Set sail above the biggest city in South America: the architecturally ambitious Hotel Unique in São Paulo is a striking ship-shaped pleasure palace in the city, complete with water slides for grown-ups, thoroughly theatrical design and a bright red rooftop pool… perfect for flaunting your Brazilian bikini while sipping a signature Wasabi Martini from the Skye Bar.
Noon, but flexible, subject to avalability. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Arriving early or leaving late? Store your luggage at reception, and freshen up in the fitness centre.
Double rooms from £175.60 (BRL1,282), including tax at 5 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of BRL11.20 per room per night on check-out and an additional service charge of 7% per booking on check-out.
Rates don't usually include breakfast. Continental breakfast is R$54 for adults, and the breakfast buffet is R$68; there's also an a la carte menu of hot dishes, from eggs Benedict to waffles with Nutella.
Renowned Brazilian-Japanese architect Ruy Ohtake really went to town on the distinctive design; critic Paul Goldberger hailed the building as one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
At the hotel
Steam room and sauna, gym, personal training, small library of design books, bicycles to borrow, free WiFi. In rooms: TV, DVD player, iPod dock, free WiFi, air conditioning, minibar, free bottled water, black-out curtains, Bvlgari amenities.
Our favourite rooms
The higher room categories are named for the world's most famous streets: when in São Paulo, why not plump for one of the sexily curved Paulista rooms, where the wood floor curls up to join the walls – Avenida Paulista is the city's grandest thoroughfare. Those on the higher floors have plenty of space, and killer views; the best vistas, though, just might be those from the Champs-Elysees suites. (And speaking of views, every bedoom has quite a view into bathroom through the mostly glass walls…)
Take a dip on the glamorous rooftop terrace: the crimson heated pool has a underwater sound system, and it’s lined by chic white loungers and brash ruby-red beanbags. Indoors, you’ll find another heated pool in the fitness centre, with more of a grown-up water-world playground feel. Water slides!
Bring your camera – whether you’re exploring the city, enjoying Ibirapuera Park just on your doorstep or just marvelling at the hotel’s sweeping curves, you’ll want to capture it all for yourself.
All public spaces and two guest rooms are wheelchair accessible.
All ages are technically welcome, but the emphasis is definitely on grown-up stays. Extra beds and cots can be added to rooms and babysitting can be arranged (R$300 per hour; minimum of four hours) but for entertainment you’re on your own.
Hotel Unique’s big on the eco-scene, with seasonal food, extensive recycling schemes (from the oil used in the kitchens to the soap used by guests) and various elements of environmentally friendly design built in to the architecture of the hotel itself.
Pick a window, any window: up here on the roof, a table with a view is a must (unless you have vertigo… in which case, this is probably not the hotel for you).
Mrs Smith, dust off your costume jewellery; as the sun goes down, the diners dress up. A bit of bling is not frowned upon here.
Chef Emmanuel Bassoleil – a Frenchman who’s called São Paolo home for more than two decades – serves up an international menu of French-focused, Brazilian-tinged dishes up on the roof where the Skye restaurant and bar are the place to be seen.
The Skye Bar is where you’ll find the party – there’s a DJ in the evening – and the best views in the city. There’s a quieter lobby bar back downstairs, too.
Breakfast is served 7–11am; take lunch noon to 3pm (4pm on weekends and holidays); dine between 7pm and midnight (half past at weekends).
Order anything you fancy from the Skye menu during restaurant hours; after that, a more limited range of snacks is available.
Avenida Brigadeiro Luis Antonio, 4700 - Jardim Paulista
The hotel’s enviable address among São Paulo’s garden districts sets it slap-bang in the centre of the city.
The nearest airport, São Paulo/Guarulhos, is a quarter of an hour’s drive from Unique; hotel staff can organise airport transfers for R$840. There are regular services from London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle as well as a host of major US cities.
On-site parking is available for R$55 a day, if you decide to brave the São Paulo traffic.
Worth getting out of bed for
The best way to explore is to jump on one of the hotel’s own bikes: Unique teamed up with Green Mobility to start São Paulo’s first sustainable bike-tourism programme (and if you don’t know where you’re going, guides are available to take you out on two-wheeled tours).
São Paulo is home to one of the biggest parks on the continent, and it’s right on Unique’s doorstep. Ibirapuera – think Hyde Park if you’re a Londoner, or Central Park in New York – is the place to find green space in the city, with running trails, bike paths, and capoeira sessions (as well as several museums). The São Paulo Modern Art Museum, in the park, the museum is modelled on the Museum of Modern Art in New York and has an impressive collection of its own, including works by Picasso; entry is R$6. For a fascinating insight into local history and culture, visit the Afro Brasil Museum in the park – it has more than 3,000 artefacts from the last five centuries of Brazilian history; entry is R$6.
A football museum might not be the most romantic of excursions, but football’s certainly a passion for many in Brazil and beyond… Take a guided or self-guided tour down the ‘fan path’ at the Museu do Futebol on Praça Charles Miller, where each room combines the historical and emotional elements of football devotion. Or if football's not your thing, you're in luck: Brazil is also a famously musical nation, and the full range of tastes are catered to at the Ibirapuera Auditorium in the park. The building’s something of a work of art itself, too. Book tickets in advance; performances often sell out.
The leather and wood tables and chairs that scatter the large terrace and internal halls of A Figueira Rubaiyat on Rua Haddock Lobo not far from the hotel sit underneath the huge branches of a 130 year old majestic Bengal fig tree. The menu is contemporary and multicultural – try the Argentine lobster or Uruguan beef.Romantic but cool? Maníon Rua Joaquim Antunes doescandlelit tables next to orange neon wall lights, and the menu dishes up equally inventive takes on traditional flavours. Reserve your table at least a week in advance.
Spot(Alameda Ministro Rocha Azevedo) is a very cool restaurant’s packed with booths that are always full – join the locals for steak, seafood and everything in between, at breakfast, lunch or dinner; Braz Pizzeria's woodoven-cooked pizzas are famous in town for their exquisite flavour and perfectly thin crusts (Rua Grauna). For the traditional Brazilian steakhouse experience, try Jardineira Grillon Avenida Dos Bandeirantes – the meat just keeps coming, with your waiters slicing it all up in front of you.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this dramatic design hotel in São Paulo and unpacked their suitcases full of Brazilian bikinis and vintage tropicália vinyl, a full account of their luxury city break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick postcard from Hotel Unique in São Paulo…
From the moment you’re handed a welcome glass of Champagne on arrival, Hotel Unique in Brazil is clearly out to win you over. Every stop has been pulled out – the wow-worthy architecture by Ruy Ohtake makes it quite the local landmark, the views from the terrace make you feel like you’re king of the world (or at least São Paulo’s vast slice of it), and the crimson pool up on the roof is clearly designed more for glamourous posing than worthy athleticism. Everything even smells nice: the in-room scent is a pleasant vanilla.
The delights of Parque Ibirapuera (Brazil’s answer to Central Park) are on your doorstep, and the rest of the city’s just a cab ride away. But the main attraction for guests at Unique is fun, fun, fun on-site: there’s music everywhere, the menu at the rooftop restaurant’s a melange of French flavours with Brazilian, Japanese and Italian influences, and you can easily spend half a day just meandering about marvelling at the hotel’s ambitious design, inside and out.