São Paulo's nightlife options are seemingly endless, so knowing where to go is key. The chic and wealthy head for establishments, most of which serve food, in the Vila Olímpia, Jardins, and Itaim neighborhoods. The Pinheiros and Vila Madalena neighborhoods have a large concentration of youthful clubs and bars, and many trendy clubs have opened in Barra Funda. Jardins and Centro have many gay and lesbian spots, with the area around Rua Augusta catering to hipsters.
Most clubs open at 9 pm, but people tend to arrive late (around midnight) and dance until 5 or 6 am. Still, you should arrive early to be at the front of the lines. Don't worry if the dance floor appears empty at 11 pm; things will start to sizzle an hour or so later.
Clubbing can get expensive. Most clubs charge at least R$20 at the door (sometimes women are allowed in for free), and the most popular and upscale places charge as much as R$300 just for entry. At the hottest clubs, expect to wait in line for a bit, especially if you head out late. Expect to wait in line on the way out again, too—the system is usually that you charge your drinks on an electronic tab, presenting the card and paying upon leaving. It can mean long queues: smart clubbers think ahead and pay up in good time.
A word about happy hour: Unlike in some countries, where the term refers to those few early-evening hours when drinks are cheaper, happy hour (pronounced and written in English) in Brazil simply means the time just after the work day ends, around 6 pm, when you might head to a bar for a drink with friends or colleagues. Despite the lack of discounted cocktails, paulistanos love to use the term, and many bars are judged purely on their suitability as a happy hour venue.