Lying west of Praça da República, the lovely residential bairro of Higienópolis developed during the late 1890s. Relative to the increasingly congested and commercialized Centro, the elevated heights of this region offered a “hygienic” alternative to the frequent floods and epidemics that put an increasing damper on life in the city’s downtown.
By 1900, Sampa’s wealthiest families were flocking to Higienópolis in droves. The opulent mansions they built in the early 1900s gave way to seductively streamlined deco and modernist apartment buildings of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. Although only a few of the houses remain, many of the apartment buildings are still standing.
Higienópolis remains one of São Paulo’s most traditional and wealthiest residential bairros, with a who’s who of famous dwellers ranging from former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso to iconic rocker Rita Lee. It also has a significant (both secular and orthodox) Jewish population, which accounts for the many kosher products available in the neighborhood’s numerous delicatessens.
Although there aren’t many sights, there are quite a few pleasant little restaurants and cafés, and simply wandering around—scoping out people and apartment buildings—is an agreeable way to spend a low-key afternoon.
Architecture buffs take note—among the most striking modernist buildings (in order of walkability) are the following:
Rua Piauí 428, at the corner of Rua Sabará
Rua Maranhão 163, at the corner of Rua Sabará
Av. Higienópolis 101
Av. Higienópolis 265
Edifício Parque das Hortênsias
Av. Angélica 1106
Av. Higienópolis 938
Rua Piauí 1081
Rua Pernambuco 15
Close to Edifício Cinderela is the very charming Praça Villaboim, a tiny jewel of a park surrounded by restaurants, bars, and boutiques.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition