With a population close to 11 million, Brazil's (decidedly non-Rio) urban powerhouse blends the exuberance of South America with the poise and sophistication of old Europe.
Image – Raymond Patrick
DAY TWO Today, you take the city by foot. Though São Paulo is sprawling and often clogged with cars, it’s very walkable, so you wander through the Jardim Paulista neighborhood and grab a hearty egg-and-sausage breakfast at Saint Germain (1), which features pictures of the meals on the wall—making things a lot easier for non-Portuguese speakers. Afterward, set out on a long meander toward the eclectic Vila Madalena neighborhood. You come upon Cemitério Santissimo Sacramento (2), where exquisitely carved statues adorn the crypts of some of the city’s great families. If you head straight up the path, you’ll find the most powerful work near the top of the hill: a statue of a father sitting at a table with his son, head bent in sorrow, and an empty seat for the missing mother. Before things get glum, however, a surprisingly festive funeral party arrives, with attendees who are laughing and smiling.
São Paulo is renowned for its street food, so you duck into one of the many corner bars and order a plate of pasteles—delicious deep-fried pastries stuffed with spiced beef and chicken—along with a local Brahma beer to cool off. Next, you make a beeline for the Ímã Foto Galeria (3), where you peruse the work of Rosa Gauditano, who specializes in lighthearted photographs of indigenous Brazilian tribespeople, and the austere pictures of Bangladeshi-born Alan Nielsen, with his anonymous subjects caught in contemplative poses.
For dinner, you head to Astor (4), a thriving bistro inspired by classic New York brasseries. Order the delicious picadinho Astor, with a poached egg over cubes of steak, white rice and scrumptious bananas. As the waiters and the fashionably dressed regulars gaze up at a soccer game on TV and mutter imprecations against various players, you drink in the place’s Prohibition-style dark woods, red upholstery and white-and-black floors. Deciding you’ve had enough high art for today and need some guilty pleasure, you journey over to the Skye Bar (5) at the top of the famous watermelon-shaped Hotel Unique. On the roof, you find a scenester’s paradise, with trust-fund travelers, filmmakers and moguls gulping down pricey cocktails. You grab a seat and watch the sun go down as the house music thumps and the up-and-coming model to your left turns to give you the eye. Then, you float back to the Meliá on the drifting fumes of rum and sleep peacefully.