Local Paulistano Juan Cifrian scouts out the best places to watch the 2014 World Cup in São Paulo, Brazil.
Football fans from far and wide will be out in numbers throughout the World Cup, and bars in São Paulo will respond with a slew of specials, especially during the Brazilian national team’s matches, when many are offering an open bar and food for a flat fee. Most places will open one hour before the day’s first game, but don’t waver until then – once you’re set on a bar, try calling ahead to lock in your seat. Here are my pick of the best places to watch the World Cup in São Paulo, Brazil.
FOR PUB-LOVERS: The Blue Pub
São Paulo’s more upmarket pubs tend to deviate from the usual down-and-dirty watering holes, but The Blue Pub manages to strike the perfect balance between the two thanks to the distinct spaces you can choose from, all of which are equipped with TVs. It stays packed, too, owing to its popular happy hours, delicious pub grub and prime location within crawling distance of the Trianon-MASP metro station on Avenida Paulista. This authenticity does come with the usual drawbacks, though – the tight quarters can induce claustrophobia, and getting a refill during a match rivals the intensity of the action on the pitch.
FOR SERIOUS FANS: Artilheiros
At just a stone’s throw from the madness of Vila Madalena’s main drag lies Artilheiros, a football-themed bar that draws a more refined crowd of fans; they still don their team’s colours but are more interested in the football than the party scene. Occupying a single room flanked by white-washed walls and club team kits and scarves, Artilheiros aims for comfort and convenience. The atmosphere is relaxed, the space fills with natural light in the afternoons and almost every spot in the bar has a good vantage point of one of the four 50-inch screens.
FOR MICROBREWERY BUFFS: Les 3 Brasseurs
With France having defeated Brazil in three straight World Cup encounters (1986, 1998 and 2002), it stands to reason that city residents have surrendered to the allure of this high-end French brewery’s first Brazilian outpost, in trendy Itaim Bibi. All of Les 3 Brasseurs’s (The Three Brewers) signature bières are brewed onsite, and four of the five can be sampled in the Le Palette (tasting). Choose your favourite and go for the jugular with the 5-litre triton – a trophy-shaped tub with multiple self-serve taps tailor-made for copious amounts of communal drinking. As for your viewing pleasure, the cushy booths up front are all equipped with their own LCD screen, but for the best game atmosphere, try the bigger tables and TV out back.
FOR THE SÃO PAULO EXPERIENCE: Vale do Anhangabaú
This sprawling, oft-neglected valley in the heart of downtown SP will be right in the heart of the action come World Cup time, now that it’s been tapped as the official venue for São Paulo’s Fan Fest. Throngs of jubilant fans, hooligans, foreigners and general partygoers will pack in like sardines alongside each other during the matches, and if it’s anything like the city’s 24-hour Virada Cultural festival, you’ll want to exercise extra caution, especially if you’re bringing any valuables along. As if the official FIFA label, Centro location and proximity to the metro weren’t reason enough to cause a virtual gridlock of pedestrian traffic, there will be musical performances from the likes of axé queen Claudia Leitte, too. If that still sounds like your cup of tea, don’t forget to arrive early and travel light.
FOR SIDEWALK CHATTER: Mercearia São Pedro
Who needs the World Cup when you have a regular, carefree crowd that spills out into the streets from open to close? That’s what Mercearia São Pedro is probably asking itself, but with the constant hum of this popular boteco (shop) drowning out the sound of everything short of the beer bucket refills, who’s listening? Order a bucket of your own inside, where you can peruse the used books and VHS tapes for sale or rent, and get nostalgic over the classic movie posters displayed high on the walls while you wait for the next match to start. Just don’t sweat the wait for a table too much – the action is just as good outside.
FOR FULL IMMERSION: Your local boteco
The build-up is over, the stadiums are ready and the town is finally amped up. Brazilian flags are hanging high at the shopping malls, bakeries and neighbourhood botecos, big-screen TVs are being installed and the country is set to come to a grinding halt during the Brazil games. Before the moment passes, do yourself a favour and get a real feel for the passion at your local boteco. The floors may be a tad dirty and the TV a bit fuzzy, but the beer stays ice-cold in the same plastic container, a refill still comes out with a simple mais um!, and all eyes will be dead set on the TV. I’ll be stopping by my corner neighbourhood boteco, Kina da Vila, quite often for the espetos (grilled meat on a stick), the cerveja, the fried mandioca (manioc root) and the friendly, familiar faces. Who’s coming with me?
FOR THE STREET CROWD: Posto 6
Inspired by Rio de Janeiro’s eponymous lifeguard post on Ipanema Beach, this homage to the “Cidade Maravilhosa” anchors a quarter of bohemian Vila Madalena’s booziest crossroads. Posto 6 projects its jumbo-sized television image onto the facade opposite, making its sidewalk seating prime real estate for big-time football viewing. If you happen upon a table, try the sizzling picanha na chapa (rump steak) with a creamy chopp (draft beer) for the full monty. Otherwise, carve out some standing room on the sidewalk and grab a can off one of the street vendors who’ll be lurking close by.