AHOY fellow globe troller. I hear you’re heading to São Paulo. You lucky thing.

As the most populous city in South America, it’s full of the energy and excitement you’d expect from a city with over 20 million people!

São Paulo is one of those cities that keeps you in a trance the entire time you’re there. The city is a melting pot of different cultures which flows through its vibrant art, music and cuisine. Dive in head first, and your mind will be in sensory heaven.

Not only is it home to some of the best food in Brazil, you’ll also find enchanting parks, festivals and museums to discover.

However, as with any city, some areas of São Paulo are more exciting than others. To make the most of your time in São Paulo, you’ll want to base yourself in an area that best suits you and your travel dreams!

Are you looking to dance the night away? Do you want to base yourself near the top attractions and museums? How about in a neighbourhood that oozes artistic and creative vibes?

No matter what you’re after, I’ve got you covered. In this where to stay in São Paulo guide, I’ve compiled the top areas to stay in the city and categorised them by interest. So, you can jump in and quickly understand which area is best for you.

So, let’s get scrollin’ and find out where in São Paulo is best for you.

Where to Stay in São Paulo

Here are our top picks for accommodation in São Paulo, if you’re looking for something specific, regardless of area.

If you’re travelling on a budget, we’d recommend staying in one of Sao Paulo’s best hostels. Keep the costs low while enjoying a comfy bed, a great place to rest your head, and the chance to meet likeminded backpackers.

Lady of Aparecida São Paulo

Grand Hotel Ca d’Oro | Best Hotel in São Paulo

Surrounded by bars, markets, and restaurants, this hotel in Sao Paulo boasts some incredible views with a rooftop swimming pool and fitness area for some time away from the busy city.

Rooms here are well looked after and have everything you should need to ensure your stay is perfect.

Brand new studio | Best Airbnb in São Paulo

Situated in the centre of the action in Vila Madalena, close to some of the city’s best bars and dining options.

This studio apartment is located in a new building and decorated modernly with a small kitchen, and access to a gym, swimming pool and laundry service.

São Paulo Hostel Club | Best Hostel in São Paulo

Newly decorated with clean bathrooms and bedrooms, the staff at this hotel are really welcoming. The perfect base from which to explore the city, the metro is half a block away. Plus there is a free breakfast to set you up for the day ahead.

São Paulo Neighborhood Guide – Places to Stay in São Paulo

FIRST TIME IN SAO PAULO
Centro, Sao Paulo
FIRST TIME IN SAO PAULO

Centro

The cultural and historic centre of São Paulo is a giant area full of architecture and heritage. Between the jostling jungle of modern skyscrapers and commercial billboards lies the history of this Brazilian city, and where you’ll also find many of São Paulo’s cultural institutions like galleries and museums.

ON A BUDGET
Vila Madalena, Sao Paulo
ON A BUDGET

Vila Madalena

This farmland turned well-to-do middle-class neighbourhood turned bohemian student haunt is an exciting area of São Paulo to say the least.

NIGHTLIFE
flickr-saopaulo-baixo-augusta
NIGHTLIFE

Baixo Augusta

This area – meaning ‘Downtown Augusta’ – is centered around a stretch of the Rua Augusta that is nestled between Avenida Paulista to the west and Centro to the east.

COOLEST PLACE TO STAY
Liberdade, Sao Paulo
COOLEST PLACE TO STAY

Liberdade

Liberdade’s entrance is marked by a nine-metre-tall torii (traditional Japanese gate to Shinto shrines), so it shouldn’t surprising to hear this south-central district is home to a large community of Japanese immigrants; in fact, it’s the largest Japanese community outside of Japan itself.

FOR FAMILIES
Moema, Sao Paulo
FOR FAMILIES

Moema

Largely dictated by its grid system, Moema is choc-a-block with eateries and bars situated between high-rises like canyons. As with much of São Paulo, there’s never a dull moment here, with so much choice in terms of food and drink choices in the area.

This sprawling metropolis is the most populous city in Brazil, and the entire Southern Hemisphere and Western Hemisphere at that. It’s truly a monster of a city that could take years to explore. That’s why it’s good to know when is the best time to visit São Paulo.

Though a huge, modern city home to most of Brazil’s tallest skyscrapers, São Paulo is made up of many different areas that reflect its chequered past and exponential growth.

First founded as São Paulo dos Campos de Piratininga in 1554, the village grew over time; still, by the 17th century, this was one of the poorest regions of the Portuguese colony. That all changed when gold – and other precious stones – were discovered in the surrounding area.

It’s no wonder São Paulo has grown into what it is today.

We’ve rounded up the five best neighborhoods in São Paulo to make it easier to choose where to stay.

