Kevin Raub
Kevin Raub
São Paulo, Brazil
Brazil-based travel journalist and Lonely Planet Author. ‘Brazil Insider’ for LAN airlines’ Only in South America blog. 78 countries. Nearly 30 Lonely Planet guides. Twitter: @RaubontheRoad. Instagram: kevinraub

Brazilian Boogie Nights: São Paulo After Dark

New York may be most famous as the city that never sleeps, but São Paulo doesn’t get much shuteye, either. This South American workhouse relishes its role as the beating heart of Brazil’s economy, but come around sundown, ties are loosened (read: tossed) and Paulistanos let off the levels of steam only produced by carrying the weight of an entire country on one’s fashionable shoulders. Crowds billow from 15,000 bars, pubs, clubs and what Brazil does best: botecos (bar/restaurant hybrids of Portuguese origin) every night of the week. Whether you fancy London-rivaling trendiness, traditional watering holes, GLS-friendly (Gays, Lesbians, Sympathetics) neighborhoods or underground Speakeasy vibes,  you cannot never possibly drink your way through the all of Sampa’s option, but you sure can try. Brace yourself for one hell of a pub crawl!
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Luiz Fernandes Bar

Rua Augusto Tolle, 610 - Mandaqui, São Paulo - SP, 02405-001, Brazil

This dead-authentic North Zone boteco (traditional bar) is no frills when it comes to ambiance – plastic tables and chairs, nothing but football scarves on the wall – but the good-time atmosphere has been attracting down-to-earth Brazilians for nearly 50 years. It’s all about the bar snacks: The house-specialty bolinho do carne (meatloaf croquettes), deep-fried and doused in spiced vinaigrette and fiery malagueta pepper sauce, are an absolute knockout, made all the more satisfying when chased with near-frozen Original and Serra Malte beer. One of the city’s most efficient and friendly waitstaffs works the open-air space with poise and precision, making it all very hard to tear yourself away from.

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Cervejaria Nacional

Av Pedroso de Morais, 604, São Paulo - SP, 05420-001, Brazil

São Paulo's first microbrewery is both edgy and inviting, catering to alterna-hipsters drowning themselves in the excellent craft beer brewed on premises. There's also a Weiss, pilsen, stout and brown ale, but it's all about the hop-hogging IPA, which is one of the country’s most notable beers to emerge from a recent craft brew explosion that has completely turned what most folks think of as Brazilian beer (watered-down lager designed first and foremost to ward off tropical heat) on its head. The food here is less interesting, but the industrial vibe (all exposed brick, tattooed staff) still tips antidisestablishment by Brazilian standards, so it’s a nice place to escape the Mauricinhos and Patricinhas (that’s Portuguese slang for the rich, privileged and beautiful) and drink real ale fresh from the womb in peace.

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O do Borogodo

Rua Horácio Lane, 21, SP, Brasil

São Paulo cannot compete with Rio in the samba bar wars, but the city has a few hidden gems to sneak away and be mesmerized by Brazil’s most famous rhythm and sound. The tongue-twisting Ó do Borogodo is one of the best. There are no bells and whistles here – it’s all exposed brick, uneven floors and plastic cups of caipirinhas; instead, the focus is on musicianship. Serious musicians work this former home into a frenzy with their live samba, chorinho and pagode, which is eaten up by sweat-soaked aficionados who no doubt waited in considerable lines to gain entry into this discreet Vila Madalena club. Expect a full house most nights of the week, a nominal cover and a hot and humid environment once it fills up.

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Mercearia Sao Pedro

R. Rodesia, 34 - Vila Madalena, São Paulo - SP, 05435-020, Brazil

Being tucked away just beyond the most trampled streets of Vila Madalena, São Paulo’s biggest and rowdiest nightlife neighborhoods, means this traditional boteco (traditional bar) draws a more local crowd, especially students and others seeking to escape the city’s normally outrageous prices. This bohemian space – all art film and Beatnik novel décor – knows a thing about properly chilling beer, which waiters dance about with along with fresh pastels (fried pastries) and other down-to-earth bar food. Despite being just a five-minute walk from the metro, it somehow feels hidden away on this residential-heavy street.

