In São Paulo, the carnival-like Gay Pride Parade draws nearly four million people who crowd onto the main boulevard of Paulista Avenue and the surrounding streets. The country’s love of festivals, its move to the left politically, and an explosion in awareness of gay issues paved the way for the June event that is so massive it is now noted in Guinness World Records as the largest of it's kind in the world. Other important annual gay events include November’s Mix Brazil Festival, of gay film and video.
Gay nightclubs feature a wide variety of shows, with drag, male strip-tease, singers, performances and some of the best DJs anywhere. There are plenty of bathhouses and sex clubs too, often with bars and show nights as well. Some allow escorts to circulate, others do not. In May 2011 Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court recognized same-sex partnerships in their unanimous vote of 10 (one abstention). The church continues to oppose such rights, in this country with the world’s largest population of Roman Catholics.
São Paulo is a fascinating city, with colonial-era buildings side-by-side with towering skyscrapers. It has some of the region’s most eye-catching modern architecture. With a population of 11 million, it’s the largest city in the Americas. There are the attending problems — traffic, pollution, crime — but city planners have been dealing with them effectively. Although this is the country’s business center, it also has dozens of museums, (the São Paulo Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art among them); also plenty of parks, and natural wonders just outside its borders. Teatro de Cultura Artística has classical music, dance recitals and theater performances; and for ballet, opera, music and popular international singers and performers, check out what's on at the Teatro Municipal.
The upscale Jardins (Jardim Paulista) district has many bars, clubs and restaurants ranking high in popularity in the Paulista gay community. The Consolação, Jardim Bela Vista, and Pinheiros neighborhoods also have business districts of interest. Bara Funda is the location of several of the city's biggest nightclubs, all 18-plus, with some of the hottest gay circuit party nights in the world, often with afterhours dancing going well into the next day.
In Higienópolis/Consolação, the three-sided Praça Vilaboim is a pleasant tree-shaded square with several exceptional but inexpensive restaurants. Locals dine late by North American standards, but coming early will at least get you a table most anywhere in town, before the rush begins at 9:30 or 10pm.
Be cautiously street-smart In the Praça de Republica gay district, or have a local with you, and avoid being a target for thieves. The local hookers and hustlers may be less problematic, and the street life can be lively and full of the sounds of Samba music. Several gay bars, bathhouses, cinemas and restaurants are in the vicinity, on and around Largo do Arouche - but addresses here will defy any google map seaches or print map browsing, so again, a local friend is good to have.
Parque Ibirapuera, the central park of the city, has a planetarium, museums, the Legislative Assembly building, bicycle/motorcycle routes, and the iconic Bandeirantes monument to the pioneers who first settled São Paulo.
São Paulo has two airports: the São Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport; and the Congonhas/São Paulo Airport, for domestic and regional flights - just 5 miles from the center of town. Buses depart from Guarulhos for Congonhas Airport, Republic Square, the Tietê Bus Terminal; and city districts of Barra Funda, Itaim Bibi, the Paulista / Augusta Hotels Circuit and Tatuapé Metro Station. See the airport websites for schedules and routes. Taxis can also take you to your hotel.
You can get around the city on the metro system, which is modern and speedy, or by bus. The Metrô has 59 stations on 5 lines, and the CPTM runs a suburban commuter rail system of another 6 lines. Around 17,000 buses and trollies are color-coded by destination, with (for example) light green for those going North West, and dark blue for Northern destinations. With many nearby towns and beaches worth seeing, you might also want to rent a car for day trips --but driving the streets of this giant city can be stressful.
For getting out even further, coaches go to all parts of Brazil and beyond to Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay from the Tietê Bus Terminal. Other coastal cities have service out of the Jabaquara metro station, the last stop on the blue line.
Currency and Money
The Brazillian real (meaning “royal”) is the local currency. The coins are divided into the same denominations as most currencies, so getting to know the local money is easy. Before leaving home notify your local bank so that credit card transactions move smoothly. Also ask if your bank has a local partner to save on ATM withdrawal charges, and for 24-hour bank phone numbers -- just in case.
Local media & resources
Mix Brazil has information on the gay scene all over the country. Revista Junior (magazine) is a national gay glossy, also with website. ABRAT, the gay tourist association of Brazil, has website listings -- many of which can also be found in the City of Sao Paulo English-language website, along with pdf maps.
For popular culture try the Terra website, or the mainline national news source, O Globo. The Guia São Paulo, in the Friday edition of the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, has good listings, especially for the many restaurants in the city.
Getting around the city with only English? See the website AngloInfo-Sao Paulo, written by and for local expats. The Rio Times is an English language newspaper published in Rio de Janeiro. The International Herald Tribune and USA Today, along with some British newspapers, can be found at hotels and kiosks at the center.
Most popular culture websites are in Portuguese only, but google can translate. For the most fun in a trip to Brazil a bit of local lingo goes a long way, as the use of English, or even Spanish, will elicit blank expressions outside tourist areas.
Frei Caneca is a gay-popular budget shopping mall with inexpensive options at the food court, in the Consolação district, at Rua Frei Caneca, 569.
For a list of gay and gay-friendly bars, saunas, restaurants, hotels and other businesses in Sao Paulo, see our map & listings tab.