Top 10 bars in São Paulo, Brazil
By Kevin Raub for The Guardian on May 15, 2014
For a pre-match venue or a place to celebrate (we can hope) when England play Uruguay on 19 June, we've pared the 15,000+ bars in São Paulo down to 10. Saude!
• Budget stays in São Paulo
São Cristovão, Vila Madalena
If you're visiting São Paulo and are interested in Brazilian football make the city's football museum your first stop – and this fantastic, atmospheric bar your second. Practically every inch of the walls and ceiling is plastered with footie-themed memorabilia – 3,500 mementos from the owners beloved São Cristovão football club and others, providing a free history lesson of the Brazilian game. Vila Madalena is São Paulo's most established nightlife destination and Rua Aspicuelta and the surrounding streets are full of great little bars. São Cristovão is one of the best, serving excellent chopp (draft beer) and food (try the pot-roast-like carne de panela). It gets crowded, so if you can't get a table, take a stroll to one of the many other bars nearby.
• Rua Aspicuelta 53, +55 11 3097 9904
Bar do Luiz Fernandes, Santana
Those seeking an authentic Brazilian boteco (local watering hole) experience off the tourist grid will find no better than this traditional North Zone bar, which has wooed paulistanos with its savoury bar snacks and ice-cold bottled beer for nearly 50 years. The house-specialty, bolinho de carne (beef croquettes), deep-fried and doused in spicey vinaigrette and fiery malagueta pepper sauce (£1 each), go with near-frozen Original and Serramalte cerveja like sun and sand. Inside the partly open-air space, chock full of football scarves and decades of photos, some of the city's friendliest waiters navigate the fun with grace and efficiency. Tables overflow into the street, full with a lively, down-to-earth crowd enjoying the simplicity of Brazil at its finest: great food, cold beer, good people. It's very hard to leave.
• Rua Augusto Tolle 610, +55 11 2976 3556, bardoluizfernandes.com.br
Empório Alto de Pinheiros, Pinheiros
As recently as two years ago, Brazilian beer meant watery (but frosty!) lager brewed to stave off heat exhaustion in the tropical sun but with little or no accounting for taste or style (we're talking to you, Brahma, Skol, Antarctica and Nova Schin). Then the craft beer floodgates opened. This hybrid neighbourhood bar/microbrew shop has little atmosphere to speak of, but beer fiends quickly made it their temple, and it's here you will find the best and rarest of Brazil's burgeoning craft beer scene. There are 10 choices on draft (a revelation in itself; samples encouraged) and another 400 or so bottled options, including Invicta from São Paulo, Wäls from Minas Gerais, Bodebrown and Way from Paraná. If you take your ales seriously, this is Brazil's holy grail. Best of all, prices are the same whether you drink in or take away. Pack a cool box!
• Rua Vupabussu 305, +55 11 3031 4328, altodospinheiros.com.br
Chopperia Liberdade, Liberdade
A few drinks in at this old-school karaoke bar in the heart of Liberdade, São Paulo's Japantown (pictured), and you'll feel like you've plunged into a world of neon kitsch, glowing aquariums, Christmas lights and electric paintings. The frighteningly serous songsters who entertain the crowd of Japazilian hipsters, Brazilian twentysomethings, curious tourists and gaggles of hen parties offer dead-ringer renditions of Japanese, Brazilian and Anglo-American pop classics. Some complain that regulars hog the limelight, so you should think twice before embarrassing yourself on stage here lest you fancy the Simon Cowell treatment. There are pool tables and big screens for watching the footie in the back. Great fun.
• Rua da Glória 523, +55 11 3207 8783
Alberta #3, República
This cradle of counterculture was singlehandedly responsible for making Centro calm, cool and collected again when it opened in 2010. Reached through a neon-lit República doorway, this is a three-storey bohemian hideout where DJs spin classic rock, jazz and soul on vinyl for a mixed crowd content to sway on the small dance floor (no pogoing here). Inspired by 1950s hotel bars, it's far more Dylan than Disclosure, and a perfect haunt for introverts to escape flashing colours. Settle in with a seasonal cocktail (try the SP460 - gin or vodka, Tahitian lime, Sicilian lime, grapefruit and rosemary) and get into the groove.