We start naturally in Centro – or Centro Histórico – the historic centre of São Paulo. Not only is it home to its oldest buildings, but historic buildings right up until the 20th century make up the beautiful architectural landscape of Centro.

Close to five centuries of construction and growth are represented in this stunning area, and it’s where you’ll find the Martelli Building, the first skyscraper in Latin America.

Way out west of Centro is the upper-middle-class neighborhood of Vila Madalena. This far-removed area is known for being the bohemian centre of São Paulo, with mural art, a fun, vibrant nightlife, and studios and cafes galore, Vila Madalena attracts the city’s hip young professionals and artists alike.

But in terms of nightlife, the undisputed most dynamic nightlife area is Baixa Augusta, our pick for where to stay in São Paulo for nightlife. This buzzing downtown area, just west of Centro, is known for its many bars and restaurants.

Immediately south of Centro is Liberdade – home to the largest Japanese community outside of Japan.

Lastly, even further to the south and slightly west, is Moema. This former farmland – home to English and German immigrants – now boasts São Paulo’s largest park, Parque Ibirapuera, as well as some exciting gastronomic and nightlife options.

Still unsure on where to stay in São Paulo? Let’s discuss these neighborhoods in more detail…

5 Best Areas to Stay in São Paulo

If you’re backpacking Brazil, the chance that you’ll end up in Sao Paulo is pretty high. One thing you have to keep in mind: São Paulo is a massive city, and a daunting prospect if you thought you could see all the sights in a few days. It’s just not possible!

However, breaking down the city by its best areas makes seeing the highlights that much easier.

Thankfully, there is a great selection of public transport options, from trolley buses to the massive metro network, Latin America’s largest metro system, carrying 8 million people every day!

But staying in an area that suits you (and your budget) makes things a lot simpler, of course. So let’s see what São Paulo has to offer…

1. Centro Neighborhood – Where to Stay in São Paulo for the First Time

The cultural and historic centre of São Paulo is a giant area full of architecture and heritage. Between the jostling jungle of modern skyscrapers and commercial billboards lies the history of this Brazilian city, and where you’ll also find many of São Paulo’s cultural institutions like galleries and museums.

The bustling Centro can be an assault on the senses with so many buildings and people everywhere. Wind your way through the cocktail of baroque, neoclassical and modern facades to explore this fascinating area.

Centro, Sao Paulo

Cozy and Central Studio | Best Airbnb in Centro

Perfect for 1 – 2 guests, this one bed & bath holiday home is filled with natural light and modern decor. The apartment has a complimentary WiFi, an on-site gym and a laundry room available for guests.

Balcony Hostel | Best Hostel in Centro

Run by a very friendly couple, Balcony Hostel has a welcoming atmosphere and clean and comfortable rooms. The owners speak fluent English and can help guests with sightseeing. Plus, they serve up a tasty breakfast.

Located close to the main metro line, there are also many museums, markets and popular sites within walking distance, so you can get just about anywhere from here!

Hotel Calstar | Best Hotel in Centro

This hotel’s location is very close to the metro, and surrounded by shops and eateries, which makes it a great hotel for discovering the city.

The staff here are accommodating and very helpful and the rooms are large and well kept. There is a big Brazilian breakfast for guests to enjoy too.

Things to See and Do in Centro

  1. Pay a visit to Latin America’s first skyscraper, Edifício Martinelli (1929).
  2. Marvel at the charming and impressive central square of Praça da Sé…
  3. … And check out the awe-inspiring São Paulo Cathedral.
  4. Snap the eclectic building of Palácio das Indústrias.
  5. Stare up at the Edifício Copan, one of the largest buildings in Brazil.
  6. Visit Pátio do Colégio, which is where it all started in 1554.
  7. Browse the Shopping Light mall, housed in the stunning early 20th-century Alexandre Mackenzie Building.
  8. Catch a glimpse of the amazing 1920s Palácio dos Correios.
  9. Hit up one of Brazil’s popular Festivals; Lollapalooza!
  10. Wander inside the magnificent Igreja Santo Antônio dating back to 1592.
  11. Go see the iconic 1960s skyscraper Edifício Itália…
  12. … And finish off your day with a drink at its 41st floor bar and restaurant.
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2. Vila Madalena – Where to Stay in São Paulo on a Budget

This farmland turned well-to-do middle-class neighborhood turned bohemian student haunt is an exciting area of São Paulo to say the least.

By the 1990s this district had become an enclave of cool, attracting everyone from hippies and artists, to foreigners and tattooists. Everyone interested in anything alternative or artistic found their way to this district.

Today the graffiti-clad streets of Vila Madalena comprise this coolest area of São Paulo. A mix of its old-school charm, gritty street art style and newer, trendier bars and cafes dot the area, all alongside artists’ studios and creative spaces.

