Published on November 2nd, 2014 | by Mark Chesnut
“My São Paulo” — Gay Travel in Brazil, with Douglas Drumond
If you really want to know a destination, ask someone who lives there. So when I had the opportunity to interview journalist Douglas Drummond (who’s also the owner of Hotel Chilli Pepper) about gay travel in São Paulo, Brazil, I jumped at the chance to get insight into South America’s largest city.
In this exclusive interview with LatinFlyer.com, Drummond shares his recommendations about gay bars and nightlife, a new LGBT museum, and what clothing brands are the best (I was surprised that overall, he finds São Paulo not as good for shopping as cities like New York City).
What makes São Paulo a great destination for LGBT travel?
São Paulo is one of the biggest cities in the world, which gives to the city a huge diversity, and not just diversity of places — diversity of people and culture. With the Brazilian economy increasing in the last few years, the city found its place in the cosmopolitan world. All this contributes to making people get along in peace, including the LGBT community. In spite of Rio being the first city that LGBT tourists think of when they come to Brazil, it is in São Paulo where they find the biggest gay community and entertainment.
DON’T MISS: Gay Bars of Rio de Janeiro: A Gay Travel Guide
What are the top attractions and activities you recommend to first-time LGBT travelers in Sao Paulo?
Well, the city is very famous for its nightlife, gastronomy and for its vibrant style of live. My suggestion is to discover the gays neighborhoods and make some friends. That is the best part, the gays Paulistanos (the way people from São Paulo is called) are very friendly, so make new friends and get out and have fun. There are different attractions for every single day of the week.
DON’T MISS: Why Gay Travel is Great for Straight People
What are some of the hottest nightclubs and bars right now in Sao Paulo?
São Paulo has just been elected by CNN as [having] the 4th best nightlife in world. Here we have nightclubs to every different kind of taste. New clubs open and close every day, but some of them works very hard to survive in this very high competitive market. No different than the rest of the world, the São Paulo LGBT people are very demanding. A great case is the night club The Week. They’ve been open for almost 10 years and they receive about 2,5000 gay men every Saturday. Two years ago, the The Week group opened a new and amazing house called Grand Metropole. No words can explain how it is; I invite you to visit its website or personally when you come.
For those who don´t like crowded and big places and appreciate an alternative scene I suggest Igrejinha [R. Fernando de Albuquerque, 302, Consolação). It is a small but very charming bar frequented by a young and trendy tribe. The decoration is inspired by small churches, full of saint´s statues. Sometimes it reminds me of a grandmother´s living room. But the hottest place in my opinion is not a club, it is the 269 Chilli Pepper Single Hotel and Sauna! At rush time we have about 500 men searching for fun. The 269 Chilli Pepper Single Hotel got famous and aroused the curiosity of Loius Vuitton, which included the hotel in its Travel Guide of 2014.
DON’T MISS: First Gay Friendly Surf Camp in South America, in Brazil
What shopping do you recommend in the city?
It is very difficult to advise a tourist about shopping in Brazil. We have among the highest taxes in the world, [so] shopping not a good idea here — it’s impossible to compete with Miami or New York, for example. But if you look for local clothes and gifts, I suggest Anjo da Guarda and Adeh Oliveira brands. They are very cosmopolitan in their fashion design but always with a Brazilian touch. If you like expensive and international brands and if you don´t mind paying three times more for it, the best place is Oscar Freire street. This is the fanciest street of São Paulo. For those who like handmade fashion and antiques, [my recommendation] is the Benedito Calixto square. On Saturdays in the early evening you also can shop and flirt. The square is one of the hot spots for gay guys.
DON’T MISS: Gay Marriage & Same-Sex Destination Weddings in Mexico City
How would you describe the gay neighborhoods in Sao Paulo? Are there any special LGBT cultural things that people should see or do?
A decade ago, São Paulo had only one gay neighborhood, called Jardins. Every bar and nightclub was located there. With the Brazilian “coming out” process, the Jardins became small to the gay community. The gay scene expanded to Bela Vista neighborhood. The gayest point is Frei Caneca street, where you can find many gay bars, restaurants and stores. The good thing to do is discover the neighborhood slowly, if you look carefully you find art galleries and theaters with gay plays. A little bit down, close to the old downtown you also find the Largo do Arouche, another gay scene. The entire Vieira de Carvalho avenue, surrounded by gay bars, guides you to Arouche square, where you can realize what the word diversity really means. It’s a mix of bears, lesbian chics, lesbian truckers, transsexuals, bisexuals, transvestites sharing the same place.
Inside the Republica subway station, next to Largo do Arouche is the Museu da Diversidade Sexual (Sexual Diversity Museum). The museum was recently opened and is dedicated to LGBT history. Recognizing the importance that the Diversity Museum has for the city, São Paulo´s mayor decided to move it to a new place. An old and iconic house is being restored to house it on Paulista avenue, the heart of the city, giving to it a better visibility.
DON’T MISS: Have You Been? Top 5 Gay Travel & Vacation Destinations in Latin America
What kind of travelers does your hotel attract?
The 269 Chilli Pepper Single Hot Hotel is completely made for gay men over age 18. To have a day spa in our hotel is a special sexy lovely experience! The place offers 5 suites, 124 single rooms at its three floors, as well as 369 lockers for local visitors. [There are also] showers and jacuzzis with filtered water, a winter swimming pool with waterfall, and a summer pool, ionized with sand filter. Chilli also has an L-shaped lounge bar with seven square meters, furnished by acclaimed designer Philippe Starck, where drinks and snacks are served. Chilli Pepper’s first floor takes on a party atmosphere with DJ Anderson Noise. Sporadic parties take place, and encounters among different tribes happen daily.