Whether you’re after “high culture”, a thumping club or just a bar to hang out in, you won’t encounter much of a problem in São Paulo. The city has four main centres for nightlife: Bela Vista, with mixed crowds and live music; Vila Madalena and adjoining Pinheiros, which host the lion’s share of trendy bars, including some with a slightly bohemian feel; Jardins, offering both quieter, upmarket bars, popular with an older crowd, and gay bars; and Itaim Bibi and Vila Olímpia, together best known for their flashy baladas (clubs). For the trendy bars and clubs, be aware that Wednesday and Thursday nights are as popular, and in many ways considered more hip, than weekend nights, particularly in the summer when those who have the means tend to escape the city.

Places come and go in São Paulo continually, so on-the-spot advice is vital. Some suggestions are detailed below, but for the full picture of what’s going on, consult the weekly Veja magazine, the daily Folha de São Paulo newspaper (especially its Friday supplement) and the website w www.guiasp.com; additionally, the funky w www.obaoba.com.br has all the essential club listings. Many places have their own websites featuring their upcoming programmes; where these exist, they are mentioned in the listing.

São Paulo has a large gay population but, with some exceptions, clubs and bars tend to be mixed rather than specifically gay, with the scene mainly in the Jardins area. Since 1997, the city has hosted a Carnaval-style annual Gay Pride parade on a Sunday in May or June, along Avenida Paulista. The first parade attracted just two thousand participants but organizers now claim well over three million revellers, making it by far the largest event of its kind in the world. For dates and other information, see w www.paradasp.org.br.

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