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36 Hours in So Paulo, Brazil

Ana Ottoni for The New York Times Galerie Leme, in a building designed by Paulo Mendes da Rocha More Photos
By SETH KUGEL Published: March 10, 2011

A CITY of high-rises and traffic jams in a country of rain forests and beaches, So Paulo, South Americas biggest metropolis, is a Brazilian freak of nature, except without the nature. But the citys flaws high prices, street crime, incessant drizzle are no match for its strengths artistic and business energy, relentless night life. Sometimes, it even manages to turn its flaws into assets, as when celebrated architects take ugly concrete and create post-Brutalist masterpieces, like Isay Weinfelds sleek bookstore Livraria da Vila on Alameda Lorena. So Paulos 11 million-plus inhabitants do their part by infusing the din with contagious Brazilian energy; those flashing smiles and thumbs-up signs are among the few things the city shares with the rest of the vast country whose booming economy it anchors.
Sao Paulo Travel Guide

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36 Hours So Paulo, Brazil

So Paulo, Brazil

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Ana Ottoni for The New York Times

Antiques fair in the old Italian neighborhood of Bixiga. More Photos Friday 3 p.m. 1) GRIMY GLORY The elite may snap up luxury apartments as far from the heart of the city as possible, but So Paulos historic center still bustles with government employees and other office workers who have a nice secret on their hands. Sure, parts of the center could use a rinse in a giant urban bathtub, but much of the former glory is intact, including the citys most beautiful art museum, the Pinacoteca (Praa da Luz, 2; 55-11-3324-1000;, housed in a former high school. Dont miss the adjacent sculpture garden before hopping a subway to So Bento to get lost in the busy street commerce on Rua 25 de Maro ( and stroll the pedestrian-only streets near the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (Rua lvares Penteado, 112; 55-11-3113-3600;, a glorious old bank building turned exhibition space, where Islam: Art and Civilization is currently showing.

6 p.m. 2) COCKTAILS OR CAFFEINE? When the business bustle dies down, make your way past the grand old Teatro Municipal (Rua Lbero Badar, 377) toward one of the classic works by Brazils bestknown architect, Oscar Niemeyer: the marvelously undulating 38-story Copan apartment building (Avenida Ipiranga, 200;, now home to a diverse community of residents. Choose your pick-me-up at the ground floor shopping center: a creamy espresso at the old-school, standing-room-only Caf Floresta, or a creative caipirinha cocktail at the classy and ballyhooed two-year-old Bar da Dona Ona (55-11-3257-2016; 8 p.m. 3) VERTICAL JUNGLE Enough grime. Find the nearest ponto de txi (taxi stand) and flee to upscale Vila Olmpia to dine with the elite at Ka (Avenida Juscelino Kubitschek, 279; 55-11-30450043; Stepping through the barely marked entrance into the Arthur Casas-designed restaurant is like entering an alternative universe. The showstopper is the 4,300-square-foot vertical garden, a wall draped in plant species from the Mata Atlntica the rapidly disappearing rain forest So Paulo used to be a part of. The contemporary menu Brie tortellini with fig jam in sage butter, squid stuffed with crayfish and black risotto is worth the steep price. (Dinner for two with drinks and dessert can approach 300 reais, about $185 at 1.63 reais to the dollar.) 11 p.m. 4) HOUSE PARTY In Vila Olmpia, high-end nightclubs come and go, but the conspicuously consuming playboys and the surgically enhanced women they buy Champagne for are, alas, forever. Instead, head to Casa 92 (Rua Cristovo Gonalves, 92, Largo da Batata; 5511-3032-0371;, a new nightspot in what surely must have been the home of someones grandmother. As you wander from room to room and through the pleasant outdoor spaces, you might find yourself crashing a birthday party, striking up a caipirinha-fueled conversation or hitting the upstairs dance floor where recently formed couples make out. Saturday 4 a.m. or 9 a.m. 5) BREAKFAST AND BED Ending a long night on the town or starting a big day on the town at a padoca (the informal term for bakery) are two mutually exclusive So Paulo traditions. You can do either at Bella Paulista (Rua Haddock Lobo, 354; 55-11-3214-3347;, a padoca on steroids where the late-night crowd feasts on everything from pastries (very good) to oversize hot sandwiches (good) to salads (decent) to pizza (not so much). Starting at 7 a.m., theres also a 26.90-real breakfast buffet, with breads and pastries, fruit, eggs and cold cuts. For a cheaper option, ask your hotel for directions to a

