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4 Hours in Sao Paulo


The sprawling metropolis of Sao Paulo means getting around takes a taxi or even a helicopter – at least for the rich and very rich – and that means traffic and the tainted air that goes along with it.

Fortunately the city is not without its green spaces, most notably Parque Ibirapuera, the city’s answer to Central Park. The park opened in 1954 to celebrate Sao Paulo’s 400th anniversary. Wander along the many paths beside large lagoons or rent a bike and follow the cycleways. Look out for two impressive structures by the dean of Brazilian architects, Oscar Niemeyer – the Auditorio Ibirapuera, which rises from the ground at a 45-degree angle, and Oca, a huge gallery space that resembles a giant flying saucer.


On the east edge of the park is the Museum of Modern Art, by gate three. The museum dates back to 1948, and is divided into two gallery spaces meant to host temporary exhibitions. However there’s also a permanent collection with more than 4,500 works, including pieces by artists such as Chagall and Picasso. However the museum’s primary mission is to foster local talent; the sculpture garden that surrounds the museum displays 28 pieces by Brazilian artists, and photography also is also a prominent art form. Entry is R$6 ($1.90). Open Tues-Sun 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM;


Not to be confused with the Museum of Modern Art, the Sao Paulo Museum of Art, or MASP, is situated a cab ride north of Ibirapuera in Parque Trianon. However once you’ve arrived there’s no mistaking the Brutalist style of the 1968 building designed by Italy’s Lina Bo Bardi – who loved Sao Paulo so much that she made it her home. The building sits on four red pillars supporting what looks like a gigantic shoebox. It houses delightful pieces by home-grown artists such as Jose Ferraz de Almeida Junior, one of the country’s leading 19th-century painters, as well as works by John Constable and J.M.W. Turner. Entry is R$30 ($10), or free on Tuesdays and Thursday evenings. Hours Tues-Sun 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM, 8:00 PM on Thurs;


Head south back toward Ibirapuera to the Brazilian House Museum at 2705 Avenida Brigadeiro Faria Lima. If you have the time, walk the two and a half miles and soak in more of the Jardins district’s culture and cuisine. The museum itself is housed in a beautiful wedding cake-style Palladian mansion that was once the home of the influential Prado family. Today it displays a significant collection of Brazilian furniture from the 17th to 21st centuries. The exhibits include everything from historic pieces such as ornate jacaranda wood furniture and delicate, finely crafted silverware, to stunning modern Brazilian design. If the walk gave you an appetite, the Quinta do Museu restaurant features an excellent variety of choices. Entry is R$8 ($2.50). Open Tues-Sun 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM;


Circle back toward the park and look for a gravity-defying, half-moon structure that looks something like a concrete slice of lime. In a city where the architecture can range from the stunning to the out-sized and outlandish, the Ruy Ohtake-designed Hotel Unique nevertheless carves out a distinctive profile. The hotel is located to the west of the park. The floors of the five-star property get wider as they go higher and reach their broadest point on the roof, which has a pool, bar and restaurant and killer 360-degree views of the city’s towering skyscrapers that stretch along the skyline as far as the eye can see. After dark, the bar is home to one of Sao Paulo’s most happening scenes. Open 6:00 PM – 12:30 AM; 4700 Avenida Brigadeiro Luis Antonio;