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From samba to street art: A guide to São Paulo

São Paulo is a sprawling city that teems with life and live samba, amazing food and the sweet delight of caipirinhas, and an eclectic mix of architecture. Of course, São Paulo is too large and vibrant a city fully absorb in just a few days, or even a week, but those joining Zendesk at Showcase São Paulo should be sure to step outside the conference walls for a taste of the city and its ever-evolving culture. We asked our colleagues in Brazil for some not-to-miss recommendations.

Barbacoa. São Paulo flies under-the-radar as a city for foodies, but word has it that there’s a lot to be eaten—from traditional fare to excellent Italian and Japanese food. Case in point, this high-end Brazilian steakhouse boasts six locations in Brazil, and four more in Japan and Italy.

Trabuca. This super hip spot is the largest gin mixology bar in Brazil, serving up a full menu in addition to its beautifully crafted cocktails. Come for the drinks and outdoor terrace, but stay for the dancing—lights go out in the evening when Trabuca transforms into a nightclub.

Hotel Unique. The rooftop bar here, Skye, is bar none—though it’s currently undergoing refurbishment. Even without the view, the hotel brings together architecture and design, food and drink, for a stylish, upscale experience.

Mercadão. Also known as the Municipal Market, this is billed as a must-see for tourists and anyone that’s hungry. The neoclassical building alone is worth checking out—located in the city’s historic center, it was designed in 1926 and adorned by no less than 72 stained glass windows. But the crowds come for the incredible array of spices, meats, cheeses, fruits, veggies, pastries, and sandwiches—mortadela, in particular. If you’re around on the weekend, the Feira da Praça Benedito Calixto, located in Pinheiros, is a hub of art, music, and antiques—every Saturday.

Red Bull Station. Red Bull re-envisioned and retrofitted a former electrical hubstation, transforming it into a hipster cultural venue that’s free and open to the public, and that includes artists in residency, music studios, exhibition spaces, events, food, and coffee.

Parque Ibirapuera. Ibirapuera park claims 390 acres of land in São Paulo, offering locals and tourists plenty of space and greenery to escape the urban jungle. The park is also home to the Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM) and Ibirapuera Auditorium, both designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer, whose modernist buildings throughout São Paulo (and Brazil) stand out for their curves and use of reinforced concrete to allow open spaces under many of the structures.

Vila Madalena street art. Vila Madalena is a hip neighborhood showcasing alleys of artful graffiti alongside artists’ studios, urban and contemporary art galleries, bars and restaurants. It’s a great area for those fond of walking and fan to creative expression. There are walking tours or you can wander on your own—alongside a host of others with their cameras out. Among the most famous of the neighborhood’s alleys is Beco do Batman.

Livraria Cultura. One of the largest bookstore businesses in all of Latin America is located on the famed Avenida Paulista. The brand has smaller outposts around São Paulo, including a beautiful open-plan store in the Iguatemi São Paulo shopping center, but this one is also special—built inside an old movie theater, it offers large bean bags and wooden planks as seats, overseen by a giant, hanging dragon. By contrast, if books are your thing but you crave something smaller and more independent, Livraria Zaccara is a book lover’s dream—complete with a small haven of a courtyard and a cafe that serves cake.

Museu do Futebol. Avid soccer fans can’t miss the Museu do Futebol, housed inside Pacaembu Stadium, built in 1940 and still in used today. For this reason, check the website before visiting; it closes on match days.

Next stop? Catch us in Singapore.

Suzanne Barnecut is the editor of Relate. She is also a reader of paper-made books, sender of snail mail, writer of fiction, coffee fiend, and pastry aficionado. Perhaps not in that order. Find her on Twitter at: @suzannebarnecut.