The One Brazilian City You Shouldn’t Miss

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The One Brazilian City You Shouldn’t Miss
While Rio might be the city of pretty, São Paulo—just a 45-minute flight from Rio—is Brazil’s capital of cool, with more restaurants and cultural sites than soccer balls in the Maracana Stadium. Here, five things to do when in town.
Photo by Mary Holland
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    Check into the city’s truly unique hotel
    A good vacation begins with a good hotel. Hotel Unique looks more like a giant cement watermelon slice than a place you can actually stay in. But you can actually stay in it. The Ruy Othake-designed building has cozy, cabinlike rooms complete with large submarine windows and sloping walls (if you’re in one of the premium rooms), thanks to the curved shape of the building. In the spirit of the building’s playful design, the swimming pool has a giant adult slide (finally, right?). Slide, sloping walls, and submarine windows aside, the hotel also offers one of the best views in the city, especially from the open-air rooftop deck that looks over the metropolis of São Paulo. It’s the perfect place to sip an aperitif and gawk at the never-ending city lights.
    Photo by Mary Holland
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    Have breakfast with the locals
    You know you’re at a local joint when you see dads wearing BabyBjorns with three dogs in tow. From the moment it opens at 8 a.m., you’ll find locals streaming from Padoca do Maní, a small café and bakery that’s an offshoot of Maní, one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Padoca do Maní has a farmers’ market feel, and it sells a delicious selection of breads and pastries—most importantly the pão de queijo, a cheesy doughy bread that might be the best thing to come out of Brazil (sorry, Pelé!). Hardly anyone speaks English, so look for the words tapioca and pão (bread) on the menu and you should be good. But go elsewhere for your coffee. You’re in one of the biggest coffee-producing countries in the world, so get it from one of the best places possible: Coffee Lab in Vila Madalena.
    Photo courtesy of @manimanioca
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    Visit Batman Alley
    Great! You’re already in Vila Madalena, drinking a coffee at Coffee Lab, so you should stay and explore this trendy area. An artsy district with loads of cool interior and product stores, Vila Madalena is also home to the famous Batman Alley: an alleyway where the walls are lined with graffiti by various artists. Graffiti is a big part of São Paulo and you’ll find bright, graphic art scribbled all over the city. Batman Alley offers a great opportunity to get up close, marvel at the street art, and snap a photo that’s guaranteed to up your Instagram game.
    Photo by Mary Holland
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    Embrace your carnivorous side
    Alex Atala is one of the biggest names to come out of Brazil. And no, he’s not a soccer player or a model—he’s a chef. At Atala’s award-winning restaurant, D.O.M., he uses native Brazilian ingredients to create cuisine designed to surprise and delight guests. Atala is known for shifting the perception of unusual, less popular ingredients, and his latest venture, Açougue Central, is no exception. At this meat-centric restaurant, Atala and chef Alejandro Peyrou’s aim is to use as many parts of a steer as possible. Nothing goes to waste—the meat is even cooked with fat instead of oil or butter. While eating, you may hear the sound of a meat cutter: There’s also a butchery on site.
    Photo by Carol Cherardi
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    Play in an artsy park
    Ibirapuera Park is Sao Paulo’s main urban park—and it’s right by your hotel, so there’s no reason to skip it. The park isn’t just a giant section of greenery with lakes, it’s also an important cultural destination, home to the Oscar Neimeyer–designed opera house, the impressive Museum of Modern Art, and the São Paulo Biennial. If you’re here on a Sunday, make your way through the park and then onto Avenue Paulista (a short drive away). Once a week, this street comes alive with music, food trucks and stalls, selling tasty meals and various arts and crafts. There’s no better place to feel like a Paulistano.
    Photo by Kelsey Pecherer
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