São Paulo can lay proud claim to many a superlative, but ‘most beautiful city’ is never going to be one of them, even in a lineup of the most unsightly competitors. Not at street level, anyway.
But venture to the dizzy heights at the top of one of its sea of buildings – think Terraço Itália at the Edificio Itália, the rooftop luxury of the Hotel Unique's Skye bar or the glass encased vista at The View Bar – and it’s almost impossible not to stop, draw breath and simply stare, drink in hand, at the endless city that sprawls on and on and on, to the horizon in almost any direction you look.
There’s such rich potential for top-floor drama, we’ve often wondered why there aren’t more enterprising folk opening bars on São Paulo building tops. But gazing down from on high isn’t the only way to go; so read on for our set of lesser-known spots for booze with a view or skip ahead to read more on São Paulo's classic rooftop views.
Shopping Cidade Jardim, 4th floor, Avenida Magalhães de Castro 12000
Romulo Fialdini/Press image
The restaurateur Felipe ‘Ipe’ Moraes is hoping to start a trend by opening this second branch of his Iberian tasca, Adega Santiago (read more on the original Adega Santiago), on the roof of Shopping Cidade Jardim, joining the restaurants Kosushi, Rive Gauche, Due Cuochi Cucina and Sottovento in the luxury mall.
‘It’s really difficult to find special views in São Paulo. I think places with beautiful views will become more and more in demand,’ says Moraes. Stools at Adega’s lamp-lit external bar are a pleasant choice for summer nights – if there’s a breeze to blow the stench from the sickly Rio Pinheiros down below in the other direction, that is.
But the best views can be found in the glass-walled lounge upstairs (closed on Sundays nights), gazing east at Berrini’s gleaming towers of power on the other side of the river.
Rua Harmonia 271, Vila Madalena, (2528 1241/ altodaharmonia.com.br)
There’s a more laid-back approach at this Vila Madalena newcomer, where an impressive 180m2 roof terrace tops a three-storey bar, with the original rusting window frames and bricks still intact from the 1980s-build house.
Gaze out across the roofs of the houses below to the cemetery beyond – and then turn your thoughts to eating, drinking and being merry, while you still can. The visually challenged can peer through the telescope (‘luneta’) to spot the pink-and-purple stripes of the tall Instituto Tomie Ohtake or the transmission tower of TV Bandeirantes – a sky-high beacon, lit up purple at night, up towards Avenida Paulista.
Avoid the hit-and-miss cocktails and stick to beer here – they have São Paulo’s Karavelle craft beer on tap. With a view this good, the bar has unsurprisingly been an instant hit for private parties that close the roof terrace off to the public – our advice: call ahead and check.
Jockey Club, Portão 1, Rua Doutor Jose Augusto De Queirós, Cidade Jardim (3815 8664/ merceariasaoroque.com.br)
Henrique Gallucci/Press image
Another low-rise option for a surprisingly good view, not to mention a glimpse of São Paulo’s architectural history, can be found at the very grand Jockey Club, built in 1941. The best watering hole to head to inside is the Mercearia Jockey Club – it’s a sister bar to the Mercearia São Roque, a flirty favourite with banking types, and the recently opened Mercearia São Roque Grill, a few blocks away.
The clientele at the low-key Jockey Club bar is a little more varied, including a studenty, sertanejo country music crowd on Friday and Saturday nights plus a steady crew of seasoned gamblers and occasional flutterers, hunched over betting slips or urging on the horses streaking across the TV screens, beamed in from Rio – or live, right outside the window.
Floodlit on race nights, the view is quite spectacular in itself, but even if there’s no race on, the city skyline beyond, distanced slightly by the racecourse and the river Pinheiros beyond, is an unusual and rather lovely view of São Paulo.
Avenida Atlântica 4200, Interlagos (5667 7722/ bovinus.com.br)
Views rarely pack in more wow factor than at sunset, and we’d lay bets that many paulistanos never knew they could watch the sun set over water, cold beer in hand, right here in São Paulo.
OK, so the immense Guarapiranga reservoir in the city’s south-west isn’t the Atlantic Ocean – but it doesn’t get better than this without heading for the coast. In fact, this out-of-the-way bar is just a thirty-minute train ride from Pinheiros (CPTM, line 9) to Santo Amaro station, followed by a ten-minute taxi.
Be warned: from the outside, the chain-restaurant look is not auspicious. But don’t be alarmed. Head straight in and through, out to the deck bar, where it’s chope em dobro (two-for-one draught beers) on Saturdays until well after the sun sets.
The food? Basic and well priced, with grilled standards like espetinhos (meat on a skewers). Don’t expect a cool crowd – this is a local secret, mainly frequented by local couples and families. Just kick back on the terrace and enjoy the sunset and beyond, before the last train heads back into town at midnight.
Classic rooftop bars
Avenida Ipiranga 344, República (2189 2929/ terracoitalia.com.br)
The few classic rooftop spots that have superb vistas are well installed on the tourist trail, with Terraço Itália the highest, at 168m tall. This downtown bar has near-on 360 degrees of glass walls, and a surrounding walkway – ideal for looking over the curves of the Copan building next door, or north to the hilly Serra da Cantareira. Read more on Terraço Italia
Alameda Santos 981, Jardim Paulista (3266 3692/ theviewbar.com.br)
Look south-west from the Terraço Itália to spot the rainbow glow of the TV and radio masts that line the top of Avenida Paulista – the same landmarks that can be seen even better from up close, 30 floors up on the top of the Hotel Transámerica, at The View Bar. The pricey bar opens just in time for sunset. Read more on The View Bar
Avenida Brigadeiro Luís Antônio 4700 Jardim Paulista (3055 4732/ skye.com.br)
Set on the roof of the half-moon that is the Hotel Unique, Skye is another high point in more ways than one. This bar has all the glamour and polish you’d expect from one of the city’s most upmarket establishments. Sip a poolside martini as you look out over the rooftops of Jardins towards the green expanse of Parque do Ibirapuera. Read more on Skye