Brazil: Sao Paulo


In the second of a two-part special on the host of the World Cup, Ernest White II and Juan Cifrian of Time Out São Paulo give us the ultimate insider guide to Brazil’s massive commercial centre

A city of superlatives The massive sprawl of Sao Paulo

As the biggest city in South America, São Paulo is all about superlatives. The city’s traffic might be the worst and its commuters may have reached critical mass years ago, but the delicious abundance of restaurants, the city’s cultural diversity and the hedonistic intensity of its nightlife remain unsurpassed on the continent. São Paulo is the engine driving Brazil’s economic transformation, and the evidence is everywhere – from ramshackle communities on the outskirts to swanky penthouses, art galleries and plush play spaces. All of its conflicting energies can be summed up in one word: exhilarating.

Around Town

Gritty and bustling, Centro – the old downtown area – mixes 19th century European architecture with Latin American hustle. Packed with peddlers of kitsch and tat, shopping street Rua 25 de Março remains a tackily entertaining place to experience the city’s street life. Just south of Centro is Liberdade, São Paulo’s Japantown, rife with kanji and kana signage, Asian cuisine, trinkets and a festive atmosphere at the main plaza’s weekly market.

Cultural capital Liberdade, Sao Paulo's Japantown

For a splash of cool green in the midst of the urban canyon of Avenida Paulista, Parque Trianon (Rua Peixoto Gomide 949, +55 11 3289 2160) offers precious respite as the last remnant of the original Mata Atlântica, the coastal rainforest that’s been decimated by development. For the culturally inclined, the Museu Afro Brasil (Parque do Ibirapuera Portão 10, +55 11 3320 8900;, located in the expansive Parque do Ibirapuera, has more than 6,000 impressive paintings, photographs, costumes and exhibitions related to the African history and culture in Brazil. And for worshippers of the beautiful game, the Museu do Futebol (Praça Charles Miller 1, +55 11 3664 3848;, in the art deco Pacaembu Stadium, is a treat.

Pacaembu Stadium

Unlike in Rio, where the homes of the poorest are always in view, São Paulo’s favelas are less visible to the casual visitor. To get a glimpse, head out into the city’s vast perifería on a tour with São Paulo insider, Flavia Liz Di Paolo (+55 11 3032 2692; The guide, who personalises a variety of tours for her clientele, takes you to Paraisópolis and into the home of Estevão, whose oddly beautiful house is made of teacups and saucers, fragments of ceramic, old telephones and thousands of other bits and pieces, all embedded into lattice-work walls.

Food & Drink

Eating out is a popular pastime in São Paulo, as evidenced by the abundance of chic restaurants, por quilo buffets, corner snack bars and 24-hour luncheonettes. Many eateries are informal, community-centred social spaces where friends and families get together. Pop in to a boteco or lanchonete – one of the innumerable casual diners around town – and have a salgadinho (assorted golden-fried goodness) or a freshly made juice in one of a hundred tropical flavours. Just don’t forget to visit the vast, animated Mercado Municipal (Rua da Cantareira 306, +55 11 3313 1326;, home of what claims to be the world’s biggest Mortadella sandwich. 

The Mercado Municipal

If you need something a little stronger, downtown’s hip Alberta #3 (Avenida São Luis 272, +55 11 3151 5299; is one of the most reliably buzzing joints in town, with its beatnik vibe, rock’n’roll décor theme. If you fancy grabbing some pre-party grub or a quirky cocktail, you’ll find Ramona (Avenida São Luis 282, +55 11 3258 6385; – owned by the same cool crowd – just two doors down, serving up late-night eats and wildly creative cocktails. Over in the bohemian, bustling bar district of Vila Madalena, the stand-out is Astor and its downstairs companion, SubAstor (Rua Delfina 163, +55 11 3815 1364;

Upstairs, Astor is a vintage, high-ceilinged boteco or bar-restaurant, while SubAstor, decked out in dramatic red and black, concocts some of the best cocktails in town – make your descent to the bar and order up the delicious Aviation.

Juice stands

Shopping & Style

Striving to satisfy Paulistanos’ insatiable desire to spend, the city’s infinite shopping malls, called simply ‘shoppings’, dominate the retail landscape in SP. The opulent Shopping JK Iguatemi (Avenida Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek 2041, +55 11 3152 6813;, SP’s trendy new temple of luxury, has all the upmarket brands you’d expect, while the multi-storey Shopping Pátio Higienópolis (Avenida Higienópolis 618, +55 11 3823 2300;, in the ritzy, easily accessible suburb of Higienópolis, combines pricey Brazilian brands with its own fair share of international names. Take your lavish spending spree outdoors to Jardins’s Rua Oscar Freire – known as the Rodeo Drive of São Paulo – which boasts a good collection of key Brazilian brands like shoe emporium Melissa (Rua Oscar Freire 827, +55 11 3083 3612; If posh products aren’t your style, go informal at Praça Benedito Calixto’s Saturday market ( – one of the many weekly feiras – replete with second-hand stalls, live music and typical regional dishes. 

Kibbeh snacks


The hottest samba spot in town, Ó do Borogodó (Rua Horácio Lane 21, +55 11 3814 4087), hosts famous names in the genre who get hips swinging and feet stomping in the syncopated haze of Brazil’s most famous rhythm. Cine Joia (Praça Carlos Gomes 82, +55 11 3231 3705;, the live performance venue and former cinema, offers consistently interesting lineups in a restored downtown gem of a building. Also, for rock, pop, samba and salsa, any night, head to delightfully funky Rua Augusta. The strip just north of Avenida Paulista, dubbed ‘Baixo Augusta,’ bursts with bars, live music venues and clubs for every type: punks, models, transvestites, rastas, preppies and any other social group you can think of. The performance space at Beco 203 (Rua Augusta 609, +55 11 2339 0351;, where a mix of Brazilian and foreign bands take the stage, flat-out rocks.


Nightlife doesn’t exist in São Paulo, because the party runs 24 hours – between the mega-clubs, intimate venues and after-hours spots, it’s amazing anyone gets any sleep. The hottest electronica club is D-Edge (Alameda Olga 170, +55 11 3667 8334;, a trendy place with a constant lineup of heavy-hitting DJs. The quirky, 1950s house-turned-club, Casa 92 (Rua Cristóvão Gonçalves 92, +55 11 3032 0371;, lets you dance under the stars in its tree-covered courtyards, lounge on a sofa or lean up against a retro fridge. DJs spin everything from electro rock to 80s disco, just make sure to leave time to explore the decked-out interior. If neither of these fêtes wear you out, the debauchery at Love Story (Rua Araújo 232, +55 11 3231 3101; doesn’t even start until almost 3am, when the hookers and go-go dancers get together with night owls, tourists and other random partiers to unwind after work.

Parque do Ibirapuera

Getting there
South African Airways flies from Hong Kong to São Paulo via Johannesburg from $16,042 return (inc taxes and surcharges).

See also

Your complete guide to World Cup 2014
Where to watch, drink and celebrate here in Hong Kong. Read more



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