• Avenida São Luís 272, +55 11 3151 5299, alberta3.com.br
Bar Veloso, Vila Mariana
If you don't show up at this tiny boteco as soon as it opens (5.30pm Tue-Fri, 12.45pm Sat, 4pm Sun), you can forget about getting a table. The standing room-only crowd spills into the adjacent square for good reason: the city's best coxinhas (croquettes stuffed with chicken and gooey catupiry cheese), doused in housemade hot sauce; and bartender's Souza's competition-slaying caipirinhas in new combinations (tangerine with dedo-de-moça pepper, cashew with lime) and exotic fruits (jabuticaba, starfruit) are the perfect fuel for an full-on evening. After a round or two, you'll forget you were on the waiting list for a seat, anyway.
• Rua Conceição Veloso 54, +55 11 5083 1455, velosobar.com.br
Ó do Borogodó, Vila Madalena
All exposed brick and uneven floors, this is the Sampa (as Brazilians call the city) spot to shake your rump to live samba, chorinho, pagode and any other string-driven strains of Brazil's most famous rhythm. Serious musicians and aficionados work the room here, so dancing tourists and foreigners without the benefit of Latin blood are quickly exposed (don't worry – it's a good thing). The sweat-soaked crowd fights for breathing room to let loose in the compact house Monday through Saturday (expect a cover charge of up to £5) and a full house most nights. It's one of the few places in São Paulo that can rival the samba scene in Rio's Lapa district.
• Rua Horácio Lane 21, +55 11 3814 4087, Facebook page
FrangÓ, Freguesia do Ó
One of the city's most classic botecos, FrangÓ sits on atmospheric square off the beaten path in historic Freguesia do Ó by one of São Paulo's oldest cathedrals, Our Lady of Freguesia do Ó (1901). But the communion here is of a different kind entirely: with more than 500 Brazilian and imported beers available by the bottle, this was once Sampa's only haven for serious beer geeks. Today, it no longer stands alone, but it continues to draw purists not only for its beer menu, but its famous grilled chicken, served with farofa (toasted manioc flour) and salad (£16 for two people) and famous coxinhas (£7 for 10). The most coveted seats line the sidewalk, but the cavernous indoor space, lined with vintage beer posters and well-worn wooden alcoves, is an easy spot to settle in for the long haul.
• Largo da Matriz Nossa Senhora do Ó, 168, +55 11 3932 4818, frangobar.com.br
Like most hot spots in Sampa's edgiest nightlife district (Baixo Augusta), funky Astronete caters to alt-leaning crowds dissected into diverse subcultures mingling in sweet counterculture harmony. It straddled the line between bar and club, and DJs spin one of the city's most eclectic soundtracks (electro, garage rock, indie, rockabilly), which grows in volume as the night wears on and the crowd swells, pressed against lipstick-red walls peppered with faded erotic film posters. Go early if you want to chat over cocktails; go after midnight if you'd rather get loose in your Levi's.
• Rua Augusta 335, +55 11 3151 4568, astronete.tumblr.com
SubAstor, Vila Madalena
Mixology is still a relatively new concept in beer-mad Brazil. Before SubAstor, mixed drinks were mostly limited to caipirinhas. But down a shadowy staircase beneath Astor (one of the city's finest botecos), sits this the dark and sexed-up basement of whose name does no justice to the imaginations of its bartenders. Italian mixologist Fabio la Pietra is easily the most daring drinks man in town. He knows no limits: rocket, bottled butter, capers and saffron are all major players in his outrageously progressive drinks. It's not a rowdy place – think the cocktail cognoscenti trading tales over Rolling Stones classics – so come to expand your palate (but squeeze your wallet!).
• Rua Delfina 163, +55 11 3815 1364, subastor.com.br