City Spotlight: Sao Paulo
If you land in São Paulo at Congonhas, the downtown airport, you’ll fly over endless horizons up to the moment you’re on the ground. The skyline will immediately remind you of New York, but after you land, you’ll feel you’re in a suburb of Milan. Before long, however, you’ll experience a patchwork quilt of Paris, Tokyo, Athens and Istanbul, among other cities.
São Paulo is one of the world’s megacities. With over 10 million people, Greater São Paulo is expected to reach 21 million by 2015. Paulistanos (as the locals are called in Portuguese) can appear rather formal at first, but they’ll melt your heart if you show them some consideration and win their confidence. Paulistanos are taught English from an early age, so it’s easy to communicate. Just remain sensible and aware: Don’t go out dressed like a typical tourist or display your state-of-the-art BlackBerry, cell phone or iPod
The best places to stay are around the four subway lines (mostly the Blue, Red and Green lines) and the CPTM Metropolitan Trains. It’s a lot cheaper than cabs and is clean, fast and safe. A subway ticket costs less than $1.50. If you land via Congonhas, the trip to Avenida Paulista will cost about $20 by cab or $50 from Cumbica/Guarulhos Airport, depending on the traffic.
São Paulo is an international business center, but it is also all about fun! You can find places to eat and dance practically 24 hours a day, any day, on any budget. The paulistanos are very proud in their business-oriented lives, but revel in their rich nightlife, gastronomy and endless shopping.
José Campos is a proud paulistano, a native of São Paulo. He knows all the ins and outs of this international city, which has become one of the premier destinations for gay tourists.
All currency is in U.S. dollars ($).
WHERE TO STAY
Try to stay around Avenida Paulista, in the very heart of the city. The Formule 1 (http://www.accorhotels.com.br) are the least expensive, about $55. Up to three people can stay there.
Formule 1 São Paulo-Paulista
Rua da Consolação, 2303, 0
Formule 1 São Paulo-Paraiso
Rua Vergueiro, 1571
Formule 1 São Paulo-Jardins
Av. Nove de Julho, 3597
Rua Martinho Prado,173
Av. Brigadeiro Luis Antonio, 4700-Jardim Paulista
Sexy, fabulous décor, beautiful rooms and, well, unique. Chef Emmanuel Bassoleil presides over its restaurant, Skye, with a fusion cuisine of French, Italian, Japanese and native. The deck around the pool offers one of the most astonishing views of the city; in the evening, it becomes a lounge crowded with young people making the scene.
Rua Oscar Freire, 384-Jardins
This chic, friendly hotel is located on São Paulo’s Madison Avenue. Designers Humberto and Fernando Campana’s lobby and great restaurant are worthy of a visit just for themselves.
Sheraton São Paulo WTC
Av. das Nações Unidas, 12559
Within the Sheraton WTC, there is the Design Hotel, a boutique section with gorgeous suites, each created by a well-known Brazilian designer. The São Paulo Design Center is directly under the hotel, with a train station (Berrini) in front.
WHERE TO EAT
Brazilian restaurants still haven’t surrendered to the habit of taking reservations, so people just arrive and stay in line or at the bar waiting for a table. On weekends, get there before 10 p.m. or be ready for a long wait. Eating late is very common
Mestiço Restaurante e Bar
Rua Fernando Albuquerque, 277
Contemporary cuisine with "Bahiana" and Thai accents. Amazing similarities in delicious flavors-and mostly gay ambiance but totally cool.
Al. Ministro Rocha Azevedo, 72
Just as it says: the spot! In a trendy location amid three skyscrapers and in the very heart of Avenida Paulista, executives and celebrities mingle outside and in the saloon.
Alameda Itu, 1466
This gay Italian restaurant and bar is a short walk from Avenida Paulista. Pizza and pasta, fish and meat come with special events and performances, mostly on Thursdays.
This chain of buffet restaurants serves endless salads plus pasta and grilled food-all for $25. And the quality is fantastic.
Rua Cônego Eugênio Leite, 504
The cuisine of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais resembles Cajun food, since it shares the same sources-European immigrants.
Avenida Nove de Julho, 5871
One of the city’s most beautiful restaurants is decorated in shades of sand, natural and dark wood with splashes of orange and gold.
WHERE TO DRINK
Caneca de Prata
Avenida Vieira de Carvalho, 55
This relaxing but perky bar on a major downtown gay strip caters to mature guys, with fast food and endless drinks. On weekends it’s so crowded, people congregate on the sidewalk.
