Brazil may be a country of beaches and rainforests, but São Paulo flips the script. Instead, the country’s biggest metropolis greets you with high-rises, incessant traffic, smog, street crime, and more than the occasional downpour.
But stick around a little longer and you’ll also find raucous underground bars, artistic energy, and 24-hour party people always ready to flash a smile and show you their favorite haunts. The city lands at #12 for Programming, the category that measures lifestyle experiences like shopping, dining, culture and nightlife. While individually insignificant, it is the sum of the programming initiatives that fosters a community’s connection to place.
As Paulistanos—resident of São Paulo—will tell you in person or on Facebook check ins (the city comes in at #4), they live in the best city on the planet. Pizza, they’re quick to tell you, is also the best. For proof, go to Bráz Quintal, which features all the classics but try the eponymous Bráz, topped with sauteed zucchini, mozzarella and parmesan. Sampa, as locals call their hometown, has the largest population of Italian descendants outside Italy, the largest community of people of Japanese descent, and a large Arab community fueled mostly by Lebanese and Syrian immigrants. In short, if you’re in the mood for culinary delights from any of those countries, you’ll find them here. Is it any wonder culinary wonderland comes in at #8 for Dining and #6 for Culture?
All that eating is probably making you thirsty, which means it’s high time to try some cachaça. Styled like a traditional boteco from the state of Minas Gerais, Empório Sagarana is a Vila Romana neighborhood bar that serves artisanal cachaça. Also in the ‘hood is Casa 92, a nightclub with a dance floor, a patio and lots of chill out rooms decorated in antique furnishings and retro wallpapers. Get your culture on, a respite from the rain and humid sidewalks, at Pinacoteca, a museum housed in a former high school. For a bit of shopping, head to the undulating marvel that is the Copan building, designed by Brazil’s best-known architect, Oscar Niemeyer. The ground floor alone, with shops, cafes, and bars, can occupy an entire afternoon.