Hotel Unique – the watermelon-shaped designer hotel
The sprawling metropolis of São Paulo, the cultural capital of Brazil, has some wonderful surprises in store. And the Hotel Unique certainly has the wow factor. This boutique hotel lives up to its name in every respect. A true masterpiece designed by famous local architect Ruy Ohtake, this spectacular building is supported by concrete columns and is often compared to an upturned slice of watermelon. Inside, you discover the avant-garde world of designer João Armentano with its mix of high tech and natural materials.
A panoramic lift takes you up to the hotel's terrace where you will find the Skye bar with its crimson-lit pool, looking out over a forest of skyscrapers and bright lights. For your first evening, a table awaits in the Skye restaurant run by French chef Emmanuel Bassoleil. The Kobe beef carpaccio drizzled with passion fruit vinaigrette will amaze you, as will your next course of prawns in a spicy tomato Iemanjá sauce, all served with oozing Brazilian-style croquettes.
Avenida Brigadeiro Luís Antônio 4700
São Paulo 01402-470
+55 11 3055 4710
Homage to Niemeyer in Ibirapuera Park
Next day, set off and explore Ibirapuera, a huge urban park right on the doorstep of your hotel. In São Paulo, great architects have designed buildings characterised by a fusion of styles which can seem anarchic at times. In 1922, a group of artists and architects decided to break away from European influences and invent a resolutely Brazilian style of their own. The Paulista movement was born.
As you wander between the tropical trees of Ibirapuera Park, laid out in 1954 by famous architect Oscar Niemeyer and landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, you will discover works by the leader of the Brazilian modernist movement.
Near to the main entrance, stand a while and admire the white-domed Oca exhibition pavilion. Niemeyer took his inspiration from Amazonian huts when creating this rounded structure which is perfectly at home in its environment. It is mind-blowing.
Hiding behind a row of tangled trees is another building designed by the maestro: the Padre Manuel da Nóbrega pavilion. Curiosity gets the better of you and you have to step inside this elegant white construction with its extensive glass frontage. This is home to the Museu Afro Brasil and a rich collection of 6,000 works telling the fascinating history of black culture in Brazil.
Your wanderings through the park finally take you to Ibirapuera auditorium, Niemeyer's last work, inaugurated in 2005. Over the entrance, you will be impressed by the stunning red steel flame that rises up out of the building.
Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral
São Paulo 04002-010
Museu Afro Brasil
Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral
Portão 10, s/n
São Paulo 04094-050
+55 11 3320-8900
A meeting of arts and architecture
Now head to the city centre where your Paulista pilgrimage continues. On Avenida Ipiranga, the curvy shape of the Copan Building sits in sharp contrast to the surrounding linear constructions. This project was started in the 1950s to commemorate the city's 400th anniversary and has become one of the symbols of Brazil's financial capital. You will be lost for words as you stand in front of this iconic 32-storey residential building, boasting the country's largest reinforced concrete structure. While you are there, visit Pivô, a former squat developed into an art space at the heart of the building, where you can see ambitious exhibitions as well as the workshops of artists in residence.
As you stroll along the streets of central São Paulo, you will be amazed by the mix of European, Renaissance and eclectic styles. Take the metro to Anhangabaú station. Close by, the Municipal Theatre of São Paulo lights up Ramos de Azevedo Square with its elegance, inspired by the Paris Opera. Look up and feast your eyes on its decorative stonework, such as the allegorical sculptures representing theatre and music. Opened in 1911 to entertain the well-to-do of São Paulo, it played a seminal role when it hosted the Modern Art Week in 1922, revolutionising the arts in Brazil.
Pivô Art Space
Avenida Ipiranga, 200
São Paulo 01220-030
+55 11 3255-8703
Municipal Theatre of São Paulo
Praça Ramos de Azevedo
São Paulo 01037-010
+55 11 3053 2090
Avant-garde meets the old masters
A change of style now on Avenida Paulista, one of the city's longest arteries. Standing opposite Trianon Park, all eyes are drawn like a magnet to the São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP). You are sure to have your own opinions about this radical building with its rectangular body suspended several metres above ground and supporting red pillars. The most-visited museum in São Paulo, the MASP has occupied this avant-garde building since 1968 when it was designed by Italian-Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi. Welcome to the greatest museum of Western art in the Southern Hemisphere. You do not need a plan to visit the permanent collection; you can wander around this huge gallery whichever way you want. Paintings by the European masters seem to hover in their glass display panels. A symbolic mix of Paulista genres, the MASP showcases the fusion of Brazilian audacity and old-school Europe.
São Paulo Museum of Art
Avenida Paulista, 1578
São Paulo 01310-200
+55 11 3149 5959