Avenida Vieira de Carvalho, 10
You can eat breakfast early (6 a.m. weekdays), but at night, enjoy DJs and live singers.
Rua Bela Cintra, 532-Consolação
The name, Spanish for "exquisite," must refer to the diverse snacks from all over Latin America. Wash it down with the many local, imported and draft beers.
Rua Bela Cintra, 461-Consolação
This beautiful space includes a great dance floor, with a different theme each night and DJs like Cris Pantojo and Fred Stecca. Sundays, promoter Eduardo Hering organizes a Café com Vodka Party.
Rua Haddock Lobo, 40-Consolação
Small, cozy and neon lit, with great drinks and charm, it doubles as a neon art gallery.
Alameda Franca, 1088-Jardim Paulista
The Ritz is a classic paulistano gay bar, although everyone comes here for the best hamburgers in town, delicious spiced rice cakes and hot men and women. Try the caipirinhas made with sake.
WHERE TO DANCE
Clubs charge anywhere from $7.50 to $40, depending on the day of the week, the party, venue and guest attraction. Although no single website has info in English, look for the words listas (lists), cadastro (subscribe) and contatos (contacts). There are frequent occasions, like bringing a gift for underprivileged children, to get a substantially discounted admission. A subscription also gets a discount. Don’t be afraid to ask the locals about special admission prices.
Alameda Olga, 170-Barra Funda
Beautiful people bathed in the best lighting in town with international and local DJs. Friday night is best.
Rua Marques de Itu, 182-Centro
A local institution, mostly for older gents and their admirers dancing cheek to cheek to music from "boleros" to disco classics. Thursday to Saturday features an open buffet.
Alameda Franca, 1368-Jardins
Three floors, three moods: an island bar where the flirting starts; the dance floor; and the Dungeon Cruising Bar. Open Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Check the schedule since there are parties for boys and girls.
Largo do Arouche, 32-República
The most democratic club in town, where the DJ mixes Madonna’s latest hits with the latest Samba School tune. You’ll find guys from 18 to 80. Open Friday to Sunday at midnight. Every few weeks, Cantho hosts the best afterhours dance in town, starting at 7 a.m. and ending when the last customer leaves.
Rua Rego Freitas 470-República
Expect to find this classic club full of drag queens, go-go boys and everything in between. Salette Campari, the hostess does a great Marilyn Monroe, and the drag show is the house best in town. Open Wednesdays through Sundays at 11 p.m.
Ultra Club International
Rua Marques de Itu, 284-Centro
On Fridays, check out the Camaleon party. Saturdays is for the girls with Super Dyke. Sunday mornings is hardcore afterhours dancing.
Avenida Marquês de São Vicente, 1767-Barra Funda
Yes, this huge club is where you’ll hear Brazil’s prime export, DJ Ana Paula, along with DJs Rodolfo Bravat, Douglas Penido, Bruno Pacheco and Felipe Acioli. Saturdays only.
Rua Guaicurus, 324-Lapa
This gorgeous, immense club offers two dance floors with the hottest men in Brazil. Here’s the lay of the land: Close to the stage on Floor 1 are the bodybuilders; in the back, the shy ones. Couples prefer Floor 2. Everyone strolls the outside gardens and pool. A roster of resident DJs brings in men of all types and ages. Saturdays is Babylon, but check for biweekly Sunday afternoon pool parties in the summer. Open until 10am
Maurici Salles and Hugo Henrique organize this bimonthly day party. Each party happens in a different special location. If you’re in town, don’t miss it!
São Paulo’s Pride-the largest in the world-takes place in June around the Feast of Corpus Christi, always a Thursday; this year, June 3, so the parade is that Sunday, June 6. Be prepared for a marathon of parties beginning on Wednesday. The parade starts at Avenida Paulista, crosses it almost completely and then goes down.
WHERE TO GET OFF
Rua Bela Cintra, 269-Consolação
A mega-sauna: steam rooms, bar and club, with a resort décor. Plenty of labyrinths, rooms, glory holes, special beds, showers and bathtubs.
Termas for Friends
Rua Morgado de Mateus, 365
Brazil’s pioneer gay sauna where "friends" go beyond a few drinks.
Rua Jaguaribe, 484-Santa Cecilia
The newest sauna in town. Everything is brand new and clean. There is a big bar, cabins, rooms with private bathrooms and a pool.
