HOT SPOT: São Paulo, Brazil

As the World Cup kicks off, Holly Welch revels in the largest city in South America

As the World Cup kicks off, Holly Welch revels in the largest city in South America

Why’s it hot? Who knew Rio had competition? It does, and São Paulo will grab the eyes of the world when it stages the opening ceremony for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil (12 June-13 July; fifa.com/worldcup). It’s a bustling and exciting metropolis with a very cool and eclectic crowd, and England will play Uruguay here on 19 June.

What’s it got? Let’s start with the shopping… One must is a visit to the upscale Jardins district where mega-luxe global brands sit alongside super-cool Brazillian designers. We love Patrícia Bonaldi (patriciabonaldi.com.br) whose party dresses are perfect for glam nights at swanky rooftop bars (Gisele, Ellie Goulding and Rihanna are fans); also look out for local shoe designer Alexandre Birman (alexandrebirman.com.br). In the city’s oldest shopping centre, Shopping Iguatemi (iguatemi.com.br), make for Brazilian jeweller Silvia Furmanovich (silviafurmanovich.com.br) and local swimwear designer Adriana Degreas (adrianadegreas.com.br). You can also find such stars of Brazilian fashion on sale at harrods.com, luisaviaroma.com, shopbop.com and farfetch.com.

Party central: Patrícia Bonaldi is one of Brazil’s hottest designers

For food, São Paulo is home to some fine chefs including Alex Atala from D.O.M. (domrestaurante.com.br) where you can nibble on Amazonian ants in a restaurant recently voted 7th best in the world. The locals tend to dine late, and there are terrific female chefs too, such as Helena Rizzo from Maní Manioca (manimanioca.com.br). Sushi fans should try JAM (jamwarehouse.com.br), or for an authentic Brazilian feast dine at Brasil a Gosto (brasilagosto.com.br) – start with a strawberry and cajú (cashew) caipirinha followed by moqueca (fish stew made with Brazil-nut milk and coriander), then finish off with a tapioca and banana beiju (pancake). Main courses range from £11-24.

Wow factor This is a city so immense and such a treat for the senses we’ve picked our top five things to do.

1 Walk the streets in Vila Madalena, which are covered in graffiti and street art. This is São Paulo’s hipster area, similar to London’s Shoreditch and Brooklyn’s Williamsburg. Have your camera at the ready and be prepared for a visual feast – pit-stops such as Coffee Lab (coffeelab.com.br), which serves the best Brazilian coffee and looks a bit like a science lab, will keep you going.

2 Feira de Arte e Artesanoato da República is the city’s oldest running market, open since 1956. It’s brimming with traditional artifacts, including lovely wooden bowls and Christmas tree decorations made out of coconut shells. Go there hungry as there are food stalls to suit every taste ranging from Japanese to Brazilian. It’s open Sunday 8am-6pm, visit early when vendors are keen to make the first good luck sale of the day.

Cool pool: don’t miss the view of São Paulo from the rooftop terrace at Hotel Unique

3 The rooftop scene at Hotel Unique (hotelunique.com.br) feels very James Bondesque as you sip a cocktail watching the sun go down on a view that stretches for miles. The pool has an underwater sound-system and the cool crowd are very much in residence. If you’re not lucky enough to be staying you can spend the evening after dark out on the terrace free of charge, or just go to the bar.

4 MASP (masp.art.br) is one of the best art galleries in South America with works from Gainsborough to Picasso. The building is incredible in its own right, a huge glass box suspended between enormous red concrete pillars. It opens late on Wednesdays with admission around £4.

5 Samba lessons – everyone here seems to be able to move in the most incredible way, so don’t get left behind. Book a class with a pro from the Cia Terra Dance Academy (ciaterra.com.br), which runs taster lessons and longer courses. An hour’s private tuition costs £35 or just over £50 with a partner.

Need to know: This city of over 11 million people doesn’t stop. One of the best things about Paulistanos is their confidence and energy, which seeps into their wardrobes. Literally anything goes, and it will be hot so think loose and floaty for the day then your best party attire for the evening, as much sparkle and glitz as you can find. The city has a good Metro system and taxis are reasonably priced – download the app at easytaxi.com before you get here. Don’t walk around showing off your valuables and be discreet with phones etc; if you find yourself lost walk with purpose to the nearest lovely café and re-assess where you are in the company of a coffee.

Football focus: 2014 is undoubtedly Brazil’s year © Rex

Where to stay: The incredible Fasano São Paulo (doubles from £285 after the World Cup, fasano.com.br) in Jardins has 64 rooms on 22 floors that are all huge (even the cheaper ones) with enormous comfy beds and dreamy baths. Those on the higher floors have views to make every heart leap and there’s a rooftop spa (book a 80 minute Mais Vida massage, £110). There’s a pool, Italian restaurant and bossa nova in the cool Baretto bar downstairs most nights, so you almost don’t need to leave.

Book now: British Airways (ba.com) flies direct from London Heathrow, from £877 return. Transfers by cab from the airport cost from £30. São Paulo Footprint Focus Guide (£6.99; Footprint) covers the city, useful websites include cidadedesaopaulo.com and timeout.com.br/sao-paulo. Learn some Portuguese with Fluent Globe’s Recipes for Visiting Brazil (£6.99; fluentglobe.com/travel-recipes), available from iTunes.

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