Brazil’s vast metropolis can be daunting for visitors, but the shops and galleries of the Jardins area provide an excellent opportunity to relax in style. Sue Chester searches out the best of Sao Paulo
1. Museu de arte
For a cultural start to the day, take the metro to Trianon-MASP, then make your way to the Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo at 1578 Avenida Paulista. Designed in the late Fifties by the Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi, this striking yet contentious red concrete composition is often called the floating building because the majority of the structure is suspended by two pillars. In addition to a permanent, but ever-changing, exhibition of European artists from the last 500 years, it also has interesting work by Brazilians, including Portinari. The open space beneath the museum hosts an antique market on Sundays. The museum is open from 11am to 6pm, and until 8pm on Thursdays (closed Mon). Entry R$15 (£3.90). Tel +55 11 3251 5644.
2. Jardins district
From the museum, take a taxi to the Jardins district, Brazil’s shopping and dining capital. Rua Oscar Freire, Rua Haddock Lobo and Rua Alameda Lorena are at the hub of this sleek quarter bursting with fashion, jewellery and home stores. Not only will you find the usual designer names, but it’s also where Brazil’s top boutiques and clothing designers huddle. And let’s not forget the Brazilian gems that have put jewellery stores H Stern and Vivara on the worldwide map. Whilst in the ‘hood, have a break and take advantage of the creme de la creme of restaurants, in the city where being a foodie is de rigueur. The Fasano Hotel (tel +55 11 3896 4000; fasano.com.br) includes the Baretto lounge bar with live jazz, and a gourmet Italian restaurant. Just round the corner, the chic A Figueira Rubaiyat (tel +55 11 3063 3888; rubaiyat.com.br) is named after the gigantic fig tree on the terrace out front, around which the canopy roof is built. The menu is a mix of Brazilian, Argentinian and Spanish.
3. Jun sakamoto
While on the subject of food, Sao Paulo has the largest Japanese population outside Japan, so it’s impossible not to mention Jun Sakamoto’s restaurant (tel +55 11 3088 6019). A short cab ride from the Jardins district across to Pinheiros, it’s well worth the journey. Jun buys his fish from the Mercado Municipal, Sao Paulo’s charming old food market – with produce imported from all over Brazil, the quality is exceptional, fuelled by the city’s fervent gastronomy.
4. Galeria Luisa Strina
While you’re letting your meal go down, walk to Rua Oscar Freire, where you’ll find Galeria Luisa Strina. Sao Paulo’s oldest contemporary art gallery, it was first opened in 1974 when Brazil was entrenched in the military dictatorship and there was very little interest in contemporary art. Now it’s a different story, with some of the best emerging Brazilian artists’ work for sale. Galeria Luisa Strina, is at Rua Oscar Freire, 502, Jardins (open Mon-Fri 10am-7pm, Saturday 10am-5pm; visit galerialuisastrina.com.br). A bit further up Oscar Freire, you’ll find Galeria Sylvio Nery, which was largely responsible for bringing the Concrete and New Concrete art movements back to life throughout the 1990s. (Open Mon-Friday 10am-7pm, and Sat 10am-2pm; snerygaleria.com.br).
5. Hotel Unique
If you have time before you leave, jump in a cab and make a beeline for the Hotel Unique. It’s safe to say it lives up to it name – the truly risk-taking architecture is worth a visit for the visual wow factor and experience alone. Designed by Ruy Ohtake, this 95-room hotel looms over the city, a lumbering, quirky metal structure like a Noah’s Ark. Once inside, it’s pure drama. You enter through two towering doors into a cavernous reception. The rooms are arranged along dark carpeted corridors with walls that curve Alice in Wonderland-style. If you’re not careful, you could end up bouncing off them as the blue lighting creates a surreal, distorted effect. In the basement, next to the fitness centre, there’s a wacky-shaped lime green mosaic tiled pool which hotel guests can whoosh into via a slide from the changing rooms. Whizz up to the top floor in the panoramic lift to the Skye restaurant and bar for the grooviest view of the metropolis in town, where a wall of skyscrapers march across the horizon behind the treetops of Jardins and Ibirapuera Park. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and from 6pm guests can enjoy a cocktail or two on the rooftop terrace (from 9pm there’s a DJ). The hotel can be found at Avenida Brigadero Luis Antonio 4700. Tel +55 11 3055 4710 or visit hotelunique.com.br.