The largest city in the southern hemisphere, São Paulo is Brazil’s economic and cultural capital.
A megalopolis in the most literal sense, São Paulo is growing fast — and so is its non-stop nightlife.
São Paulo has three commercial airports, including the venerable Guarulhos, which was Brazil’s first.
With seven million cars crammed into the city on any given day, traffic is a challenge. The subway is clean, though like LA’s it can’t cover the whole sprawling city. The most efficient (and greenest) option is the bicycle: check out U-bike for rentals.
Though New Yorkers might claim otherwise, today’s world boasts quite a few cities that never sleep. And if you’ve done the rounds of the so-called BRIC countries you’ll know that Brazil’s financial hub, São Paulo, is one of them, a worthy challenger for cities like Beijing and New Delhi — and not just in the “nighttime traffic jams” category. São Paulo’s hypnotic nightlife, a panorama of bright lights and big sounds that line the city’s 20-mile-long main thoroughfares, ensures that Sampa is anything but sleepy. It’s this diverse collection of bars, micro-clubs and lounges that offers the most vivid look at a city whose persuasions run the gamut from the seedy to the high-gloss. Just don’t come expecting to samba — save that for Rio.
The main artery of São Paulo, the Avenida Paulista, marks a cultural boundary too, as it spans from the bustling center down through to the calmer western districts. At the top lies the historic Baixo Augusta district, with its smaller, darker pubs and micro-clubs playing pulsating electronica for a consciously grungy crowd. And at the other end is the refined Pinheiros district, whose lavish banquet-style clubs are often the setting for polished formal events (think Fashion Week). If you simply can’t choose between the two, stay at the Tivoli São Paulo – Mofarrej, an elegant oasis surrounded by the leafy Parque Trianon, one of the few places in the city suited for a stroll amidst the greenery.
Rivaling Avenida Paulista for traffic, Faria Lima runs through the city’s upscale neighborhoods of Pinheiros, Jardim Paulistano, Itaim Bibi and Vila Olímpia. It’s home to the iconic cylindrical Dacon building and the Iguatemi São Paulo shopping center, and more to the point, a host of excellent
Perhaps the best example of a boulevard of extremes, Rua Augusta takes you from São Paulo’s most untamed, animalistic side to its most genteel. At the high end, in Jardim Paulista, there’s the Fasano São Paulo, the design triumph of architects Weinfeld & Kogan. Its lounge bar and Italian restaurant Baretto are must-dos for cocktail hour — as are local hotspots Numero (for its canapés) and Ritz (for its bar). Then there’s the other end of the boulevard, which runs through the Baixo Augusta neighborhood, the former red-light district, currently home to an unapologetic mixture of gay clubs, lounge bars and nightclubs catering to the teenage set. Numerous concept bars — the antique-filled Caos, or the butcher-themed Z Carniceria — as well as baladas like Mono or LAB Club, are nearly decadent enough to be considered inferninhos, or “little hells.” Go to Bar do Netão, the original headquarters of the Voodoohop collective, for a precise illustration of the term.
The immense Avenida Brigadeiro Luís Antônio links the west with the center, by way of some of the city’s most beautiful districts. From the poolside terrace of Skye Bar, atop the Hotel Unique, the view across the Parque Ibirapuera encompasses the city’s compact skyline. Meanwhile, back towards the city center, our journey comes to an end, with Clube Glória, established in the nave of an old church, or Lions Nightclub near the Praça da Sé, intent on reviving the city’s grittier past.