An Insider’s Guide to LGBTQ São Paulo
On one of Danilo's tours, you can learn about São Paulo's LGBTQ past and present, while seeing key city landmarks, such as Farol Santander and the Sé Cathedral, and exploring neighborhoods like Liberdade or Vila Madalena.
São Paulo is "a city where you can be your true self," Danilo says, "The feeling of freedom is huge. It's a city where you can enjoy every moment of life." And, as home to the world's largest and most extravagant Pride parade (alongside New York), São Paulo makes an excellent LGBTQ travel destination.
Unsurprisingly then, whether you want to know about Pride and Avenida Paulista or the city’s best LGBTQ nightlife, Danilo’s the person to ask.
Your guide to LGBTQ São Paulo
São Paulo’s LGBTQ neighborhoods
Danilo recommends the Vila Madalena and Jardins neighborhoods in São Paulo. “These two districts are awesome; full of cultural life, discos, restaurants,” he says, adding that: “Bela Vista and Avenida Paulista are also famous for their museums, bars, and restaurants … these [neighborhoods] are all must-visits in São Paulo.”
Continue on down Avenida Paulista and you’ll hit Frei Caneca Street, one of the city’s key LGBTQ destinations lined with close to 100 official gay-friendly saunas, stores, cafés, and nightclubs. And, of course, if you’re a first-time visitor, you can always get your bearings with Danilo on his private walking tour.
Where to learn about São Paulo’s LGBTQ+ history
For LGBTQ history in Sao Paulo, you can’t go wrong at the Museu da Diversidade Sexual (Museum of Sexual Diversity), the first of its kind in Latin America. Per Danilo, the museum “tells the story of the LGBTQ+ community and its progress in the country,” by way of both digital and in-person exhibitions and displays.
The best places to get a drink and meet others
São Paulo’s LGBTQ nightlife is world-renowned and with good reason. Not only is the city home to one of the biggest gay clubs in the Americas—The Week—it has a number of smaller, local favorite bars such as Espeto Bambu and Galeria Café in the Pinheiros neighborhood.
However, the pandemic hit the LGBTQ scene in São Paulo hard. “Most of the places are closed and some of them closed for good, even the big discos that we're famous for. [Even so], O Varanda Estaiada [an open-air restaurant] is still open, as is Athenas Café e Restaurante,” according to Danilo. You can also check out the LGBTQ book selection at Blooks Livraria in Frei Caneca Shopping or grab caipirinhas at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s rooftop bar while looking out over the city.
All about São Paulo Pride
A brief history of São Paulo Pride
Known as La Parada do Orgulho GLBT de São Paulo in Portuguese, São Paulo Pride started back in 1997 and has been organized by the APOGLBT (Associação da Parada do Orgulho de Gays, Lesbicas, Bissexuais e Travestis e Transexuais) ever since. Now, it’s officially recognized as one of the biggest Pride parades in the world. Unofficially, many also consider it the best. This year will mark its 26th edition.
But what shaped São Paulo into one of the most LGBTQ-friendly destinations in the world? “I think because we were one of the first cities in the southern hemisphere to introduce a law to protect our gay citizens (it's considered a crime to discriminate against gay citizens for showing affection in public places) people feel encouraged to be themselves,” Danilo says.
How São Paulo celebrates Pride
Brazil doesn’t take partying lightly and Pride is no exception. São Paulo Pride typically kicks off weeks before the main parade works its way down Avenida Paulista. Look out for debates, concerts, plays, dance, street markets, and more, before snagging a spot on the march route to watch dancers, drag queens, and participants take over downtown São Paulo with their trio elétricos (themed floats).
The importance of Pride
Growing up alongside LGBTQ friends who were taught that being gay was wrong or something to be embarrassed about, Danilo has thought a lot about the importance of Pride over the years: “Pride means showing the world that it’s OK to be gay. It doesn’t change you as a person. It doesn’t make you less or more. It means you deserve the same respect as anyone else. Being gay is being who you are.”