AS THE AMERICAS’ MOST populous city, with roughly 12 million inhabitants, São Paulo and its often manic buzz can make it difficult to find a quiet respite. That is unless you decide to hole up in the residential neighborhood of Jardim Paulista. Located in the southwest of the city’s central nucleus, this typically laidback district features palatial homes and leafy streets that feel a world away from the louder, more cramped areas in the center of São Paulo. In fact, it’s not far at all. If you can avoid traffic, Jardim Paulista is a brisk 15-minute drive from tourist-friendly downtown. (But if there is traffic, what the 15 minutes transforms into is anyone’s guess.)
Flavia Liz di Paolo, a top Brazilian guide who specializes in insider access to São Paulo, often recommends Jardim Paulista for a few reasons, chiefly so her clients can take advantage of the Oscar Niemeyer-designed Ibirapuera Park. Generally considered among the world’s most beautiful urban green spaces, Ibirapuera Park provides a lush escape from São Paulo’s high-rises and skyscrapers, yes, but there’s also incredible peoplewatching and world-class art. On weekends thousands upon thousands retreat to the park, making it almost as crowded as many other pockets of the city; however, on weekdays there’s a wonderful air of serenity, though you will still find a decidedly dynamic liveliness to your visit as you stroll past yoga sessions on the grass or impromptu dance-offs among teens who might be cutting classes.
The countless art institutions housed in this 17 million-square-foot park will suit nearly every artistic taste: the São Paulo Biennial Foundation; São Paulo Museum of Modern Art; Museum of Contemporary Art; and the OCA Pavilion, a dome-shaped building designed by Niemeyer that contains the Museum of Aeronautics and the Museum of Folklore. Indeed, Di Paolo suggests taking several days to truly tackle all the experiences the park offers.
To continue this easygoing state of leisure, head to nearby Hotel Unique, the stunning, watermelonshaped hotel designed by Niemeyer protégé Ruy Ohtake. It recently launched one of the most beautiful spas in town, a sumptuous all-wood hideaway featuring wine-infused treatments by Caudalie. Afterward, cap off the day with a drink at Skye, the hotel’s see-and-beseen rooftop bar offering panoramic views of a portion of the city, including the urban madness you avoided by staying exactly where you are.
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