Nightlife, cuisine, art and fashion are the main attractions of Sao Paulo, the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the Southern Hemisphere.
Residents — known as Paulistanos — enjoy going out, and there are plenty of cool bars and clubs to choose from. Thanks to the city’s large immigrant communities, Sao Paulo also features some of the best Japanese and Italian food in the world.
Start your day with a walking tour of the old downtown neighbourhood of Centro. Take a look at the Copan building designed by Brazilian modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer at Avenida Ipiranga, 200, then climb to the top of the Banespa building for a 360-degree view of the city (Rua João Brícola, 24).
In the afternoon, catch the Metro out to the Avenida Paulista and take in some fine art at the MASP at Avenida Paulista, 1578. To check out the hottest new Brazilian artists, visit Galeria Vermelho, galeriavermelho.com.br, a space dedicated to contemporary art.
Have dinner at Spot (Alameda Ministro Rocha Azevedo, 72), a trendy restaurant not far from Galeria Vermelho, where cool young people hang out. Later head to Vila Madalena, the bohemian district, to have a chopp, or draft beer, in one of the many open-air bars, or go to Baixo Augusta, a more underground-type area. In recent years, this red light district, along Rua Augusta and the two parallel avenues, Rua Bela Cintra and Rua Frei Caneca, has become an interesting area full of stylish bars and clubs.
Where to stay
Budget: Casa Club Hostel Bar
In the heart of bohemian Vila Madalena, this trendy hostel has a bar that’s popular with students from the University of Sao Paulo and neighbourhood regulars. As well as dorms there are single and double rooms. From: $70 US for a private en-suite. Rua Mourato Coelho, 973; casaclub.com.br.
Mid-range: Blue Tree Towers
An affordable hotel in a good location, one block away to Avenida Paulista and next to the upmarket Jardins district. There are 256 rooms with balconies offering great views of this sprawling city. From $150, Rua Peixoto Gomide, bluetree.com.br.
One of the finest hotels in the city, the Fasano has 1930s-inspired decor, with brown leather chairs, parquet floors and huge windows. This elegant hotel belongs to Rogério Fasano, a well-connected owner of seven restaurants in the town. The hotel’s bar, Baretto, was named one of the most pleasant places in the world by Wallpaper magazine. From $622. Rua Vittorio Fasano, 88; fasano.com.br.
Where to shop
Food: Mercado Municipal
You can find almost everything in the 318 stalls of Mercado Municipal, the central food market known for its diversity of aromas, colours and flavours. The market sells fruits, vegetables, wine, cheese, chocolate, meats, spices and condiments. The market is famous for the salt-cod (bacalhau) pastel at Hocca Bar and the mortadella sandwich at Bar do Mané. Rua da Cantareira, 306; mercadomunicipal.com.br.
Brazilian designers who show at Sao Paulo Fashion Week, including Alexandre Herchcovitch, Tufi Duek and Glória Coelho, have their stores in the Jardins district. Oscar Freire, the most upmarket street in the city, is located in this elegant area, and is home to international labels including Armani, Diesel, Tiffany and Calvin Klein.
• Alexandre Herchcovitch, Rua Haddock Lobo, 1151.
• Tufi Duek, Fórum, Rua Oscar Freire, 916; forum.com.br.
• Glória Coelho, Rua Bela Cintra, 2173; gloriacoelho.com.br.
Music: Livraria Cultura
Find the best music from famous Brazilian singers including Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and João Gilberto, as well as indie local bands, at Livraria Cultura, the biggest bookstore in the city. Livraria Cultura, Conjunto Nacional, Avenida Paulista, 2073. livrariacultura.com.br.
You’ll find smart arts and crafts from different states in Brazil at Feira Moderna, a store in the Vila Madalena district. For Brazilian gems, polished stones and all things made from them try Presentes Azussa, in Liberdade, Sao Paulo’s Japanese district. Brazil national soccer kits are available, in all sizes, at airport stores and malls. Feira Moderna, Rua Fradique Coutinho, 1246; and Presentes Azussa, Rua Galvão Bueno, 230.
Where to eat
Fogo de chão is the most famous churrascaria in Brazil. It serves churrasco, which is meat, poultry or fish roasted on spits over an open fire.
It’s also a good place to try guaraná, a soft drink made from the Amazonian fruit of the same name, and caipirinha, the national drink in Brazil, made with crushed lime, ice, sugar, and cachaça, a liquor distilled from sugarcane. Fogo de Chão, Avenida Moreira Guimarães, 964. fogodechao.com.br/home.htm.
Authentic and trendy
Sister restaurant to the exquisite restaurant of the same name in the hip beach town of Trancoso, south of Bahia, Capim Santo is set in a lovely garden with plenty of outside tables.
The restaurant’s menu offers nouvelle cuisine with Brazilian ingredients and young chef Morena Leite uses tropical specialities (such as the capim-santo, which means Holy Grass) in recipes of her own creation. A gourmet highlight is the stew of prawns in coconut milk, served in a hollowed-out pumpkin. Capim Santo, Alameda Ministro Rocha Azevedo, 471. capimsanto.
The best restaurant in town
Chef Alex Atala’s D.O.M. is one of the 50 top restaurants in the world, according to the U.K.’s Restaurant magazine.
A former DJ, Atala is known for transforming traditional Brazilian dishes by using French and Italian cuisine’s rigorous techniques and indigenous Brazilian ingredients.
Some of his famous dishes include Robala with Tucupi and Tapioca, Pupunha Fettucine alla Carbonara and Carabinero Risotto with Horseradish Sorbet. D.O.M. Rua Barão de Capanema, 549, domrestaurante.com.br.
Where to drink
Salve Jorge is a typical boteco, where Paulistanos end their day and begin their evening. These neighbourhood bars or pubs offer drink, food and plenty of conversation. “Retractable roof plus sexy crowd plus beer on dry ice equals party waiting to happen,” says The New York Times of this place in the heart of Vila Madalena. Rua Aspicuelta, barsalvejorge.com.br.
Located in an old butcher’s shop, this bar decorated with meat-themed art attracts a young cool crowd. The owner, Facundo Guerra, has also runs a club (Vegas vegasclub.com.br and another bar (Volts, barvolt.com.br) also in the Baixo Augusta area. Rua Augusta, 934. zcarniceria.com.br.
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