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The Urbanist’s São Paulo

Nouveau cachaça bars, boutique hostels, and snake farms.


Fabiano Rodrigues skates along the side of the Hotel Unique.  

New Yorkers are likely familiar with the flood of Brazilians who are buying up our $30 ­million high-rise apartments, or spending a small fortune at our stores. They’re likely less familiar with the city from which these visitors have flocked. With more than 11 million residents, São Paulo is the most populous city in the Southern Hemisphere—and also one of the most overwhelming. Those who can bypass the siren call of Rio’s beaches will find an endless sea of skyscrapers—along with a new class of Über-rich Brazilians who commute to work via helicopter, despite a newly slowed-down economy—but also one of the most innovative restaurant scenes in the world as well as a rising number of artists and designers setting up shop. It’s a tale of two cities that would make Bill de Blasio’s head spin: High taxes have sent the cost of a pizza to nearly $30, and proposed bus-fare increases, paired with endless corruption and stark inequalities, helped spur nationwide protests earlier in the year. The fact that São Paulo is a host city for the World Cup next year surely won’t help pizza prices, either. But as of right now, at least, you don’t need to be an oligarch to enjoy the city—with its musician-run trattorias, modern boutique hostels, and local swimsuit shops. Bikinis, at least, are quite affordable.


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