Rua Santa Isabel, 198 - República
A variety of different parties at this sex club for bears, masquerades, a night in Hell (complete with little devils), etc. Open 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily except Saturday, 5 a.m.
Rua Rio Grande, 31-Vila Mariana
Not a single piece of clothing is allowed inside so you get straight to the point. There are Mask, Neon, Executive, and Long Dick theme evenings. Open 6 p.m. until midnight Sunday to Thursday; Fridays and Saturdays to 4 a.m.; Saturdays it opens at 8 p.m.
Rua Dr. Penaforte Mendes, 259
A hard-core spot beside the Frei Caneca shopping center downtown. A cozy bar at the entrance leads to a bar area and backyard. No private spaces.
Rua Borges Lagoa, 287
"Love for Sale" is more than a Cole Porter song. There are several pools; steam; dark, private rooms; and "bad boys" in every shade, texture and kink. Open Sundays to Thursdays, 2 p.m. to midnight, weekends open a bit later.
WHERE TO SHOP
After Carnival the prices really drop, when all 50 shopping centers have what they call "Red Pencil Sales." August and September are also good months for shopping since winter is ending and summer wear sprouts up in store windows. There is a cluster of great stores in a rectangle bordered by Avenida Paulista, Rua Augusta, Rua Estados Unidos and Rua da Consolação. Explore Rua Oscar Freire and environs for local labels and Madison Avenue class. Downtown, Avenida Vieira de Carvalho and Largo do Arouche has great clothes at low prices.
Rua Oscar Freire - Jardins
Known as the "Rodeo Drive" of Sao Paulo, this street is a place to see and be seen. Beautiful people fill up the area all day in their designer sunglasses and perfect tan shopping and eating in its fancy restaurants. Oscar Freire is a upscale strip that has all the international designer stores as well the high end Brazilian Fashion such as Zoomp, Forum,Iodice and the Famous swimsuit store Rosa Cha.
Shopping Frei Caneca
Rua Frei Caneca, 569-Consolação
Good shops and excellent places to eat, theaters and a multiplex at this gayish shopping center. A great place also to meet and flirt with the locals.
Avenida Brigadeiro Faria Lima, 2232-Jardim Paulistano
Imagine Madison Avenue compressed into two huge floors. Labels like Salvatore Ferragamo, Ermenegildo Zegna, Armani, Ricardo Almeida, Kiehl’s, Lacoste, Zara and Brazilian fashion darling Osklen, plus chocolates to sandals, fabulous restaurants, coffee shops and patisseries.
Shopping Cidade Jardim
Avenida Magalhães de Castro, 12.000-Cidade Jardim
Certainly the most expensive shopping mall in São Paulo, with all of the aforementioned labels plus others like Daslu, Ellus, Alfaiataria Paramount, and Reinaldo Lourenço. Even the movies will set you back $30, but your seat is like flying First Class on a Concorde, complete with waiter service.
Avenida Chedid Jafet , 131
This department store is a "must": a Florentine Villa with collections by Prada, Calvin Klein, Gucci, Celine, Dolce & Gabbana and endless other top designers-plus the Brazilian branch of Buddha Bar.
Alameda Lorena , 2122-Jardins
Claudio Rahal edits pieces by young Brazilian designers .
Rua do Arouche, 200, Loja 14, Arouche/República
A designer who specializes in casual: bathing suits, underwear, tank tops, T-shirts, etc.
Rua Normandia 22/26-Moema
Alameda Lorena ,1835-Jardins
Figueiredo’s men’s collection is chic and at the same time in a subtle way very daring. It is a must to have one of his pieces in your closet.
THINGS TO DO
Sala São Paulo
Rua Mauá, 51-Luz
São Paulo’s answer to Carnegie Hall.
MASP-Museu de Arte de São Paulo
Avenida Paulista, 1578-Paulista
São Paulo’s principal art museum, with one of the world’s best Impressionist collections.
Museu de Arte Sacra
Avenida Tiradentes, 676-Luz
The Sacred Arts Museum displays architecture and fine arts from the nation’s beginnings to today. The Baroque collection is superb.
Sunbathe, work out or meet people in this huge park, which includes an auditorium, planetarium, museums, lakes and sports courts. The park is surrounded by some of the best monuments in São Paulo, such as Monumento às Bandeiras and the Soldier’s Obelisk. Watch the hotties jogging and chatting. Weekends and holidays head to the Porquinho, where a bronze sculpture of a man catching a little pig is quite close to the Avenida Quarto Centenário gate. Here’s where the boys hang.