The Urbanist’s São Paulo: What to Do

Pinacoteca do Estado de São PauloPhoto: Fabiano Rodrigues

Know the Skyline
Former pro skater Fabiano Rodrigues, known for taking striking self-portraits skateboarding in or around São Paulo’s architecturally significant buildings, on his favorite haunts.

Hotel Unique
Avenida Brigadeiro Luís Antônio 4700, Jardim Paulista.
“This hotel was meant to be a shopping mall, but when pharmaceutical heir Jonas Siaulys scrapped the plans, Ruy Ohtake dreamed this alternative up in 48 hours. It feels like at any moment the whole structure could fall on your head.”

Auditório Ibirapuera & Oca Pavilion
Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral 0, Gate 3, Parque do Ibirapuera.
“The 800-seat triangular auditorium and semi-spherical Oca building in Ibirapuera Park, designed by Oscar Niemeyer, is a space that invites you to come play inside it.”

Instituto Tomie Ohtake
Rua dos Coropés 88, Pinheiros.
“I like the layers at the entrance of this futuristic, 377-foot-tall contemporary-art museum and office building. It was designed by Ohtake and named after his mother—who emigrated from Japan to Brazil.”

Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo
Praça da Luz 2, Jardim da Luz.
“This art museum was originally designed and opened by Ramos de Azevedo in the 1900s and then was given an update by architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha in the late nineties. I like how it projects a feeling of being both calm and mysterious.”

From left, Osklen, Havaiana, and Agua de Coco.Photo: Courtesy of the vendors

An iPhone May Be $1,000 …
And a Gucci purse will likely cost you an arm and a leg. But if you stick to the homegrown boutiques, São Paulo actually has a fair share of reasonably priced finds. Here, fashion blogger Amanda Mormito on your best bets in and around Rua Oscar Freire, the tree-lined luxury commercial strip that’s São Paulo’s answer to West Broadway.

For the Beach
“If you go to Brazil, then you must have a Brazilian bikini—smaller than American ones, especially on the bottom. Once you buy one, you’ll become a fanatic. Find itty-bitty ones at Agua de Coco (Rua Oscar Freire 1181; 3061-3367), where the bikinis (from $60) come in these gorgeous tropical prints.”

“While you can get them anywhere in the world, really every person in Brazil has a pair of Havaiana flip-flops. This flagship store (Rua Oscar Freire 1116; 3079-3415), designed by star architect Isay Weinfeld, is massive, with street-market-style stalls and a wall lined with rainbows of rubber sandals (from $6).”

For the City
Maria Bonita (Rua Oscar Freire 702; 7812-5198), a line that originated in Rio, brings sort of a beachy, bossa nova feeling to its clothes—like free-flowing silk skirts or linen shirts that are perfect for an elegant, classic woman. A strapless silk dress goes for around $260.”

“Osklen (Rua Oscar Freire 645; 3083-7977) successfully combines an urban aesthetic with a laid-back Brazilian sensibility, using organic cotton and silk to make everything from basic T-shirts (from $58) to geometric dresses in bold red and black stripes (from $120).”

For the Home
“Urban Arts (Rua Oscar Freire 156; 3081-6142) is an art gallery that sells digital prints (from $17) made by hundreds of artists around the world. It’s in a very classic Paulistano house, with wood floors and white walls. The clientele skews young: people looking to decorate their first homes.”

“Livraria Mundo Gourmet (Rua Augusta 2542; 3846-5141) is a bookstore that sells only cookbooks. Owner André Boccato was inspired by the Librairie Gourmande in Paris. It feels like a home, hidden from the chaos of Oscar Freire on this beautiful alley. They have a gorgeous kitchen where they have cooking classes for small groups.”

Snakes, Beaches, and Swiss Chalets
At a certain point, São Paulo’s sprawling concrete jungle can be a lot to take. Here, Paul Irvine, owner of Brazil-based luxury-travel consulting firm Dehouche, who has been exploring the country for more than a decade, on three easy escapes.

Photo: Camilla Carvalho/Instituto Butantan

The Snake Farm:
Instituto Butantan
Distance from city: 30 minutes by taxi or Metro.
“This biomedical-research center, in a large leafy park on the outskirts of the city, is one of the largest producers of biopharmaceuticals in Latin America and is home to a ‘serpentarium’ with tons of snakes, which are milked for their venom to produce antivenom. For adventurous types, the time to visit is 2:30 p.m. on Thursdays, when you are allowed to hold a few of the snakes. More timid types can ogle a large collection of other venomous species, including spiders and lizards, and check out the accompanying microbiology museum.”

The Tony Beach Getaway:
Distance from city: 75 minutes by car or bus from Jabaquara station.
“All the famous footballers come down here on the weekends to showboat in their luxury yachts, so the people-watching is fantastic. I think the beaches of Guarujá are better than in neighboring—more popular—Santos, with white sand framed by the hills of the Mata Atlântica rain forest. My favorite dinner spot is Dalmo Barbaro (Av. Miguel Stéfano, 4751; 3351-9298), a fish restaurant that does a great moqueca (fish stew). There are several less crowded beaches nearby connected by short hiking trails that are also worth a visit.”

The Swiss-Esque Hilltown:
Campos do Jordão
Distance from city: 120 to 150 minutes by car.
“Long a popular destination for São Paulo residents who want to escape the heat, Campos do Jordão is located at a higher altitude and built in the style of a Swiss mountain village with chalets and cobblestone streets—minus the snow. Outdoor activities are the primary draw. Trek through Horto Florestal state park or bike the Mantiqueira Mountains. Wind down by sipping hot chocolate and eating fondue at a slew of German and Swiss restaurants, or sample German beers at the upscale Baden Baden bar (Rua Djalma Forjaz 93; 3663-3659). Stop by the spa of ultraluxury resort Botanique (rooms from $480;, which is open to nonguests.”

The Urbanist’s São Paulo: What to Do