São Paulo is bursting with creativity, from its one-off boutiques and galleries to authentic gastronomic temples.
Lay of the Land
Pinheiros: Sandwiched between Vila Madalena and Jardins, Pinheiros has a rich, multicultural feel, with a wide range of ethnic shops and cafés.
Vila Madalena: São Paulo’s answer to New York City’s West Village is filled with pint-size shops and lounges.
Centro: The once-gritty city center has been reborn, thanks to an influx of nightclubs and restaurants.
Higienópolis: Art lovers won’t want to miss this up-and-coming neighborhood, known for its Modernist architecture and galleries.
Jardins: The top hotels are located here, and the tree-lined Rua Oscar Freire has the city’s most exclusive shopping.
Taxis are the best and safest way to navigate the city (roughly $15 for a 10-minute ride). Luckily, they’re ubiquitous—just try to avoid rush-hour periods (7:30–10 a.m. and 5–8 p.m.).
Video: São Paulo’s Best Street Art
São Paulo: Shop
São Paulo is full of avant-garde fashion, accessories, furniture, and more.
Colorful, boho-chic dresses and tunics are displayed on luggage trolleys at Brazilian designer Adriana Barra’s new flagship store, in Jardins. Barra also creates the vivid prints for the home-furnishings collection on the second floor.
At the rustic-chic Oficina de Agosto, sibling owners Antônio Carlos Bech and Sonia Bech Vitaliano work with craftsmen from the state of Minas Gerais, in the southeast, who produce rough-hewn trunks, whitewashed-framed mirrors, and brightly hued wooden sculptures. 243 Rua Harmonia, Vila Madalena.
Galeria Melissa (pictured) is a mecca for plastic and rubber footwear. Expect stylish sandals, sneakers, and kitten heels by Vivienne Westwood, Karim Rashid, and Jason Wu, among others; the rotating installations by local artists at the massive entranceway draw even the non-shoe obsessed.
The woven baskets, wooden bracelets, and carved objets d’art at Projeto Terra have all been made by regional artisans using sustainable materials. And the shopping is guilt-free; a portion of the profits is reinvested in local communities. 150 Rua Harmonia, Vila Madalena.
São Paulo: See + Do
Seven ways to get your culture fix.
In the Vila Madalena district, Beco do Batman (Rua Gonçalo Afonso) is a long, graffiti-lined alley that continually evolves as street artists add new works. For a more traditional experience, swing by Museu de Arte de São Paulo (1578 Avda. Paulista, Bela Vista); the 1968 Modernist building houses one of the most comprehensive Western art collections (ranging from Botticelli to Diego Rivera) in the Southern Hemisphere. São Paulo is a hotbed for contemporary art galleries: there’s newcomer Raquel Arnaud (125 Rua Fidalga), which represents more than 20 Brazilian artists, including sculptor Frida Baranek; Galeria Vermelho (350 Rua Minas Gerais), showcasing experimental works by international talent such as provocative Danish art collective Superflex; and Galeria Fortes Vilaca (1500 Rua Fradique Coutinho), one of the city’s largest gallery spaces. Leave time to see Oscar Niemeyer’s Auditório Ibirapuera and the impressive collection of Brazilian paintings, sculptures, and artifacts from the 1960’s at Museu de Arte Contemporânea (160 Rua da Praça do Relógio).
São Paulo: Stay
Here, four hotels to meet your taste and budget.
Grand Hyatt: You’ll find one of the top wine lists in town at the Hyatt’s 2,000-plus bottle library lounge. If it’s views you’re after, all 466 spacious rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the pastel-colored rooftops.
Best For: Pleasure-seeking business travelers. $$
Hotel Unique: Shaped like a slice of watermelon, this 95-room property created by renowned Brazilian architect Ruy Ohtake is a design junkie’s dream; the interiors have features including curved hallways, sloped walls, and oversize round windows.
Best For: Architecture geeks. $$
Emiliano: This glass-and-marble tower has 57 white-on-white rooms accented with furniture designed by the Compana Brothers and Eames. Relax in the renovated spa or in your bathroom’s claw-foot tub.
Best For: Stylish travelers seeking easy access to the city’s top boutiques. $$
Fasano: Brazilian innovators Isay Weinfeld and Marcio Kogan designed this sexy retreat with clubby leather armchairs and Brazilian modern art. Downstairs, there’s the see-and-be-seen Italian restaurant, where São Paulo’s creative set gathers.
Best For: Sophisticates and fashion gurus. $$$
Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000
São Paulo: Eat
Five spots to try in São Paulo’s white-hot culinary scene.
