About São Paulo

Culture in São Paulo

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Until 1960, the capital of Brazil was Rio de Janeiro. Rio had the largest number of foreign visitors and residents, the high Government officials, a large physical infrastructure. During the second half of the century, São Paulo consolidated its position of main economic center of Brazil; the middle class of São Paulo outgrew the one of Rio; many more schools and Universities were opened in São Paulo than in Rio.
Today, São Paulo is the most cosmopolitan city in Brazil. A numerous middle class demands more and more cultural options. To meet this demand, many cultural centers were sprouting, backed both by the Government and by non-government institutions. Today, São Paulo is an important cultural city, competing with Rio over the title of cultural capital of Brazil.
Below, some suggestions for a one-day cultural trip around São Paulo.

Morning

Besides being its main financial center, Avenida Paulista is the cultural birth place of São Paulo. Start your tour at the Consolação subway station. The Padaria Bella Paulista (Nice View Bakery) serves a hearty breakfast whose main temptation is its brownie. When you're full, move on to the Conjunto Nacional, built in 1952; its terrace used to house Fasano (one of the best restaurants in São Paulo), where artists like Nat King Cole and Marlene Dietrich once performed. In 1978, the complex was hit by a fire; today, in a completely restored building, the gallery houses the Conjunto Cultu­ral da Caixa (maintained by Caixa Economica, one of the biggest Brazilian banks), with fine arts exhibits, the Cine Bombril, dedicated to alternative films, and the Livraria Cultura (the preferred bookstore of intellectuals) with four specialized shops. Weekly, on random days, there are free philosophical get-togethers at 7:30 p.m.
Three blocks further on, in front of the Parque Trianon, is the unmistakable Masp (São Paulo Art Museum), unbelievably ba­lanced on top of two columns. Inside Lina Bo Bardi's unique architectural creation you can admire the works of artists such as Ra­fael, Goya, Renoir, Van Gogh and Portinari, as well as temporary exhibitions; allow at least three hours for your visit. You can have lunch at the museum's own restaurant or at D.O.M., a more expensive option, but well worth your while (D.O.M. was appointed as one of the best 50 restaurants in the World; see here). At D.O.M., chef Alex Atala mixes Brazilian ingredients with international gastronomic techniques; if you're on a tight budget, order the executive plate, which is served only at lunchtime (chicken, fish or red meat, accompanied by a green salad, rice, beans and collard greens).

Afternoon

After lunch, you can visit an art exhibition or seea musical show at Itaú Cultural, at Sesc Paulista (to see schedule, select the option Avenida Paulista in the left column menu) or in the pyra­mid-shaped building of Fiesp (Federation of Industries of São Paulo), whose theater, in addition to presenting plays for children and adults, also has pop and MPB (Brazi­lian popular music) shows, dance events and classical music concerts.
Other option is to attend a soirée or a workshop at the Casa das Rosas, number 37 on the avenue. In the midst of the shadows cast from the tall buildings, the current meeting place for poets is one of the only mansions still remaining in the area from the beginning of the 20th century. The construction was planned by engineer and architect Ramos de Azevedo, who also designed the Theatro Municipal project.
If that isn't enough for an afternoon, walk a bit longer (or take a short taxi ride) to Centro Cultural São Paulo, an old factory which was turned into a huge loft, with collections of books, CDs and movies open to consultation.

Evening

Avenida Paulista by night
Avenida Paulista by night

By night, a movie would be good to give your legs a rest. There are several choices, even for those who prefer alternative films that don't make it to the commercial circuit.
Some examples are the Reserva Cultural, right in the middle of Av. Paulista, Cinesesc, on Rua Augusta, Unibanco Artplex, and HSBC Belas Artes, on Rua da Consolação, which was recently renovated.
For those who prefer a good play, you can go to the theater at the Renaissance hotel; occasionally, you'll be able to watch a play with actors from around the world. The Teatro Abril, whose facade and lobby have been designated as an historic landmark, always has musical shows. For dinner, consider Chakras; reminiscent of an Arabic ma­rket, this restaurant also offers courses, exhibitions and open air cinema.
To top off your night, try Geni, a club with top–of-the-line live shows, is a good reason to stay awake in this city that never sleeps.

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