neighborhood padoca and order fresh orange juice and a po na chapa, a roll buttered and grilled until crisp. 11 a.m. 6) ART RUN Plan a tour through So Paulos energetic gallery scene using the widely available, excellent Mapa das Artes. You might start at funky Choque Cultural (Rua Joo Moura, 997; 55-11-3061-4051;, a crumbling old house that always has something surprising or provocative, then walk to the slick six-month-old Zipper Galeria (Rua Estados Unidos, 1494; 55-11-4306-4306;, which features 23 young Brazilian artists. A step up in class is Nara Roesler (Avenida Europa, 655; 55-11-3063-2344; Then hop a taxi just across the Pinheiros River to Galeria Leme (Rua Agostinho Cantu, 88; 55-11-3814-8184;, housed in a contemporary So Paulo structure designed by the architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha. Note: those prostitutes hanging out on the nearby street corner are not a performance art installation. 2 p.m. 7) BIA AWAITS Saturday is for feijoada, the classic Brazilian dish of black bean stew brimming with every part of a pig you can imagine. Feijoada da Bia (Rua Lopes Chaves, 105; 55-113663-0433) is hidden away in a homey setting in the Barra Funda neighborhood (but within walking distance of the Marechal Deodoro subway stop). Its 62 reais for all you can eat not cheap, but that includes an easygoing chorinho band, and possibly even free booze: recently, the owner, Bia Braga, has been doling out samples of her new house cachaa, produced by a family distillery in Minas Gerais state. 8 p.m. 8) THEATER SCENE The language barrier may make seeing a play untenable, but that doesnt mean you cant dive into the hip alternative theater scene around Praa Roosevelt. Mingle with the pre- and post-theater crowd at nearby bars like Rose Velt (Praa Franklin Roosevelt, 124; 55-11-3129-5498;, a cozy spot with quirky dcor, like the patch of tiled So Paulo sidewalk on one wall. It carries Colorado-brand pale ale (brewed in So Paulo state), a nice change when the corporate swill youll get at most bars around town grows old. Sunday 10 a.m. 9) ALLS FAIR Weekends bring out lovers of all things vintage to antiques fairs. One of the best starts at 8 a.m. on Sundays at Praa Dom Orione in the Italian neighborhood of Bixiga. It attracts a So Paulo mishmash of gay and straight, old and young, families and couples, all checking out old-fashioned cameras, antique walking canes and posters, and

rummaging through piles of bossa nova LPs and vintage clothes. Several antiques stores also line the park to satisfy indefatigable shoppers. 12:30 p.m. 10) ARTFUL CUISINE From afar, the red-striped skyscraper known as the Instituto Tomie Ohtake (Avenida Faria Lima, 201; 55-11-2245-1900; resembles a contemporary tribute to the candy cane, though from street level, its oddball curves and colors become mesmerizing. And the creative range of exhibits inside including paintings by the nonagenarian Brazilian-Japanese Ms. Ohtake herself are well worth the trip. But the nearly 10-year-old institute just scored a game-changer: Santinho, a restaurant from the well-regarded chef Morena Leite. Ms. Leite, whose Capim Santo ( has long been a stop for upscale Brazilian cuisine, has put together a super-fresh lunch buffet of gorgeous salads and cold dishes (from quinoa to banana and raisin to tuna tartare mixed with tapioca pearls), main courses (wild duck in blackberry sauce, the Brazilian classic dried beef with abbora squash) and such desserts as crepe-like tapioca filled with the decadent cocoa-and-condensed-milk dessert called brigadeiro. Its pricey (58.50 reais on Sundays), but the art is free. IF YOU GO Stay away from business hotels in South Zone neighborhoods like Vila Olmpia or Brooklin theyre too far from the excitement. Big spenders will be taken care of at the Emiliano (Rua Oscar Freire, 384; 55-11-3069-4369;, a top boutique hotel, on luxurious Oscar Freire Street, home to some of the citys best restaurants and shops. Rooms start at $570 and theres that convenient roof helipad. An unconventional choice for those wanting to stay near the city center (but in a safe neighborhood) is the Hotel Pergamon (Rua Frei Caneca, 80; 55-11-3123-2021;, in Baixo Augusta. Pergamon, originally a boutique hotel, has morphed into a spot for small-scale business conferences. But its DNA is unspoiled: the lobby features Brazilian art mostly by artists from the northeast; the rooms have stylish touches, and many have skyline views; and the restaurant serves traditional dishes. Doubles start at 260 reais (about $160).