36 Hours in São Paulo - Brazil
São Paulo, Brazil's biggest and most modern city has plenty of flair. Sip caipirinhas at a glamorous bar surrounded by the city's upper crust, accessorized with $10,000 Panerai watches on one arm and a fashion model on the other. Shop at obscenely luxurious stores like Daslu, a boutique so exclusive that customers often arrive by helicopter. Or sit in a cafe on Oscar Freire Street and watch the rich and the beautiful pass by.
1) CULTURE PARK
Get downtown before rush hour and head to Luz, a once-drug-infested neighborhood that has been spruced up. Swing through the Estação da Luz (Praça da Luz, 1), a late-19th-century train station that has been beautifully renovated, before strolling through the Praça da Luz, a palm-lined garden where bands play sertanejo music (Brazilian country tunes) from a gazebo-like bandstand. Fanciful sculptures dot the lush grounds. Among them are the coconut-size beaded necklaces by the Brazilian artist Lygia Reinach that are draped across trees like moss. If you want more Brazilian art, head inside the Pinacoteca do Estado (Praça da Luz, 2; 55-11-3324-1000), a gorgeously restored museum that features some of the country's best artists.
2) FOAMY BREW
The quality of a bar in São Paulo is measured in large part by its chopp (SHO-pee), the Brazilian-style draft beer. And the pouring process is as much an art for Brazilians as Guinness-pouring is to the Irish. The undisputed chopp masters can be found at Bar Léo (Rua Aurora, 100; 55-11-3221-0247; www.barleo.com.br), a German-themed joint in the city's gritty center. To test the barman's skills, ask for a leitinho (lay-CHEEN-yo), all head and no beer. It may sound crazy to the foam-phobic American beer guzzler, but the all-head beer is so creamy, you may just become a convert.
3) CAETANO ATE HERE
Despite its beery name, Bar Brahma (Avenida São João, 677; 55-11-3333- 0855; www.barbrahmasp.com) serves traditional Brazilian dishes like pastéis de carne sêca (fried pastries filled with dried beef) and stroganoff served with rice and covered in potato sticks (entrees start at 20 reais, or $11, at 1.86 reais to the dollar). Wash it down with chopp, while sampling some Música Popular Brasileira or MPB (literally, Brazilian Popular Music). Or sit outside on the terrace, which overlooks the intersection of Avenida Ipiranga and Avenida São João. As everyone will tell you, this is where Caetano Veloso's soulful song "Sampa" starts out. Legend has it that Caetano wrote the song from there.
4) 24-HOUR BREAD
If you missed the after-party feeding frenzy the night before, don't worry. Galeria dos Pães, or Bread Gallery (1645 Rua Estados Unidos; 55-11-3064-5900; www.galeriadospaes.com.br), a 24-hour food market, is still going strong at breakfast time. Pick up a chicken croquette at the snack bar or, better yet, graze the buffet breakfast (17.80 reais) in the mezzanine. Help yourself to fresh-squeezed orange juice, strong espresso with steamed milk, pastries, cheeses and cold cuts. Those last two may seem a bit like American lunch, but this is a traditional Brazilian breakfast.
5) HOW THE 1 PERCENT LIVES
Income inequality is a fact of life in Brazil, and if you're coming from breakfast at the Galeria dos Pães, you can check on how the rich are doing by strolling through the upscale Jardim América neighborhood, ending up at the upscale but more businesslike Avenida Paulista, one of the city's more walkable thoroughfares. Stop into the Art Museum of São Paulo (Avenida Paulista, 1578; 55-11-3251-5644; www.masp.uol.com.br), known locally as MASP (MAHS-pee), a striking Brutalist-style building that is missing a ground floor. Four huge pillars lift the concrete-and-glass box off the ground.
6) WIRELESS SHOPPING
Take a cab to ritzy Rua Oscar Freire, where Rodeo Drive meets Newbury Street in Boston, with cafes like Santo Grão (Oscar Freire, 413; 55-11-3082-9969) and high-end shops like Calvin Klein and La Perla sharing pricey real estate with Brazilian brands like Cris Barros and Osklen, known for its cool surfwear (No. 645; 55-11-3083-7977; www.osklen.com). The whole street was renovated last year: the city put in benches and streetlights and, most remarkably, buried the power lines, providing a brief respite from the city's infernal wire-crossing madness. To a weary tourist, that's a luxury in and of itself.
