Viaduto do Chá
Going down Rua Libero Badaró from the Mosteiro de São Bento brings you to the Vale do Anhangabaú, a narrow valley festooned with fountains and swaying palms and straddled by the Viaduto do Chá. Designed by 19th-century French architect Jules Martin, the Viaduto de Chá was the first of São Paulo’s many overhead passes. Its original purpose was to facilitate transport between the coffee plantations that occupied the valley. In more recent times, viaducts have mushroomed throughout the city in an attempt to ease Sampa’s crazy traffic flow.
From the Viaduto de Chá, you can get a sense of Sampa’s intense activity as well as a great view of two of the city’s most prestigious buildings. Inaugurated in 1939, the Palácio Anghangabaú (Viaduto do Chá 15) functions as São Paulo’s city hall. The shrubbery sprouting from the rooftop is actually a garden featuring over 400 native plants, among them coffee bushes, sugarcane, and even a mango tree.
More dazzling is the Teatro Municipal (Praça Ramos de Azevedo, Centro, tel. 11/3223-3022, www.prefeitura.sp.gov.br/cidade/secretarias/cultura/teatromunicipal). Built at the turn of the 20th century at the behest of São Paulo’s coffee aristocracy, the theater reflects the opulence of the era (not to mention the art nouveau style of Paris’s Opéra Garnier). Venetian mosaics, Florentine sculptures, Italian marble, gold leaf fixtures, and a chandelier with 7,000 crystals from Belgium are a few of the splendid trappings on display. Free guided tours are available (1 p.m. Tues. and Thurs., 10 a.m. Sat.).
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition