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Roll over Rio! OutUK's Adrian Gillan heads, instead, to the roaring urban jungle of Sao Paulo. Two hundred miles west of Rio, along the Tropic of Capricorn, lies Sao Paulo: one of the world's largest cities, with a Portuguese-tongued population of over 17 million.
Founded by Jesuits in the 16th Century - on a plateau 750m above sea level, although a mere 50 miles from the Atlantic - Sao Paulo's Brazilian caffeine kick came at the end of the 19th Century with the expansion of coffee plantations, and it soon emerged as South America's economic powerhouse. Once only viewed as a rainy, industrial, concrete jungle, Sao Paulo is now acknowledged as a cultural hotpot. Truly cosmopolitan - built by immigrants - the city has a million-strong Japanese community, the largest outside Japan; three million Italians, many in the Bela Vista neighbourhood; not to mention a million Arabs and hundreds of thousands of Israelis. Locals ("paulistas") have a reputation for working hard - and playing hard.
More than a million marchers took part in Sao Paolo Pride at the end of May.
Despite a macho culture where many "straight" men live in denial, chasing trannie prosies rather than groping as-they-see-it "real" men, Sao Paulo - like other larger cities and states in this 170-million strong nation - is staunchly progressive on gay issues. Brazil decriminalised most homosexual acts in 1823; anti-discrimination laws are in place across many states and cities; and age of consent is fourteen for all persuasions.

March-November is the driest and best time to visit the south and south eastern regions of Brazil, including Sao Paulo. November normally brings a warm, pleasant spring; or you might like to visit during the world's largest Pride event, which is normally held at the end of May.

Stroll along the city's main Manhattan-style scraper-lined artery - the Paulista Avenue - taking in one of the most important museums in Latin America, Museo de Arte de Sao Paulo (www.masp.art.br); and dip into the adjoining Japanese Liberdade district. Then take a breather in the city's beautifully landscaped central park Parque Ibirapuera.

It's home to museums, a planetarium and a striking monument to the Bandeirantes, the trailblazers who opened Sao Paulo up to the rest of the world. Just north east is Sao Paulo's old "Downtown" (or Centro), where the Praça da República also provides a shady place to rest between shopping excursions in nearby streets.
Sao Paolo's central Parque Ibirapuera.
For something a little more unusual, check out Butantã Snake Farm (located within a park close to the University of Sao Paulo), where our slithery friends are milked to produce antidotes; or the Museu da Tatuagem (Rua 24 de Maio 225; T: +55 11 222 8049) colourfully displays a fine history of tattoos and body art.

SHOPPING AND EATING

The Victor and Victoria Mall on Rua Rego Freitas - a shopping centre dedicated to queers - opened in 2003. With a rainbow-daubed ceiling, it has dozens of shops selling clothes, underwear, home furnishings, wigs and sex toys - even a gay travel agency. Other more erotic homo-boutique options include Ponto G on Rua Amaral Gurgel and R & R Amigos on Rua Sena Madureira.


Sao Paolo's Iparanga Museum
Otherwise, the Morumbi Shopping Centre - at Rua Barao de Itapetininga and Rua Don Jose de Barros - is a brand palace.

Decades of intense immigration mean an enormous variety of restaurants dishing up anything from Brazilian to Malaysian grub. The best options are in the Paulista district: check out Lebanese Arabia or Central-South American Mestico. If in the old Downtown, you could do far worse than Café Vermont which also features drag shows on Saturdays.

BARS

The gay scene is located predominantly within two neighbourhoods: the posh Paulista-Consolacao (Jardins") district, where two scraper-lined avenues intersect; and the older, poorer, cheaper - but in many ways more interesting - Downtown (Centro") area, around Republica Park, a 15-20 minute walk north east of Jardins. In either, you will find countless gay bars, clubs, shops, saunas and eateries, too numerous to fully mention. In Jardins, start off at Gourmet, a small bar with good music and arty people; in Downtown, begin at Soda Pop, a well regarded bar at Av. Doutor Vieira de Carvalho, 43.

CLUBBING

If in Jardins, drop into old favourite Nostro Mundo; if Downtown, try spacious Danger, or even larger Salvation, where local lads dance 'til dawn.

HOT NIGHTS

The most famous saunas in Sao Paulo are rent-fested Fragata and Lagoa. The best "non-rent" sauna - although somewhat pricy - is For Friends. There are also many adult cinemas Downtown, the one next to McDonalds on Ipiranga Avenue (between Sao Joao Avenue and the Republica Square) standing out for having a slightly younger clientele. Failing that, the large Ibirapuera Park is a good daytime option, especially the south end, near and on the main footpath.

GETTING THERE

You can get return direct scheduled flights from the UK from around £350 plus taxes through ebookers. Our hotel partners Bookings offer a wide range of gay-friendly hotels at special online prices.

THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Arabia (Rua Haddock Lobo 1397; T: +55 11 3064 4776)
Danger (Rua Rego Freitas 470; T: +55 11 32110371)
For Friends (Rua Morgado Mateus, 365; T: +55 11 791887)
Fragata (R. Francisco Leitão 71; T: +55 11 8537061)
Gourmet (Alameda Franca 1552; T: +55 11 3064 7958)
Lagoa (Rua Borges Lagoa 287; T: +55 11 739689)
Mestico (Rua Fernando Albuquerque 277; T: +55 11 256 3165)
Nostro Mundo (Rua da Consolação 2554; T: +55 11 3259 2945)
Ponto G (Rua Amaral Gurgel 206)
R & R Amigos (Rua Sena Madureira 755)
Salvation (Largo do Arouche 301; T: +55 11 223 0705)
Café Vermont (Vieira de Carvalho 10; T: +55 11 222-5848)
Sao Paulo City Tourism Website

Revised November 2015

 

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