The sprawling metropolis that is São Paulo is the most populous city in Brazil, let alone all of South America!
With nearly twenty million people living in the metropolitan area, it’s safe to say it would take years to explore São Paulo, meaning you’ll definitely want to base yourself in a good area to get the most out of your trip.
You could walk around the city for weeks barely scathe the surface. That said, with s
o many people, this is one of the most energetic and lively cities in the world.
The culture and art is unparalleled, the nightlife is legendary, and the food options are endless.
But where is the best place to stay in São Paulo?
This, of course, depends on your travel style, budget, and interests.
Are you looking to dance the night away? Do you want to base yourself near the top attractions and museums?
How about in a neighborhood that oozes of artistic and creative vibes?
No matter what you prefer, we’ve selected where to stay in São Paulo in this guide that covers our favorite neighborhoods!
Table of Contents
- Quick Tips – Where to Stay in São Paulo
- Where to Stay in São Paulo
- Neighborhood Guide to São Paulo
- 5 Best Areas to Stay in São Paulo
- 1. Centro Neighborhood – Where to Stay in São Paulo for the First Time
- 2. Vila Madalena – Where to Stay in São Paulo on a Budget
- 3. Baixo Augusta – Where to Stay in São Paulo for Nightlife
- 4. Liberdade Neighborhood – Coolest Place to Stay in São Paulo
- 5. Moema Neighborhood – Where to Stay in São Paulo for Families
Quick Tips – Where to Stay in São Paulo
- Where to stay in São Paulo for the first time – Centro
- Where to stay in São Paulo on a budget – Vila Madalena
- Best area to stay in São Paulo for nightlife – Baixo Augusta
- Coolest place to stay in São Paulo – Liberdade
- Best neighborhood in São Paulo for families – Moema
- Stare up at the Edifício Copan, one of the largest buildings in Brazil
- Visit Pátio do Colégio, which is where it all started in 1554
- Wander inside the magnificent Igreja Santo Antônio dating back to 1592
Here are our top picks for accommodation in São Paulo, if you’re looking for something specific, regardless of area.
Best Hostel in São Paulo: São Paulo Hostel Club
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.
Best Hotel in São Paulo: Grand Hotel Ca d’Oro
Surrounded by bars, markets, and restaurants, this hotel 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.
Best Airbnb in São Paulo: Brand new studio
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.
Quick Summary: The Best Places to Stay in Sao Paulo
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The sprawling metropolis that is São Paulo 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.
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 neighbourhood 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
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…
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.
Things to See and Do in Centro
– Pay a visit to Latin America’s first skyscraper, Edifício Martinelli (1929).
– Marvel at the charming and impressive central square of Praça da Sé…
– … And check out the awe-inspiring São Paulo Cathedral.
– Snap the eclectic building of Palácio das Indústrias.
– Stare up at the Edifício Copan, one of the largest buildings in Brazil.
– Visit Pátio do Colégio, which is where it all started in 1554.
– Browse the Shopping Light mall, housed in the stunning early 20th-century Alexandre Mackenzie Building.
– Catch a glimpse of the amazing 1920s Palácio dos Correios.
– Wander inside the magnificent Igreja Santo Antônio dating back to 1592.
– Go see the iconic 1960s skyscraper Edifício Itália…
– … And finish off your day with a drink at its 41st floor bar and restaurant.
Best Hostel in Centro: Balcony Hostel
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!
Best Airbnb in Centro: Cozy and Central Studio
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.View on Airbnb
Best Hotel in Centro: Hotel Calstar
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.
This farmland turned well-to-do middle-class neighbourhood 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.
Things to See and Do in Vila Madalena
– Check out the graffiti and street art that characterises the area.
– Browse the wares and pick up some vintage gems at the eclectic Benedito Calixto Fair – one the best antique and handicrafts fairs in Brazil.
– Try delicious local Brazilian food at Consulado Mineiro.
– Check out the gallery/art space/cafe/music venue of Espaço Cultural Alberico Rodrigues.
– Drink in the stylish Nola with its rap/hip hop vibe.
– Check out the cute floral garments on offer at Anbê.
– Don’t miss out on the coffee-connoisseur’s paradise at Coffee Lab.
– Kick back with a beer and a warm pastel de queijo (deep-fried cheese parcel) at the old-school Mercearia São Pedro.
– And visit Alto da Harmonia for a drink and one of the best views of Vila Madalena.
Best Hostel in Vila Madalena: Viva Hostel Design
Modern and cool, this hostel 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.
Best Airbnb in Vila Madalena: Contemporary one bedroom loft
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.View on Airbnb
Best Hotel in Vila Madalena: Living Design 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.
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’.
Things to See and Do in Baixo Augusta
– Enjoy old-school hits till late at Le Rêve Club, housed in a beautiful 20th-century building.
– Get your street food on at Calçadão Urbanoide, a unique outdoors food court filled with countless food trucks.
– