Just a one-hour flight from Rio, Sao Paulo is a fast-paced, cosmopolitan megalopolis and Brazil’s cultural center with a lively music and arts scene. Concert lovers should head to Sao Paulo this November 12-14 for the Starts With You Music & Arts Festival to experience an impressive line up of global artists playing hip hop, reggae, rock and world music. The SWU fest also focuses on a sustainability theme throughout the event.
Don’t let Sao Paulo’s tarnished image fool you. Rumors of billowing smog, traffic gridlock and rampant crime are patently untrue. This chaotic metropolis has a crime rate that is barely a third of Rio’s, and at 457 years old, it has a history unrivaled in Brazil. During the last decade Sao Paulo has transformed into the pulsating heart of Brazil’s booming economy. Exciting, daunting, and crackling with life 24/7, São Paulo is South America’s New York City. It’s got it all: awesome food, fashion, culture, art and nightlife. Global designer brands compete with hip Brazilian labels, and the posh clubs and restaurants are crammed with people so beautiful, they’d be confined to a magazine cover in any other country. Here you can eat dazzling dishes prepared by celebrity chefs that draw on the city’s international influences at nearly any hour of the day or night. Sao Paulo is constantly evolving, remaking itself as the city of the architectural-landmark hotel. Defined by uber wealth and unparalleled design, hotels hidden within the sprawling, concrete high-rise metropolis like the Unique and the Emilliano offer distinct accommodations with world-class hospitality.
PLAY: Starts With You Festival
Running from November 12th to 14th, this sustainability movement has become one of the hottest music fests and 2012’s impressive lineup includes an eclectic variety of artists such as Black Eyed Peas, Damian Marley, Snoop Dogg, Sonic Youth, Peter Gabriel and the New Blood Orchestra, Megadeth and Faith No More. The aim of the SWU festival is to raise awareness about environmental stewardship and the site of this year’s event will be transformed into “the first sustainable technology and entertainment district” in Brazil with solar energy, water recycling, and more.
It’s safe to say that the Hotel Unique lives up to its name. 50 Cent, Lady Ga Ga and President Lula da Silva himself are among guests to have slumbered in this bizarre building, which looks like a cross between a giant melon wedge and Noah’s Ark. The acclaimed Brazilian designer Ruy Ohtake claimed that he intended it to look like neither upon its completion five years ago, creating a luxury dwelling both unique in shape and style. The 100m-long by 25m-high inverted arch, with its 95 rooms, has become one of the most distinctive landmarks in Sao Paulo. A model in modern architecture and creativity, Unique’s green copper façade alone makes this hotel live up to its name. Located in the heart of Jardins, the most upscale residential neighborhood in Sao Paulo, and just minutes from Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo’s largest verdant space, the building rises like a behemoth.
Shielding shadowy glass and a desert garden of moon rock, palms and succulents are the first impressions that the hotel offers. Theatrical lofty internal spaces such as the lobby are accentuated and highlighted with walls of marble, and strident, geometric themes make the display even more impressive. A carefully choreographed continuum of circles and squares flow in and out of each other, softened by wooden floors, sleek white furnishings and transparent glass fittings. The design encompasses six floors with over 90 rooms and an additional 10 suites designed by interior designer Joao Armentano. The formation of the large circular windows offers stunning views of Sao Paulo.
The imposing vast reception area is rendered warmer by the complimentary glass of champagne offered at check in. A-list beauties clad in Prada compromise the affable staff. Rooms are compact, yet airy, and almost completely white, with a large porthole window over which a wooden screen would glide at night via remote control from the bedside. Attention has been paid to detail, with both the pine desk and large movable mirror. The bathroom contains a shower with a huge head, and the bath, complete with inflatable pink pillow filled with glowing green feathers (not as tacky as it sounds), also turns into a powerful Jacuzzi.
The bathrooms open into the main room and turndown service includes freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies, and there is a discreet box filled with condoms and chewing gum next to the bed—how convenient!
The best views are from the oblong red-tiled, heated swimming rooftop pool. It buzzes at night with catwalk queens and handsome power brokers, and during the day, a dip here gives you an astonishing 360-degree panorama of the city’s skyscrapers all jutting up through the clouds. Even on a cloudy night, there is a sunset glow, with the terrace artfully illuminated by pink floodlights.
The Skye restaurant located up here is overseen by chef Emmanuel Bassoleil, who has won awards for its innovative menu, which includes a huge sushi and sashimi collection plus interesting Latin fusion twists, such as manioc gnocchi and shrimp in winter squash. It does, however, all come at prices about what you would expect to pay for such quality in London or New York.
The hotel is also home to the awesome D-Edge nightclub, recently voted one of the worlds best by DJ magazine for its low-attitude, high-party atmosphere and bass blasting sound system.
Standard rooms start at US$333 per night and go upwards to around $932 a night; all excluding breakfast.
