One whiff of the orange-scented air in Araraquara is enough to confine the urban aroma of São Paulo to an afterthought. For about six months a year, scores of orange farms fill Araraquara with their sweet perfume and lend the city economic and touristic pull. The scent is as if a thousand freshly baked citrus cakes were set to cool in synchronized fashion on windowsills around the city.
A three-hour drive from São Paulo, Araraquara is home to 200,000 inhabitants. Its fecund soil (much of the country’s sugarcane is grown here too) has led some to attach the nickname “The Garden City.” The more common moniker, however, is “Home of the Sun,” a title given by the Guaianás Indians and inspired by the area’s spectacular sunsets.
With its academic institutions attracting students from across the state, Araraquara acquires a university-town atmosphere during the school year. This month, the city turns 193 years old and the local government has planned an assortment of free cultural activities to commemorate the occasion (193 just screams Sweet 16 for provincial cities in São Paulo state).
Outside of the extended birthday party, Araraquara offers plenty of diversion for visitors. The tree-canopied Rua Voluntarios da Patria (also known as Rua 5 and Rua de Oitis) is a charming thoroughfare and provides shade to shield the intense summer heat. Restaurants, bars and baladas (clubs), many of them concentrated in and around the verdant street, bring a buzz to the city center.
Tchê Araraquara, a churrascaria and taproom, is considered by most locals to be the best Brazilian steakhouse in town. As many of the residents here have DNA extending back Lo Stivale (The Boot), Araraquara also does Italian fare quite well. Pizzeria Bella Capri and Villa Poma are two of the top examples. Under the Oitís branches on Rua 5, Bar Salomé supplies a great starting or finishing line for nights out. The menu consists mostly of traditional Brazilian pub food, such as mortadella (cured ham) sandwiches, steak and fried yucca, and boasts a wide selection of drinks, from draft beers to artisan cachaças.
City Hall’s website supplies a closer-to-comprehensive list of Araraquara’s knosheries.
For the more fervent revelers, Araraquara has plenty of options for connecting twilight to daybreak. Almanaque bar puts various musical genres—from serteneja (Brazilian country) to samba rock—on display. The dance floor is packed regularly on weekends, and an open-air patio allows guests to chit-chat at a semi-normal volume.
Located in the Fonte Luminosa neighborhood, On Off is the latest afterhours hotspot. Araraquarenses start queuing around 10 p.m. for the popular lounge with a sushi bar and beer garden.
For the calmer crowd, Araraquara has plenty of edifying attractions to make a weekend schlep from São Paulo worthwhile.
The locale’s leading urban legend revolves around the Igreja Matriz de São Bento. Beneath the chapel, according to the myth, a large serpent awaits its opportunity to escape and avenge the 1897 lynching of the Brito brothers.
Sharing Praça Santos Dumont with the Prefeitura (municipal hall), the Casa da Cultura Luiz Antônio Martinêz Corrêa is home to many of the city’s musical, theatrical, artistic and dance exhibitions.
The Praça do Daae in Fonte Luminosa welcomes weekly craft fairs as well as regular family-friendly concerts. Nearby, the Teatro Municipal is one of Araraquara’s cultural hubs and an architectural highlight too.
Araraquara’s commercial district is concentrated around Avenida Alberto Benassi. The city’s many gardens, parks and Universidade Estadual Paulitsa (UNESP) campuses accommodate those fancying grassier walks.
Every July, furthermore, Araraquara hosts the Baile de Carmo, known across the state as one of the premier celebrations honoring Afro-Brazilian culture.
Where to Stay
Salto Grande Hotel Fazenda – Rodovia Washington Luis, km 273; (16) 3301-2160; email@example.com – A former coffee plantation on the outskirts of Araraquara, the hotel grounds encompass a waterfall and a museum recounting the property’s history. Activities include swimming, fishing, hiking and horseback riding. Rooms start at Rs 250 per night.
Gran Hotel Morada do Sol – Avenida Brasil, 521; (16) 3332-1211; firstname.lastname@example.org – A top downtown option for business travelers and families. Gym, pool, convention hall and restaurant. Rooms start at Rs 150.
Pousada Bela Dora – Avenida São Paulo, 180; (16) 3333-7043; email@example.com – For as little as Rs 15, this centrally located guesthouse provides rooms with a TV, parking and a basic breakfast. Walking distance from the bus depot.
How to Get There
Regional flights arrive and depart daily from Bartolomeu de Gusmão airport. The Cometa, Cruz and Danúbio Azul bus companies run from Rodoviário Tiete in São Paulo to the Rodoviário de Araraquara bus terminal, home to a total of 21 transportation companies shuttling passengers to and from statewide and countrywide destinations. Some 275 kilometers from São Paulo, Araraquara is also accessible by car via the Antônio Machado Santana and Washington Luiz highways (SP 255 and SP 310 respectively). Other nearby cities include Campinas (177 km, pop: 1.1 million), Ribeirão Preto (79 km, pop: 570,000) and São Carlos (45 km, pop: 220,000).