Not only is this one of the coolest places to stay in São Paulo, it’s also the best spot to stay on a budget, as it caters to many students.

Vila Madalena, Sao Paulo

Viva Hostel Design | Best Hostel in Vila Madalena

Modern and cool, this hostel in Brazil stands out from the rest and staff are always on hand to answer any questions. The beds in the rooms are comfortable and feel private.

There’s a washing machine for guest to use; plus the hostel features a common room area for relaxing. The location is also convenient, close to public transport.

Living Design Vila Madalena | Best Hotel in Vila Madalena

Consider this hotel a home away from home. Located near public transport, you can visit other areas of São Paulo with ease.

Its modern and clean apartment-style rooms come with their own kitchen and outside balcony space, and this hotel boasts a roof terrace, ideal for breakfast and swimming in the pool.

Contemporary one bedroom loft | Best Airbnb in Vila Madalena

Rest on a king-size bed or have a coffee on the balcony in a modern condominium with a pool. This loft has all the amenities you might need to enjoy the most artistic and bohemian neighborhood of the city. With two bed and one bathroom, this space is perfect for 2 guests.

Things to See and Do in Vila Madalena

  1. Check out the graffiti and street art that characterises the area.
  2. Browse the wares and pick up some vintage gems at the eclectic Benedito Calixto Fair – one the best antique and handicrafts fairs in Brazil.
  3. Try delicious local Brazilian food at Consulado Mineiro.
  4. Check out the gallery/art space/cafe/music venue of Espaço Cultural Alberico Rodrigues.
  5. Drink in the stylish Nola with its rap/hip hop vibe.
  6. Check out the cute floral garments on offer at Anbê.
  7. Don’t miss out on the coffee-connoisseur’s paradise at Coffee Lab.
  8. Kick back with a beer and a warm pastel de queijo (deep-fried cheese parcel) at the old-school Mercearia São Pedro.
  9. And visit Alto da Harmonia for a drink and one of the best views of Vila Madalena.

3. Baixo Augusta – Where to Stay in São Paulo for Nightlife

This area – meaning ‘Downtown Augusta’ – is centered around a stretch of the Rua Augusta that is nestled between Avenida Paulista to the west and Centro to the east.

It happens to be home to São Paulo’s most exciting, dynamic nightlife, with a different feel than Vila Madalena since it’s located much, much closer to the centre of town.

Baixo Augusta is also home to the city’s LGBT community; there are even plans to turn Rua Frei Caneca into an official ‘Gay Street’.

flickr-saopaulo-baixo-augusta
Photo: Circuito Fora do Eixo (Flickr)

Bohemian 1 bed loft | Best Airbnb in Baixo Augusta

This one bed and bathroom fifth-floor loft is centrally located 800 meters from Av. Paulista and within walking distance, to two metro stations. The loft has air conditioning, a fully equipped kitchen, a large balcony with a view and a bathroom. In addition, the host also offers complimentary Wifi and a flat-screen TV.

Hotel San Gabriel | Best Hotel in Baixo Augusta

The location of this hotel is excellent, especially if want to party since many of the area’s vibrant bars are within walking distance. The rooms are basic, but clean and comfortable, and staff are warm and really helpful.

Bee W | Best Hostel in Baixo Augusta

A short walk from main metro lines and interesting city sites, Bee W is run by a friendly bunch of staff. The hostel has a laid-back atmosphere with a garden terrace for relaxing.

There is a rooftop area where guests can grab a drink in the evening and socialise with other travellers.

Things to See and Do in Baixo Augusta

  1. Enjoy old-school hits till late at Le Rêve Club, housed in a beautiful 20th-century building.
  2. Get your street food on at Calçadão Urbanoide, a unique outdoors food court filled with countless food trucks.
  3. Eat vegetarian food in retro surroundings at Tubaína.
  4. Check out the gallery at Teatro Augusta.
  5. Visit O Pedaço da Pizza for a slice or two of late-night pizza.
  6. Drink cocktails and eat boteco (classic Brazilian finger food) at Z Carniceria, a cool bar housed in an old butcher’s shop.
  7. Rock-lovers should head to Beco 203 for music and drinks.
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4. Liberdade Neighborhood – Coolest Place to Stay in São Paulo

Liberdade’s entrance is marked by a nine-metre-tall torii (traditional Japanese gate to Shinto shrines), so it shouldn’t surprising to hear this south-central district is home to a large community of Japanese immigrants; in fact, it’s the largest Japanese community outside of Japan itself.

This bustling district is now popular with the youth of São Paulo who are into Japanese culture, particularly manga (Japanese comics) or cosplay.

Alongside Vila Madalena, we think this is one of the coolest and most unique places to stay in São Paulo.

