Firmly in the running for World’s Gayest Street, Rua Frei Caneca – also known as Gay Caneca – is the must-do queer destination in São Paulo, hosting the city’s highest concentration of gay nightclubs, restaurants, bars and even an entire rainbow-tinted shopping mall. Running parallel to hip and happening Rua Augusta, Frei Caneca offers ample opportunity to meet your next friend or your next ex. Cavernous A Lôca anchors the top end of the gay section, near Rua Peixoto Gomide, where boisterous packs of young people inbibe at scores of no-named bars, and the action continues down the hill to Shopping Frei Caneca, with various gay-centred shops and services populating the intervening space. If what you want is a little pre-game action while the night’s still young, you couldn’t pick a better spot. There’s somebody for everyone here. Rua Frei Caneca, Consolação. Metrô 2, Consolação.
Although not a strictly gay locale, Saturday afternoons at Praça Benedito Calixto in Pinheiros does draw crowds, especially the fashionable gay and lesbian set. A wonderfully diverse flea market occupies the square, with handicrafts, art, antiques and clothing (with lots of cool T-shirts), and a live samba band brazilianising the atmosphere. It’s also the perfect spot to hang out with friends, try some traditional Brazilian eats – the acarajé, a bean-based fried goodie originally from Bahia, makes for a great snack – before getting a little flirting in. Or a lot. The bars on the north end of the square stay busy long after the merchants have folded up their stands, and the ladies have just as much of a chance of scoring as the gents. And there’s always one or two ‘straights’ who get curious. Praça Benedito Calixto, at the corner of Rua Teodoro Sampaio and Rua Lisboa, Pinheiros.
Praça do Porquinho, Parque do Ibirapuera
On the southern edge of vast Parque do Ibirapuera sits a bronze statue of a boy wrestling a pig to the ground. The freshly cut lawn surrounding that statue – the Praça do Porquinho – makes for prime real estate on sunny Saturday afternoons for shirtless sunbathers who like to show off their gym-built abs, pecs and whatever else for the crowds of joggers, bikers, skateboarders and other cruisers who pass through this testosterone-laden section of the park. There's so much bare skin, in fact, that they call this the Praia do Ibirapuera – Ibirapuera Beach. Best day: Saturdays. Parque do Ibirapuera, Portão 6, accessed by Avenida Quarto Centenário, Ibirapuera.
Largo do Arouche
What had been a verdant, park-lined set of residential city blocks planned at the edge of downtown at the beginning of the 20th century has become a haven for working-class twinks, middle-aged bar-crawlers, teenaged lesbians from the periphery and tranny prostitutes. It’s a raucous, down-and-dirty district with a carnivalesque atmosphere and sex shops or porn cinemas on every other block – and we love it. Arouche is where you go to get away from a bit of the superficiality that can sometimes taint the gay scene in Jardins; here, things are as real as they can get, and no one’s an outcast. The jumble of bars around the circular praça stay packed, and same-sex couples often smooch in broad daylight. You may hear some paulistanos warn that the area is dangerous, but there’s actually a police post on-site, where uniformed officers keep watch over the wildlife. Best day: Sundays. Largo do Arouche, Centro. Metrô 3, República.