Hotel Unique, Avenida Brigadero Luís Antônio, São Paulo, Brazil (00 55 11 3055 4700)
Standing lanky and unadulterated on the poshest street in Sao Paulo, Oscar Freire Street, the 57-room Emiliano hotel, also in the Jardins, is a quiet alternative to the Unique’s brassy vibe. Designed by Brazilian architect Arthur de Mattos Casas, this slick tower’s exterior is all glass and beige tones, topped with a discreet helipad for those who can’t deal with traffic. Diplomats, prime ministers, and Hollywood queens love to duck in and out of this pied-a-tierre. Inside, the modern sophistication is first evident in the airy lobby. Campana brothers’ chairs draped in golden rope surround a ‘living wall’ of plant species from the Brazilian rainforest. A balanced blend of business and vacation travelers will savor the cool, calm ambiance, and the staff is stunning and eager to please. Detail orientation and modern Brazilian sophistication is what best defines the Emiliano Hotel. From the clean lines and muted lighting of the champagne and caviar bar to the Emiliano bar’s hanging orchids and loungy tables, the lower level makes you feel comfy and secure. And quite private.
There are only three rooms on each of the floors. Guest rooms awash in eastern-inspired textures feature huge flat-screen televisions, digital surround sound CD/DVD players, and free high-speed Internet. The setting is relaxing and indulgent: crisp white Egyptian cotton sheets; Brazilian fruit-infused toiletries; an Eames lounge chair upholstered in an earth tones; a wall of amber-colored wood that hide closets and two Sub-Zero drawer refrigerators stocked to the hilt; not to mention a huge bathroom with a startling views. The guest services manager will instruct guests on using the numerous lighting controls (which took a Ph.D. to master), and a personal butler—yes, you get one—offers to unpack bags and help navigate the sci-fi Japanese toilets (that do everything you can imagine and more!). The staff also spoils you with a free bottle of fine wine; succulent indigenous fruit, a heavenly massage (in your room or at the rooftop spa) and the ironing of two items of clothing. All on the house. A favorite indulgence: a pillow selection menu, where you can choose from six pillows of varying firmness.
The Emiliano Restaurant is quite hidden away from city views. Favored by Brazilian celebs for its sequestered setting, there are only eleven elegant tables, stylishly set with white tablecloths. Tropical music plays delicately in the background. Chef José Barattino favors contemporary Italian cuisine at Emiliano. Born and raised in the Greater São Paulo, the young chef spotlights organic ingredients and actively supports small producers through a partnership with Família , a consortium of sustainable food producing farms in São Paulo State. The veluttata, served with goat cheese semifreddo and black olive breadcrumbs, melts in your mouth and is part of the chef’s four-course tasting menu (R$150, R$300 with wine pairing), which also comes with tagliattelle with prawns, guandu beans and red pepper; duck leg confit with small crusty onions, orange flower honey sauce, yellow manioc baked in a salt crust and fresh spinach; and canolo with Macaé and Ginaduja chocolate, mango and Bali flake salt.
There may not be a pool in the penthouse, but the spa Casal does have two Japanese hot tubs, a Jacuzzi and sauna with a panoramic view. A stay here is surely going to result in a heavenly and cherished memory – just don’t forget to take your Platinum card.
Rue Oscar Freire 384(00 55 11 3068 4399)
This Brazilian bistro is the place to be seen for lunch. A revamped 1940s house splashed with audacious, local art and bold Brazilian gastrononym, the menu here lashes together Italian and Brazilian traditions with a generous helping of Argentinian and a dash of Asian. Chef Carla Pernambuco’s multicultural kitchen floats the finest ingredients in her comfort food with atypical results, like her medley of Brazilian snacks such as salt-cod rissois (a turnover), pão de queijo (a hot cheese roll). The succulent sole filet with golden goat’s cheese sauce, fresh palm hearts and mushroom fettuccine is to die for. Another notable dish is grilled lobster tail, manioc purée and Thai vegetable julienne. Save room for the classic Brazilian dessert, Romeo and Juliet, a luscious guava souflé in a queijo catupiry (Brazilian cream cheese) sauce.
Rua Sergipe, 753
Sao Paulo, 01243-001
DALVA A DITO
Impeccable design. Great location. It’s by the same team who opened DOM, one of the snobbiest places to eat in Sao Paulo. Here, Chef Alex Atala takes city street food and makes it a little more highbrow. It’s a beguiling blend of the simple and subtle. Street snacks that have been reworked, the pasteis (fried snacks) like bolinhos de mandioca and carne seca (fried balls of mandioca and dry meat) are heavenly and probably healthier (and much more pricey) than the ones you find on every corner. Moqueca is a behemoth of a fish stew in a thick stone pot, brought to your table and then filled with heavy fishy broth. And the rotisserie chicken literally melts in your mouth—and it should, for R$65! For dessert, try chocolate fused with a rare Amazonian herb priprioca, a woody, spicy tone usually used in perfumes.
Rua Padre João Manuel, 1115 – Cerqueira César
Sao Paulo, 01411-001
Brigadeiro is a dessert that only exists in Brazil. It’s a national institution, like soccer, samba and caipirinhas. Small, round and sweet, these decadent balls of chocolate explode in your mouth. Sweet, creamy and sticky, this ball of chocolate looks like a truffle. Since she was six years old, chocolatier Maria Brigadeiro has sold her collection of delectable handmade chocolates in this sumptuously elegant shop. Watch the portly ladies roll them through the pink accented display cases like those found in jewelry shops. Marvel at the trays of chocolate gems beautifully molded into balls of perfection. You can choose everything from orange blossom to rose water and dried plums. Favorite choice: pistachio and cacao! Delicious beyond belief!
Rua Capote Valente 68 Pinheiros São Paulo