7) FOR FINE DINING
Picking a fine restaurant is like finding hay in a haystack. On weekends, affluent Paulistanos pack into Rodeio (Rua Haddock Lobo, 1498; 55-11-3474-1333; www.churrascariarodeio.com.br), a high-end steakhouse where picanha (top sirloin) is grilled before your eyes. Instead of letting your steak get cold, the graceful service doles out smaller, just-cooked portions. The show extends to the grilled heart of palms, which is sliced open before you, and the arroz rodeio, a crunchy rice dish made with potato sticks, chives, egg and tiny pieces of bacon that are tossed together like a salad. Dinner runs about 75 reais a person.
8) SAMBA OFF THE CALORIES
You've done the gritty thing, you've done the elite thing, now take a taxi (25 to 30 reais) to Vila Madalena and do the bohemian thing. The neighborhood, where the main streets are bustling and walkable, is full of affordable, unassuming clubs with live music. If you're into samba (or want to learn what all the fuss is about), pop into Salve Simpatia (Rua Mourato Coelho, 1329; 55-11-3814-0501), which brings a bit of Rio's energy with feverish drums and playful sculptures. Paulistanos aren't known for their dance moves, but if you're still feeling shy, take your (chokingly strong) caipirinha (10 reais) to the balcony and watch from above. For a quieter scene, a guitar player strums and sings at the tiny Feitiço de Águila (Rua Inácio Pereira da Rocha, 618; 55-11-3813-8868; www.feiticodavila.com.br).
9) GET THEE TO A MONASTERY
Unlike the traffic nightmare during the week, downtown São Paulo can feel like a ghost town on weekends. One exception is São Bento (Largo de São Bento; 55-11-3328-8799; www.mosteiro.org.br), a stately monastery and church that draws huge crowds on Sundays. It's not so much a religious thing as a cultural event, with Gregorian chants accompanying the 10 a.m. Mass. Get there early if you plan to get a seat.
10) AT THE MERCADãO
Embrace the crowds at the city's grand old Paulistano Municipal Market (Rua da Cantareira, 306; 55-11-3228-0673; www.mercadomunicipal.com.br), more informally called the Mercadão. The 135,000-square-foot space is packed with fresh fish, ripe cheese and strange fruits (try jabuticaba, a purplish-black fruit that looks like a giant grape). The market is also famous for pastéis de bacalhau, fried pastry pockets stuffed with salt cod. One of the best can be found at Hocca Bar (55-11-3227-6938; www.hoccabar.com.br), where the not-too-fishy, not-too-salty pastéis is 7.50 reais. Get one person to wait in line, while the rest of you stake out a table. When the food is this good, things in this city of 11 million can get a little crowded.
11) A WALK IN THE PARK
Burn off those cod calories at Ibirapuera Park (Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral; 55-11-5574-5177), a 400-acre oasis of green in a city of gray. Designed by Roberto Burle Marx, a celebrated Brazilian landscape architect, the park has jogging and bike trails, pick-up soccer games, children's playgrounds and plenty of nooks to explore. There are also buildings and museums to stroll, many designed by the architect Oscar Niemeyer. Worth checking out is the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo (55-11-5085-1300), a Modernist concrete box that houses a rich assortment of Brazilian artists and a sculpture garden.
Don't leave the park without trying a refreshing water coconut, sold by vendors everywhere.
Several airlines fly between New York and São Paulo , including American, Delta, Continental , Japan Airlines and the Brazilian airline TAM. A recent online search found fares starting at $890 for early November. Better deals can sometimes be found through BACC (800-222-2746; www.bacctravel.com ), a New York City travel agency specializing in travel to Brazil .
At the top of the lodging heap is Unique (Avenida Brigadeiro Luís Antônio, 2700; 55-11-3055-4710; www.hotelunique.com.br ), a chic hotel in the affluent Jardim Paulista district. The sleek rooms, which offer good views, start at $430.
Fasano (Rua Vittorio Fasano, 88; 55-11-3896-4000; www.fasano.com.br ), centrally located near the Avenida Paulista, opened in 2003 with 30s-style design. Rates start at $440.
For a more affordable stay, try the Mercure Apartments Executive One (Rua Santa Justina, 210; 55-11-3089-6222; www.accorhotels.com.br ) in the fashionable Itaim Bibi/Vila Olímpia neighborhood. Rooms start at $73 on weekends.
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