Sao Paulo is Brazil’s financial capital and, unofficially, it’s nightlife capital. Paulistanos (Sao
Paulo residents) can hold their liquor, and any night of the week South America’s largest city has an impressive lineup of events if you know where to look. The bars and clubs on Rua Agusta, specifically Baixo Augusta, is considered the main drag for nightlife, but in a city of 32 boroughs and more than 22 million people, the scene’s bound to be as spread out as it is varied.
For swanky clubs and a strong LGBTQ+ scene, check out the Jardins district. Vila Madalena and Pinheros have classic neighborhood bars, samba venues, and craft beer joints. The center has bars and afterhours bars with character both gritty and refined, while Itaim Bibi and Vila Oliímpia’s clubs cater to the glamorous crowd.
Those wanting to go out but turn in early can have a few draft beers at a boteca with dinner, see a comedy show, order a beer flight at a craft beer bar, or go to one of the many concerts happening throughout the city. Those wanting more of an alternative night can check out the train yard parties, a burlesque show, or go to one of the pop-up events by independent party collectives. With the exception of free events, expect to spend a good bit of cash for whatever you choose to do, as this city isn't cheap.
There are two words to know to familiarize yourself with in Brazilian bar culture: boteca and balada. A boteca is a neighborhood bar, a community meeting space good for day drinking, watching soccer games, and where families might frequent for lunch or dinner. The best serve perfect chopps (draft beer). Baladas are hybrid club-bars with space to talk, a smoking room, and one (or several) dance floors—a great option if some of your group wants to dance and some don't. While cocktail bars and craft beer havens abound in this city, make sure to go to at least one boteca or balada to experience the real Sampa bar scene.
- For one of the largest selections of beer in Latin America, head to Emporio Alto dos Pinheiros, with 33 taps and 600 beers, it features some of the newest creations of Brazilian microbrewery.
- For tons of IPA and stout options, Cervejaria Dogma will have you covered with their 20 taps.
- If you’d rather order a beer flight, Tap House will set you up with four brews chosen by their knowledgeable staff.
- Bar Astor in Villa Madalena pours a cold, creamy chopp and mixes delicious gin-based cocktails.
- Over in Vila Mariana, Veloso is the place to go for alternative caipirinhas like starfruit with basil and jaboticaba (Brazilian grapes), and phenomenal freshly made coxinhas (battered shredded chicken fried into a cone shape).
- Find Baretto on the ground floor of the swanky Fasano Hotel where celebrity clientele sip dry martinis while listening to live jazz and bossa nova.
- Installed in a refurbished bank vault, Bar do Cofre SubAstor makes a mean cachaça and champagne cocktail with lime.
- The 360-degree views from the rooftop Skye Bar at Hotel Unique are unrivaled for evening nightcaps.
- Order some jerk chicken and rum-based cocktails before you hit the two dance floors at Kingston Club as live bands or DJs play.
- For rock music, DJs spinning vinyl, enthusiastic dance floors, and a good Bloody Mary, go to Alberta #3.
- For an after-hours balada with house music that goes until 10 a.m. Love Story in the Republica neighborhood has the party.
Most nightclubs won’t get going until 2 or 3 a.m. Expect to pay a cover at most venues, with some having the option of only paying the entrance fee or paying the entrance fee with drinks included. Choose the second to save money if you plan on knocking back a few. It’s culturally acceptable to kiss your partner when dancing but grinding on them will be considered too intimate, especially if you just met in the club. Those wanting good music and dancing, but not a late night should head to the Samba
bars where bands begin playing early and the party finishes long before dawn. Sao Paulo's best clubs include:
- Considered one of South America’s best clubs, electronic music temple D-Edge boasts a superb sound system, mesmerizing light tunnels, and a lineup of techno, progressive, and trance music.
- In the Republica neighborhood, an attractive crowd dances to EDM, hip hop, funk, and soul at Lions Nightclub where Brazilian celebrities can sometimes be seen beneath its sparkling chandeliers.
- DJ’s spin genres like hip hop, R&B, and MPB (Brazilian pop) in different rooms of house-turned-dance-club Casa 92.
- For flashback parties to the eighties and nineties, an underground vibe with low lights and graffitied walls, nonstop dancing, and a mix of hip hop, pop, trap, and indie rock, go to Milo Garage.
- The Week, one of the world’s largest gay clubs, throws massive hedonistic parties on Saturdays, complete with a pool and two dance floors where minimally clothed patrons groove to pop and house.
- Drag queen shows, EDM, and sexy go-go dancers set the mood at Danger Dance Club.
