São Paulo

São Paulo

São Paulo is awe-inspiring and intimidating in equal measure. This mega city is Brazil’s cultural and economic hub and is jam-packed with world-class restaurants, museums and nightclubs. As it prepares for an influx of tourists for this summer’s 2014 World Cup, it’s time to get to know São Paulo like a true Paulista


Sweet Tooth

A new edition to São Paulo’s ice cream scene, Frida & Mina makes organic artisanal gelato from local ingredients and new flavours are served up each day. Two scoops of cerveza and cioccolato, please.  fridaemina.com.br


Caffeine Rush

Brazil is the world’s largest coffee producer and the locals drink it strong – and often. At Coffee Lab, the pastime has been turned into a science. It sources beans from across Brazil and offers an experimental menu that the baristas, dressed in boiler suits, are happy to explain. coffeelab.com.br


Celebrity chef Alex Atala’s flagship restaurant D.O.M. is regularly listed among the best in the world. It ain’t cheap and there’s always a waiting list but get a table and you’ll taste what all the fuss is about – namely the haute cuisine tasting menu based on indigenous ingredients such as açaí, jambu and tucupi.  domrestaurante.com.br

Art Attack

Pinacoteca do Estado, São Paulo’s oldest visual arts museum is housed in a 19th century neoclassical structure that has been renovated into a contemporary space with glass ceilings and elevated walkways. Permanent and temporary exhibits celebrate Brazilian art from the past two centuries. pinacoteca.org.br



The work of modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer, world-renowned for his abstract, curved forms (inspired by nature and the female body) dominate São Paulo’s skyline. He also had a hand in Ibirapuera Park, which is a much-needed cluster of greenery and lakes in this urban jungle. Joggers, skaters and cyclists congregate here but the park also houses several cultural institutions including the Museu de Arte Moderna and Museu Afro Brasil. parqueibirapuera.org

Spend Thrift

Flea and antique markets offer up hours of delights. On Saturdays Praça Benedito Calixto is filled with furniture, jewellery and crafts and in the afternoon chorinho musicians rouse dancing in the streets.  On Sundays the area around the Museu de Arte de São  Paulo (MASP) turns into a bric-a-brac hunting ground.

Cash Is King

Rua Oscar Freire in the Jardins district is where Brazil’s best brands nestle. Havaianas, Melissa (pictured), Agua  de Coco, 2nd Floor and Maria Bonita all have flagships on this and the nearby streets. The city also has a serious mall culture, the newest of which is Iguatemi where international luxury brands gleam. iguatemi.com.br

Casa Noturna

Pinheiros nightclub Bar Secreto has been drawing in the fabulous for decades. Famed for once hosting an after-party for Madonna, it’s a dark, candle-lit space in which to lounge and drink handcrafted cocktails. For a more intense experience, nightclub D-Edge (pictured) is lined with LED lights that pulse in time to electronic music. barsecreto.com.br ; d-edge.com.br


Samba has provided the rhythm to the city since its beginnings. On Saturday night, sample the sound either at the live music venues downtown such as  Bar Brahma, or at the nightclubs in Vila Madelena and Pinheiros including  the small but fabulous  Ó do Borogodó (pictured). barbrahma.com/br


The five-star hotel Fasano is known for its impeccable service, Italian restaurant and Baretto jazz bar. Resembling a giant copper cruise liner, Hotel Unique houses cabin-style accommodation and a stunning rooftop bar and pool. For those on a budget, We Hostel is the city’s first boutique economy lodgings.  fasano.com.br; hotelunique.com.br; wehostel.com.br

  • Words: Helen Jennings