ☎ 12-3947-7844, . Sa-Su 9AM-5PM. Created to rescue the history of the technological progress the city, showcasing mainly military and aerospace equipment developed in the country, including the second prototype of the Bandeirante, the first Brazilian commercial and military aircraft. In the outside there is a tribute to the men who died in an accident at the Alcântara Launch Center, in 22 august 2003.free.
Capela Nossa Senhora Aparecida (Museu de Arte Sacra de São José dos Campos), Travessa Chico Luiz, 67 - Centro, ☎ 12 3921-7226, . Tu-Fr, 9AM-5PM, Sa-Su, 9AM-12PM. The chapel, built in 1908, used to be very crowded and is where troops and travellers gave thanks for the safety of their trips. It hosts a museum of sacred art.
Espaço Mário Covas (Antiga Câmara Municipal), Praça Afonso Pena, nº 29, Centro, ☎ 12 3921-7587, . Mo-Fr, 8AM-5PM. Built in 1926, the small palace was the previous home of the City Council and was also once the first high school of the city. Now it hosts local culture expositions, a sports museum and a police department.
Banhado, (west of downtown). The "Banhado" is a huge depression and a environmental protection area located just west of downtown and north of Av. Anchieta. It offers a spetacular view, especially during the sunset, which can be enjoyed from the bars, cafes and sidewalks of the avenues surrounding it.
Sanatório Vicentina Aranha, Rua Eng. Prudente Meireles de Moraes, 302 - Vila Adyana, ☎ 12 3923-7131, . The sanatorium, finished in 1924, was projected by Ramos de Azevedo and belonged to Santa Casa de Misericórida', a charity organization associated with the Catholic church. It belongs now to the municipality and its gardens are a public park.
Igreja Matriz de São José dos Campos, Pça. Cônego João M. Guimarães, 69 - Centro, ☎ 12 3921-5516, . Located in the place of foundation of São José dos Campos. It was constructed in 1934 to replace the original church, which had collapsed in 1831.
Parque Santos Dumont, Rua Engenheiro Prudente Meirelles de Moraes, 1000 - Vila AdyAna, ☎ 12 3921-7066, . 4AM-10PM. The urban park pays a tribute to the Brazilian aviation pioneer Santos Dumont. It contains the third prototype of the Brazilian-made Bandeirante aircraft, and a replica of the 14-Bis airplane made by Santos Dumont. It also contains sport facilities and a Japanese garden.free.
São Francisco Xavier village. The "city center" of the district is this quiet and cozy village, with its cultural life and most services around Praça Cônego Antônio Manzi.
Cachoeira do Roncador, (Access by a dirt road 11 km from Monteiro Lobato, towards São Francesco Xavier), ☎ 12 3926-1202, . 10AM-6PM. With 45 meters high, it is the tallest waterfall of São Francisco Xavier, that belongs to a private pousada. Check working hours in advance if you plan to go during weekdays. There are some buses to the waterfall departing from the São José dos Campos "Rodoviária Nova" intercity bus terminal.R$ 35 (10AM-3PM), R$ 18 (3PM-6PM).
Cachoeira Pedro David, Cachoeira de São Francisco (3 km from São Francisco Xavier village towards Joanópolis). It is a 15-meter high public waterfall, with tourist infrastructure and easily accessible from the São Francisco Xavier village.
Pico do Selado, São Francisco Xavier (12 km by taking Estrada Municipal Ezequiel Graciano (dirt road)). With 2.082 meters high, it is the tallest peak of the region, located between the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais. The trail has 10 km and it takes about 2:30 hours. It has some difficulty and is not recommended for small children. From the top of the peak, it is possible to see seven cities, including São José dos Campos.
Pedra Redonda, (12 km from São Francisco Xavier, close to the border with Minas Gerais). 1925 meters high, 5.0 km, low difficulty. Possible to view the city of São José dos Campos with good weather.R$ 3.
São Francisco Xavier-Monte Verde Trail, (start at São Francisco Xavier village). The trail between the villages of São Francisco Xavier and Monte Verde (in Minas Gerais) has about 15 km and medium difficulty. It offers an exhuberant view on its highest point. Having a guide is advised.
Municipal Market (Mercado Municipal). Built in 1923, this restored market has many shops offering fruit, vegetables, flowers, herbal medicine, and animals, among other things.
Shopping malls. São José has three large shopping malls: Colinas, Center Vale and Vale Sul. There isn't much difference between them; they are all typical suburban shopping malls: sterile, pedestrian-unfriendly but incredibly convenient, offering a vast range of services and open during evenings and Sundays. With the real estate boom in the city, these commercial centers have been expanding and will soon be comparable to large shopping malls in São Paulo.
Shopping Colinas, Av. São João 2200 - Jardim das Colinas, ☎ 12 39244200, .
Center Vale Shopping, Av. Deputado Benedito Matarazzo, 9403 - Jardim Oswaldo Cruz (Close to Rod. Pres. Dutra), . 10AM-10PM (12AM-20PM on sundays).
Vale Sul Shopping, Av. Andrômeda 277 - Floradas de São José (Close to Rod. Pres. Dutra), . 10AM-22PM (1PM-21PM on sundays).
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Ibis São José dos Campos Dutra, Avenida Cidade Jardim 101 - Jardim Satelite (Close to Vale Sul Shopping), ☎ 12 21395950, . A hotel convenient for business visitors, due to its proximity to Rod. Pres. Dutra. Quite uninteresting surroundings, but it is within walking distance from Vale Sul Shopping.
Crime statistics show that São José dos Campos is safer than São Paulo, yet, it is not exactly a safe city. During the night, avoid wandering in the streets, and keep alert of your surroundings (also when driving). Pay special attention when leaving restaurants, clubs and shopping malls. Poor/dangerous neighborhoods are mostly in the outskirts of the city, but there are some favela's not too far from the city center.
São José was also infamous for the road accidents at Rod. Dutra, but after the installation of several speed radars, the number of accidents has considerably decreased.
While São José dos Campos is certainly not one of the most exciting places in the country, it more than compensates this with its location. Close to the city, it is possible to find wonderful beaches, spetacular mountain ranges, cozy historical towns, and an immense metropolis.
São Paulo, an urban jungle with 20 million people, is the largest city of the south hemisphere
Campos do Jordão, the highest city of Brazil, is famous for its German architecture, its natural landscapes, and its intense nightlife
Caraguatatuba, a popular beach city, is reachable within 1 hour by car or 1:30 hour by bus, and can be done as a day trip
Ubatuba, also a coastal municipality, is a bit further than Caraguatatuba but its natural beauty makes it definitely worth for a weekend trip
São Sebastião, also a bit further from Caraguatatuba, is a coastal city that attracts wealthier and younger crowds
Santo Antônio do Pinhal is a scenic countryside town with some of the most beautiful landscapes of the Vale do Paraíba region
Aparecida contains the Santuário Nacional de Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida, the second largest Roman-catholic temple of the World, attracting 10 million visitors every year
Rio de Janeiro, although more than a couple of hours away, is a popular weekend destination among business visitors to São José dos Campos