- Intimate Bubu Lounge plays progressive electronica, has three different dance zones, large cube light installations, and attracts a mostly lesbian crowd on Saturdays.
- For a swingin’ live samba band at a local hangout with a mix of samba dance pros and beginners of all ages, go to Vila Madalena’s Bar Samba.
- In Casa Verde at Vila do Samba, expect live bands playing old school samba and decently-priced drinks.
- For the complete package of drinks, dancing, live music, and good food, Traço de União won’t disappoint with its large dance floor and guest samba singers.
Sao Paulo has a slew of places to see live music. For big-name performers and electronic music festivals, Club Audio in Bara Funda is where to go. Bourbon Street Music Club over in Moema has jazz, blues, and soul sets, along with good drinks, and musicians who jump offstage to wander the audience giving impromptu solos. Repurposed historic cinema Cine Joia in Liberdade (Japantown) hosts intimate shows of alternative and indie rock bands. One of Brazil's famous punk rock bands started Hangar 110, Sampha's top venue for punk and hardcore bands to play. For samba, check out any of the bars listed above.
Events and Activities
Mamba Negra is a rebellious collective throwing free dance music parties in abandoned buildings downtown, while DJ duo Sevagem host genre-defying free parties in the city’s streets, mixing disco, samba, house, and more. Event space Nos Trilhos is a train yard hosting massive open-air parties in Mooca, where revelers groove to tropical beats and dance till dawn.
For dinner and a burlesque show, sidle on down to Paris 6 Burlesque Music Hall & Bistrô featuring international performers from France to Argentina that dance on chairs, swing on poles, and sometimes, even belt out Whitney Houston tributes. If you prefer singing yourself, Sao Paulo has several karaoke
bars, including Korean-style Karaoke Dream 21 (with tasty soju on offer) and Minoru Karaokê Box, great for large groups and budget-friendly party packages of drinks and food.
A lot of festivals in Sao Paulo are about moving, not just dancing but literally moving around the city from one place to another. The top festivals include:
- Virada Cultural: In May, Sao Paulo hosts the largest 24-hour festival in the world. Millions of people attend the event’s concerts, movies, plays, dance, and art exhibits in more than 250 venues throughout the city all for free.
- Sao Paulo Gay Pride Parade: Each year 3 to 5 million people attend Sao Paulo’s Pride Parade, making it the biggest one in the world. (Grindr even rates it as the world’s best pride.) Beginning at Consolaçao street and ending downtown in Roosevelt Square, it goes down Avenida Paulista, a dancing, music bumping, glittering good time.
- Carnival: Brazil’s most famous party begins in March or February, depending on the year. See battling samba schools at the Sambadrome or throw on your craziest outfit and head to one of the smaller blocos (block parties, but in reality mini parades), each with a different theme and musical genre where people chug Catuaba (sweet wine) or beer as they dance. Want to check out another bloco further away? Just hop on the Metro, as it's free during Carnival.
- Lollapalooza: The annual three-day festival takes place in the Autódromo Interlagos and showcases big international and national music acts of all types of genres on multiple stages. It has a similar vibe to its sister festival in Chicago, but with more acai bowls.
- Time Warp: Pure house and techno artists merge their music with impressive audiovisual tech (read lighting making you think you’re in deep space) at the Sambadrome for two days. Expect excellent sound engineering which will shake you to your core in a good way.
Sao Paulo's now-closed Bar Beverly Hills’ open mic nights birthed the comedy scene in Brazil in the early 2000’s, where now world-famous comics like Rafinha Bastos got their start. However, the comedy scene’s still going strong in bars like the intimate and well-priced Clube do Minhoca. Here no seat’s too far from the stage and comics create impressive highly improvised sets, riffing off the current night’s crowd, though all performances are in Portuguese.
Tips for Going Out in Sao Paulo
- The Metro closes at 12 a.m. from Sunday to Friday and on holidays. On Saturdays, hours extend to 1 a.m. Every day it opens at 4:40 a.m.
- For public transport when the subway is closed, take a bus on the Rede da Madrugada (Dawn Line). Download Moovit to find the best option.
- Ubers are easy to get 24/7.
- Download 99 Taxi or book with Femitaxi (with women-only drivers) for good alternatives to Uber.
- The last call will vary from bar to club, some will even stay open until 6 or 8 a.m.
- Many clubs charge cover fees, and it’s always a good idea to call beforehand to get on the guestlist or make a reservation at bars or clubs.
- Most restaurants and bars will include a 10 percent tip as part of the bill. You can request this to be taken off if your service was bad.
- Open-container is allowed on the street and in cars, but there is a strict no-drinking policy for drivers.