Veloso Bar

R. Conceição Veloso, 54 - Vila Mariana, São Paulo - SP, 04110-120, Brazil

It’s standing-room-only at this tiny Vila Mariana boteco (traditional bar) – unless you mange to show up right at opening, you can pretty much forget about moving your way up that lengthy waiting list. What’s all the fuss about? Well, bartender Souza, for starters, who’s widely-regarded as the top caipirinha mixologist in town. His perfectly-balanced creations – namely those marrying mind-bending flavor combinations like tangerine and Dedo-de-Moça pepper or starfruit and basil; or the best of Brazil’s wide-ranging exotic fruits (jabuticaba, an intense, grape-like fruit) – fuel the good times here. You’ll find them to be the perfect chaser to the city’s best coxinhas (chicken croquettes) doused in the country’s best housemade hot sauce. You’re welcome.

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Empório Alto dos Pinheiros

Rua Vupabussu, 305, São Paulo - SP, 05429-040, Brazil

A few years back, the Brazilian beer scene – if you could call it that – was immediately dismissible by anyone interested in drinking anything other than watered-down swill designed to ward off tropical thirst. Then craft beer happened. For Brazil, it was better late than never! Fast-forward to 2014 and Emporio Alto de Pinheiros (EAP, pronounced “EPY,” for short) is the spot where hop heads gather to discuss IBUs (International Bitter Units) over the best selection of Brazilian craft brews probably in the while country. Part bar, part beer emporium (beers taken to go cost the same as drinking in!), there are 10 brews on draft (unheard for a Brazilian bar) and another 500 or so filling out the extensive local and international selections. It’s heavy on craft beers from the states of São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Paraná, which, coincidentally, are doing the best things with beer in Brazil. Start with Invicta. Saúde!

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Caos -- CLOSED

Rua Augusta, 584 - Consolação / Higienópolis, São Paulo - SP, Brasil

One of the best bars in the city’s best nightlife district – Baixo Augusta, a former Red Light district, now gentrified into an edgy, come-one, come-all nocturnal magnet for collective counterculturists – Caos is sort of like drinking inside a junkyard. Walls and ceilings are plastered with industrial paraphernalia while the space between fills nightly with a cornucopia of subcultures (punks, indie hipsters, feminist librarians, beer geeks, modern greasers, vegan construction workers – you name it), all happily co-mingling amid the chaos, cocktails and carefully curated indie soundtrack. Get here early if you don’t want to be smothered under the weight of it all.

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Rua Delfina 163

Mixology as a general concept has only begun to dig its heals into Sampa’s nightlife scene recently (beer still reigns supreme while the idea of a cocktail rarely extended beyond the classics for years). This dark and sexy basement bar tucked away under one of the city’s best botecos (Astor) is pretty much credited with kicking it all off. Fiendishly interesting concoctions are birthed here under the supervision of Italian mixologist Fabio la Pietra, who marries wildly contrary flavors amid a whirlpool of ingredients normally reserved for degustation menus (arugula, bottled butter, capers and saffron, just to name a few). It’s expensive, sophisticated and sensual – a microcosm for Brazil itself – and not for anyone who is not a serious cocktail connoisseur.

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Alberta #3

Avenida São Luís, 272 - República, Sao Paulo, Brazil

This indie bar not only single-handedly revived downtown’s Republica district into a nightlife destination, but it follows suit with the Dylan song it was named after: Calm, cool and collected. Laced with street cred and very much the anti-Brazilian bar (no samba here), it’s a bohemian hideout where DJ's spin classic rock, jazz and soul on vinyl and creative cocktails are more likely to fuel the frenzy than watered-down Brazilian lager. It’s a spot where folks in common (journalists, artists, nonconformists) gather over common interests (indie rock, classic rock, protest folk) because they don’t have anything in common with the general population. Head first to their excellent restaurant next door (Ramona) and make a night of it. Once you tire of typical, of course.


