If Sinatra had known about São Paulo, he would never have given the "city that never sleeps" title to New York. Most Paulistas won't even set foot in a club until midnight. Take a cab into Vila Olímpia around the witching hour, and you'll find yourself in a traffic jam formed by everyone just heading out for the evening.
Less casual than Cariocas, Paulistas love to dress up when going out. Women are partial to black or other dark colors. Men are less formal. Good casual is fine, but jeans and running shoes likely won't make it past the door at many clubs.
To catch the big names in Brazilian music, São Paulo is the place. The city gets more of the stars, playing more often, than any other city in Brazil. São Paulo also offers a variety of theater, dance, opera, and classical music.
An excellent source of arts and entertainment information is the Guia da Folha, an entertainment guide published in the Friday Folha de São Paulo newspaper. In addition to theater and concert listings, it includes bars and restaurants (with updated hours and phone numbers) as well as exhibits and special events. On the first page is a useful overview of all the free events that week, titled in Portuguese é gratis. The guide also includes details on upcoming concerts (shows in Portuguese) and events at nightclubs (casas noturnas). Veja magazine (Brazil's equivalent of Newsweek) comes out every week on Sunday and includes a separate entertainment guide called Veja São Paulo; many hotels provide this insert for free. For vultures of high culture, the cultural department of the state government puts out a listing magazine every month, Revista Cultural, with details on classical music, dance, theater, and exhibits.
The Performing Arts
São Paulo is considered -- both by Paulistas and grudgingly by Cariocas -- to be the cultural capital of Brazil. The classical music scene is excellent, and the theater scene positively thriving.
Music & Dance Clubs
Large and varied, São Paulo's nightlife scene is also quite spread out, with little entertainment clusters in neighborhoods all over town; barhopping is really more like car hopping. Best to pick a neighborhood, enjoy dinner, and then grab a drink or catch a show at a club nearby so you don't waste time and cab dollars stuck in one of São Paulo's late-night traffic jams. Vila Olímpia is where the 18- to 30-year-olds go for nightlife, with a number of large dance clubs and some of the city's best bars. Vila Madalena is more in vogue with the 25- to 45-year-olds who enjoy bars and restaurants more than dance clubs.
Many bars and clubs charge a drink minimum instead of or in addition to a cover charge. Patrons receive a slip of paper on arrival. All your expenses are recorded on the card and tallied up when you leave. Lose the card and you get charged a steep maximum fee (the assumption being that you've been on a bender all night).
Return of the Rua Augusta -- A streetwalker's stroll for much of the '90s, the stretch of Rua Augusta close to Centro has made a comeback as the locale for the city's hottest dance and music venues. Club Outs, Rua Augusta 486 (tel. 011/3237-4940; www.clubeouts.com; cover R$10), began the trend when it opened a couple years back at number 486 (corner of Rua Marques de Paranagua). Open Thursday to Sunday, Outs offers live alternative rock, starting at midnight and continuing until 5am. For the GLS crowd there's Studio SP, Rua Augusta 591 (tel. 011/3129-7040; www.studiosp.org; Wed-Sat doors at 11pm, shows at midnight; cover R$20-R$30), all about live music and shows, with just about everything on offer, and Studio Roxy, Rua Augusta 430 (tel. 011/7676-0622; www.studioroxy.com.br; cover R$25), for dancing with two dance floors, two DJs, 2 nights only, Friday and Saturday, starting at 11pm and going until everyone finds a friend for the evening or just gets tired and goes home. Down below at Inferno, Rua Augusta 501 (tel. 011/3120-4140; www.infernoclub.com.br; Wed-Sun midnight-6am; cover R$10-R$50), it's live music -- rock, funk, rap -- in a venue with diabolically good acoustics. And then there's Vegas, Rua Augusta 765 (tel. 0911/3231-3705; www.vegasclub.com.br; Wed-Sat 11:30pm-7am; cover R$15-R$40), where some of the city's best DJs are invited to spin their stuff, often for over-the-top theme nights.
In São Paulo, Know Your Club Lingo! -- The word boate or boite used in Rio for a nightclub or dance club refers in São Paulo almost exclusively to a strip or sex club.
On the Radar: Vila Olimpia
In addition to Vila Madalena, São Paulo's other happening nighttime neighborhood is currently Vila Olimpia. Packed with clubs and bars, it's always busy, even on weeknights. Many of the more popular bars are concentrated on the Rua Prof. Atilio Innocenti. At Atilio Innocenti 780 is the Buena Vista Club (tel. 012/3045-5245; www.buenavistaclub.com.br). Despite the name, the music is only a little Cuban and a lot Brazilian, live from Wednesday to Saturday. Bar Favela, Prof. Atilio Innocenti 419 (tel. 011/3848-6988; www.barfavela.com.br), is anything but downscale. This hip bar attracts a happening crowd who come to see and be seen. Athilio Music, Rua Prof. Atilio Innocenti 618 (tel. 011/3044-0206; www.athiliobar.com.br), is a split-personality kind of place, with an Irish/sports bar in the front and a dance club in back. The cover is R$10 to R$25. Also on the Atilio Innocenti is Pennélope, Rua Prof. Atilio Innocenti 380 (tel. 011/3842-3802). Larger than some of the other bars, Pennélope has a small stage for live music and a couple of DJs who keep the crowd happy.
Late-Night Bite -- If you find yourself with an appetite at 4am, try the Paris 6 Bistro, Rua Haddock Lobo 1240 (tel. 011/3085-1595; www.paris6.com.br), a French brasserie in the Jardins neighborhood open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.