Maní: Classic dishes such as feijoada, a hearty bean, beef, and pork stew, get a modern spin here; Brazilian ex-model chef Helena Rizzo and her Catalan husband, Daniel Redondo, both worked at El Celler de Can Roca, one of Spain’s temples to molecular gastronomy. $$
Mocoto: It’s a 45-minute drive from the city center to Mocoto, in Vila Medeiros, but the trek is worth it. Sophisticated Paulistas come to sample chef Rodrigo Oliverira’s northern Brazilian specialties, including mouthwatering torresmos (fried pig skin) and rich mocofava (cow-hoof soup with sausage). $$
D.O.M.: A required stop for foodies (and big-name chefs from Alain Ducasse to Ferran Adrià), D.O.M. serves a tasting menu by pioneering chef Alex Atala that showcases Brazilian flavors. Two standouts: the shrimp infused with cashew juice and tamarind and the banana-lime dessert scented with floral priprioca root, previously used only for perfume. $$$
Epice: A massive wooden door marks the entrance to this French-inspired restaurant run by 32-year-old Alberto Landgraf, whose previous experience includes stints at Pierre Gagnaire, in Paris, and Gordon Ramsay, in London. His whimsical menu plays with textures: a deceptively simple entrée presents squash three ways—raw, as a cream, and in gnocchi. 1002 Rua Haddock Lobo, Jardim Paulista; 55-11/3062-0866. $$$
Tordesilhas: Chef Mara Salles still uses the recipes she learned from her mother while growing up in the countryside at this low-key spot in Consolação. What to order? The tender duck braised in tucupi, a spicy cassava broth, followed by house-made tapioca ice cream. 465 Rua Bela Cintra, Consolação; 55-11/3107-7444. $$
Five to Savor
Don’t leave town without trying these local staples.
Brigadeiro: These cocoa-filled bonbons are made in dozens of flavors (pistachio and cachaça are two) at Maria Brigadeiro (68 Rua Capote Valente, Pinheiros; 55-11/3085-3687).
Coffee: The trailblazer of artisanal coffee in São Paulo is Isabela Raposeiras of Coffee Lab (1340 Rua Fradique Coutinho, Pinheiros; 55-11/3375-7400), who roasts beans from small Brazilian farms. Order a steaming cup of Bourbon Vermelho.
Pizza: Thanks to its sizable Italian community, São Paulo is famous for its outstanding pies; don’t miss the classic Neapolitan margherita at Speranza (1004 Rua 13 Maio, Bela Vista; 55-11/3288-8502; $$).
Pão de Queijo: Fresh batches of this irresistibly chewy, buttery bread made with cassava flour are baked daily at the pocket-size Pão de Queijo Haddock Lobo ($).
Pastel: The light and crisp codfish turnover, a street-food favorite, can be found at the Saturday market in Praça Benedito Calixto. Or, try the spicy and creamy version filled with African bobotie shrimp stew and yuca cream at Casa das Ostras (3 Rua Joaquim de Brito, Jardim Imbé; 55-11/5897-2969; $$).
Restaurant Pricing Key
$ Less than $25
$$ $25 to $75
$$$ $75 to $150
$$$$ More than $150
São Paulo: Local Take
Three insiders share their top picks in the city they call home.
Editor of Brazilian magazine Bamboo
Where I Go…
For Weekend Exercise: On Sundays, I ride my bike on Ciclo-Faixa, a 40-mile lane that passes through vibrant streets like Jardins’ tree-lined Alameda Lorena.
For Stylish Furnishings: “There’s a great collection of sleek glass tables at Jacqueline Terpins (374 Rua Gustavo Teixeira, Higienópolis).”
For a Light Brunch: “The vibe at Las Chicas Restaurant (1607 Rua Oscar Freire, Pinheiros; $$) is lovely; order cappuccino with doce de leite.”
Chef at D.O.M.
Where I Go…
For Sushi: “The sushi in São Paulo is top-notch. One of my favorite spots is Jun Sakamoto ($$).”
To Expand My Art Collection: “Choque Cultural (997 Rua João Moura, Pinheiros) has innovative street art curated by owner Baixo Ribeiro.”
For a Low-Key Dinner: “I love Tenda do Nilo (638 Rua Coronel Oscar Porto, Paraíso; $$), a Lebanese joint with incredible fried kibbe.”
Where I Go…
To Decorate My House: “For one-of-a kind porcelain vases and bowls, go to Amoreira (510 Rua dos Macunis, Alto de Pinheiros).”
For Cocktails: “In Vila Madalena, Sabiá (370 Rua Purpurina, Vila Madalena) serves delicious caipirinhas.”
For a Quick Bite: “Don’t miss the Beirute sandwich—pita bread filled with roast beef, mozzarella, and tomatoes—at Frevo (603 Rua Oscar Freire, Jardins; 55-11/3082-3434; $).”
Come sunset, São Paulo transforms into a late-night playground.
10 p.m.: The night is just heating up. Head to Emporio Sagarana (883 Rua Marco Aurélio, Lapa; 55-11/3539-6560) for a refreshing glass of cachaça.
Midnight: Sip classic cocktails such as the amaretto-infused Corleone at Suite Savalas (398 Rua Mato Grosso, Consolação; 55-11/3259-4355).
2 a.m.: Hit the dance floor at Casa 92 (92 Rua Cristovão Gonçalves, Pinheiros), an exclusive club (though there’s no velvet rope) that feels like a private home.