São Paulo’s not a city in The States, and not a city in Japan. There’s only one São Paulo, and it’s in Brazil. Imagine, a concrete jungle with hints of the rain forest, inhabited by a global melting pot, speaking Portuguese. At a population reaching over 11 million, there’s no way to grasp the vastness and hunger of this vibrant hub.
Like a Latin Gotham in a metropolis this booming, obviously there’s some places to stay clear of. The favelas for one. But in general, there’s no reason to clutch your pockets. Paulistanos (peeps from SP) are happy, warm, and able to just giver at the job all day, and giver at the club all night. Our kind of people.
If you have 24 hours to spend there, with the good Paulistanos, you can’t expect to hit a number of neighborhoods. So, the most encompassing way to absorb the essence of São Paulo is to explore in and around Jardins — the city’s artsiest and most culture-centric area. And it spans to Paulista Ave, São Paulo’s Wall Street, if you will. Whatever you box it in with, to Brazil, its importance is unparalleled.
During your wanderings here you’ll find the restaurants you need to try, from traditional to modern, shopping you’ll feel naked without, and sights that will make you forget you were ever stressed about the 15 hour flight you took to get there. There’s also nice museums, but we skipped those. You’ve got one day, and one night, and they’re going to be damn near flawless.
Here’s how to spend a day in São Paulo.
Açaí For Breakfast
Brazilians aren’t big on breakfast, especially through the filter of a North American. For those of us who can’t function without a satisfying meal to start the day, opt for Açaí. You can find it at nearly every bodega and corner grocer. Long before the “superfood” became a trend in US juiceries, it was a way of life for the BR locals, and said to possesses anti-aging properties. Maybe that’s what keeps them all looking so damn young. Either way, it’s a large purple berry from the Açaí Palm tree they blend into a light frozen yogurt served with oats, grains, honey, and sliced banana. Açaí > parfait any day.
Tip: If coffee is part of your routine, here’s to hoping you like it strong. Coffee in brazil will crack you out. It’s served espresso sized, so if you need a grande+, do your best to resist the urge and avoid the nearest Starbucks. They’re rare, but they’re there. And so are you, so embrace the crack coffee.
View From Edifício Itália
You can’t plunge into São Paulo until you understand it, and you can’t even begin to fathom it until you see it from the top of Edifício Itália. The 46 story skyscraper is fairly downtown as far as SP goes, and when you’re looking at it from here, you’ll know why. The city is completely dense in every direction. It’s like a Kardashian’s closet with towers for textiles–buildings on buildings on buildings, with no end. Getting from one neighborhood to another can take around 4 hours. With a birds-eye-view, you’ll feel more at ease with the traffic, more in tune with their timing, and less annoyed with New York. It’s the reason they arrive to work late, stay late, and get to the party early, meaning very late. This is their pulse, get on its beat.
Tip: Getting to the top is simple, just take the elevator. Up there you’ll find the Terraço Itália Restaurante, a fine dining experience with a 360 view the city. Plan to stay for drinks, or a pricey meal, if you’re a romantic.
Av. Ipiranga, 334 – República
São Paulo, 01046-010, Brazil
+55 11 3257-5977
Shop At Alexandre Herchcovitch
The shop’s modern and minimal layout highlights his latest and more high-end collections, which merge an aesthetic of street wear, such as skulls, biblical prints, and printed sleeves, with the eclectic fashion philosophies of the mixed local culture. The result is grimy, chic, urban, luxury.
Tip: This flagship hosts exclusive runway items, we’re talking 1/1. So if you really want to pound that #VeryRare hashtag, save up for here.
R. Haddock Lobo, 1151
São Paulo, 01414-003, Brazil
+55 11 3063-2866
Walk Rua Augusta
Rua Augusta is where you’ll get a sense of #SP’s youth culture. This long street is home to hipster-esque retail spaces, bars, and foodie hubs, from music and vintage stores, to tattoo and piercing shops — within blocks you’ll pass a colorful array of style to fulfill any curiosity. And if something looks interesting, pop in. Here, they love meeting foreigners, so take advantage of the accessibility and wander as desired. Look no further if you’re on the hunt for knick-knacks and souvenirs.
Tip: Keep your eyes on the walls and alleys, not for suspect looking sketchies (though that never hurts) but for sketches, er, graffiti, or as we prefer to call it, street art. SP can boast some of the world’s best painted walls.
Lunch At Rodeio
For a Brazilian, lunch is the most important meal. At this time of day, around late afternoon, their plates lean towards the heavier side. And you’re joining them. Now can you say, “churrascaria?” Explained to english speakers as “brazilian BBQ,” it’s essentially cooking meat on a long skewer over charcoal. But you’re not going to let some potentially bad street meat ruin your trip. So we’re sending you to the most beloved churrascaria in the city, Rodeio, located in the heart of Jardins. Careful, Rodeio may change your view of the New York Strip forever.