Liberdade, Sao Paulo
Photo: AKQJ10Please (talk) (WikiCommons)

Leques Brasil Hotel Escola | Best Hotel in Liberdade

Big rooms, professional staff, and a huge buffet breakfast: what more could you need from a hotel?

Clean and modern, and near metro access and excellent restaurants, this hotel covers all of the basics. Even more, you’ll have access to their outdoor pool for ultimate relaxation.

Aki Hostel | Best Hostel in Liberdade

Situated just a short walk from Paulista Avenue and close to downtown, this hostel is ideally located. Well run and clean,  you can sleep in the quiet, peaceful, and safe dorm rooms. There are plenty of large communal areas for guests to enjoy too.

Things to See and Do in Liberdade

  1. Get your photo snapped under the Liberdade torii.
  2. Browse the buzzing Liberdade street market every Saturday and Sunday.
  3. Eat some incredibly tasty ramen at Restaurante Lamen ASKA.
  4. Try Korean comfort food at Restaurante Portal da Coreia.
  5. Visit the Buddhist temple at Instituto Lohan.
  6. Pick up some impossibly tasty baked goods at Famiglia Franciulli.
  7. Experience vegan cuisine at Lanchonete Broto Primavera.
  8. Stroll and people-watch in the bustling Praça Liberdade.

5. Moema Neighborhood – Where to Stay in São Paulo for Families

Largely dictated by its grid system, Moema is choc-a-block with eateries and bars situated between high-rises like canyons. As with much of São Paulo, there’s never a dull moment here, with so much choice in terms of food and drink choices in the area.

To the north, however, this part of town is dominated by São Paulo’s largest green space: Parque Ibirapuera, home to a number of institutions housed in buildings designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. São Paulo is safe here to stay with your little ones.

Moema, Sao Paulo

Mercure São Paulo | Best Hotel in Moema

Enjoy the slow pace of life in the city at this hotel, which features a pool that is half indoors and half outdoors, surrounded by sunbeds and tables.

The rooms offer very good value for money and the hotel feels very secure. At this branch of Mercure there’s also a gym.

Hostel Ibirapuera | Best Hostel in Moema

With a great location surrounded by shops and easy access to the airport, the owners of this local hostel are extremely friendly. Choose from either the female or males dorms; both are clean and safe.

There’s also a kitchen and common areas for guest to enjoy.

Things to See and Do in Moema

  1. Stroll around the sprawling Parque Ibirapuera and check out…
  2. …the Pavilhão Japonês (a historic Japanese pavilion)…
  3. … the art museum of Oca Ibirapuera…
  4. … São Paulo Museum of Modern Art…
  5. … Planetarium Ibirapuera Aristotle Orsini…
  6. … and the Museum of Afro Brazil,  charting the African diaspora in Brazil.
  7. Eat at one of the best pizza places in town, Pizza Speranza.
  8. Try a seriously tasty burger at Lanchonete da Cidade.
  9. Visit the unique Hannover Fondue, a fondue-only restaurant with options like cheese, meat, chocolate and chicken!
  10. Enjoy some high-end Tuscan dishes at the rustic La Pasta Gialla.
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FAQ about Finding a Place to Stay in São Paulo

Here’s what people usually ask us about the areas of São Paulo and where to stay.

What To Pack For São Paulo

Pants, socks, underwear, soap?! Take it from me, packing for a hostel stay is not always quite as straightforward as it seems. Working out what to bring and what to leave at home is an art I have perfected over many years.

Product
Description
Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!
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Ear Plugs

Snoring dorm-mates can ruin your nights rest and seriously damage the hostel experience. This is why I always travel with a pack of decent ear plugs.

Keep your laundry organized and stink free
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Hanging Laundry Bag

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Stay Dry With a Micro Towel
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Sea To Summit Micro Towel

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Check out my definitive Hotel Packing list for even more top packing tips!

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance for São Paulo

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

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Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in São Paulo

As the largest city in Brazil and all of South America, you’ll never run out of things to do in São Paulo.

That said, this means your options for where to stay in São Paulo are endless…

If you’re still not set on a specific area, I’ll recap our favorite recommendations for places to stay in São Paulo.

São Paulo Hostel Club is the perfect base for backpackers to explore the city. You are in a good area with a metro station half-a-block away. You can also expect free breakfast, clean bathrooms, and a helpful staff.

One of the best hotels in São Paulo is, without a doubt, Grand Hotel Ca d’Oro. Surrounded by bars, markets, and restaurants, this hotel is situated in a great area, and boasts incredible views from the rooftop swimming pool.

Have you been to São Paulo, Brazil? Let us know if we missed anything below!

Looking for more info on travelling to Sao Paulo and Brazil?

And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!