Alameda Olga, 170 - Barra Funda, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Club fanatics flock to D-Edge, which has maintained its stronghold on the best club in the city for a miraculous amount of time now (by dance club standards – it opened in 2003!), mainly due to a head-throttling sound system and a very laissez-faire attitude towards whatever happens to be your poison. It’s skews gay same nights, straight others - mixed almost always - so the crowd is guaranteed to turn you on at one point or another. It attracts the bulk of famous international DJ’s, who worship the space for keeping a Berlin or London ethos alive: It’s about the tunes, the vibe, the ebb and flow of a DJs whim (not about money-making gimmicks set to a techno soundtrack). It’s a high-end superclub steeped in futuristic décor, but otherwise sticks to its guns: Just the right amount of space-age flashing lights compliment the music, not the other way around.

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São Cristóvão Bar e Restaurante

Rua Aspicuelta, 533, SP, Brasil

The bohemian bairro of Vila Madalena is easily the biggest nightlife district in the city – every other address is a bar, restaurant or boteco – but São Cristovão stands out for its colorful devotion to a second-tier football team (São Cristovão FR) whose memorabilia is literally plastered across every inch of free real estate (and then some, to the tune of 3500 mementos). The red-tinted overload makes for an addictively fun space to keep the ice-cold chope (Brazilian draft beer) coming, chasing excellent boteco cuisine (try the pot-roast-like carne de panel). As with most Vila Madelena hostpots, the action spills into the sidewalk. It’s a perfect place to begin (or end) an evening in São Paulo’s artiest enclave.

Riviera Bar

Av. Paulista, 2584

Brazil’s most famous chef, Alex Atala (of D.O.M. fame), has teamed up with nightlife guru Facundo Guerra, to re-open Riviera Bar on Av Paulista, easily the most famous and historically significant bar in Sampa history. Originally opened in 1949, Riviera was once the stomping ground of Sao Paulo’s coffee elite, politicians and sportsmen in the 50s, and left-wing music and artists like Chico Buarque in the 60s and 70s - a cradle of intellectual counterculture under a harsh military regime. The bar fell on hard times and closed its doors in 2006 after failing to pay years of back rent. The new Riviera (in the same location) is double the size and has been given a foodie makeover by Atala, who sent over his own D.O.M. chef, Luciano Nardelli, to head up the kitchen; as well as one is his top mixologists from both D.O.M. and Dalva & Dito, Jean Ponce. The new Riviera now features a funky-shaped downstairs bar and a roomier sophisticated lounge upstairs hosting live jazz, bossa nova and the like in a with a bar and dinner menu from part of the team that helped D.O.M. peak as the 6th best restaurant in the world in 2013.

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Bar Número -- CLOSED

R. da Consolação, 3585 - Jardim Paulista, São Paulo - SP, Brasil

One of the most exclusive bars in the city, this sleek cocktail refuge for high-end hobnobbing is reached via a gaggle of black-suited bouncers guarding a lowlit corridor that stands between you and a single hostess, the final guardian to one of São Paulo's most fashionable drinking addresses. Designed by famed architect Isay Weinfeld, the dimmed shotgun-style space is long and narrow, lined on both side with cushy leather couches – the backend warmers of the cities rich and elite – that ends in a small jungly conservatory. Barman Derivan de Souza is one of the cities finest, nailing the best dirty martini in Brazil and a deft mixologist across a menu of specialty cocktails featuring Absolute Elyx ($17.50) and standards that reach prices as high as $22.50 for a Hendrick's Gin and Tonic. Nimble waiters navigate the tight space impressively, lifting massive serving trays carrying numerous plates of mini-coxinhas (chicken and catupury cheese croquettes) and Kobe beer burgers with one hand, ensuring the city's jetsetters, models and trust fund kids don't go hungry while the in-house DJs spins the Smiths and the Cure at volumes just teetering on the conversation side of pleasant. Top spot if you can worm your way in and don't mind the A-list show.

Last updated at Dec 03, 2015