Tip: Order sliced picanha. It’s brazil’s most favorite cut of beef, and it will be yours, too.
R. Haddock Lobo, 1498 – Jardim Paulista
São Paulo, 01414-002, Brazil
+55 11 3474-1333
Visit Ibirapuera Park
Often dubbed by Americans as São Paulo’s Central Park, this huge urban garden and lake oasis is anything but as it so aptly reflects a Brazilian lifestyle so separate from our joggers and dog walkers. For example, sure there are skateboarders and rollerbladers, but they’re totally unrecognizable by our standards, even if you’ve considered yourself good at one or the other. The skateboards are closer to longboards, and you’ll see lines of boarders going as fast as they can towards hills outlined by cones. Cones enclose the bottom of the hill with a dead end, which the boarder must play chicken with, skidding to a halt inches before by pivoting their body sideways with the board, sometimes slamming arm pads into the concrete as anchors. The rollerbladers are doing something that more closely resembles ballet, carefully balancing on wheels while spinning through courses of ankle-high obstacles.
Do a lap around the lake, but walk, don’t run. This isn’t a work out, leave that to the dudes in spandex. You’re on vacation. Plus the idea is to enjoy your surroundings, and you don’t want to miss a moment. We’re talking nature and people watching.
Tip: Bring a camera. This is
photo-op central Instagram heaven.
Av. Pedro Álvares Cabral
São Paulo, Brazil
+55 11 5574-5045
Caipirinha is Brazil’s national cocktail. Our apologies to the mixologists out there, but this simple (and strong) drink beats out your complex flavor bouncing bull any day. Though traditionally made with lime, the way it’s done nowadays is starting by picking your favorite fruit. Pineapple? Strawberries? Grapes? Kiwi? Tangerines? Passion fruit? Whatever it is, it’s fresh, and at the bottom of your glass buried under a mountain of sugar cane. The fruits and sugar are then muddled and meshed together, before being topped by ice and a generous pouring of Cachaça, BR’s most common alcohol (which is fermented from sugar cane juice). And there you have it. Fruit, sugar, and alcohol. No flavoring here, just natural, refreshing, cold, drunkenness.
Take a break and check out a bar that intrigues you, caipirinha can be found anywhere that liquor is.
Tip: If you prefer the taste of vodka, you can always order yours with vodka instead of cachaça. Even some locals do.
Dinner At Spot
São Paulo is home to models, fashionistas, movie makers, and overall move makers, and they’re all eating at Spot. This top notch restaurant is so modish we couldn’t believe it opened in 1994, as it could be plucked from the ground, dropped in Manhattan, and no one would be the wiser.
Come here for dinner and drinks to mingle with the cool, something a loner with Lonely Planet would never find.
Tip: Spot truly is the spot, so make reservations. And when you do, request to sit outside. Not only will you be taking in the tropical weather with a 1st class meal, but you’ll be exposed to the square’s water show, which is like a mini version of the Bellagio fountains.
Alameda Min. Rocha Azevedo, 72 – Cerqueira César
São Paulo, 01410-000, Brazil
+55 11 3283-0946
Party At BallRoom
You can picture this venue from the name, sort of. Like a traditional ballroom, the room decor consists of white pillars, chandeliers, and long black cushioned seats with gold trimmings. Unlike a ballroom, there’s a disco ball, and no one is dancing the waltz. Think Cinderella meets House Party. Arrive at midnight, and let your eve of raging begin.
Tip: BallRoom sells Halls and cigarettes. When you see people buying up Halls by the dozen, don’t stress the germs because they aren’t sick. Though Halls are known as a cough drop here, they’re considered candy there. And somewhat sexual. Hmm.
R. Augusta, 3000 – Jardim Paulista
São Paulo, 01412-100, Brazil
+55 11 4328-3001
Keep Partying At D.Edge
Because your phone is dead by now, check your watch. If it reads somewhere between 4 and 5am, that’s your cue to head to an after hours club. Sorry, the after hours club – D.Edge.
D.Edge’s three floors consist of 2 themed floors with live DJs for dancing, and an open air smoking roof for hanging out, and trading phone numbers. The futuristic discotheque has a window programmed to open and close at random times in the AM, sporadically showering the dance floor in sun, reminding you just what time it is. Or isn’t. There’s also a wall that acts as a graph of colored lights that beat to the music’s sound waves.
Tip: Drink red bull. If you opened it, that is.
Alameda Olga, 170 – Barra Funda
São Paulo, 01155-040, Brazil
+55 11 3665-9500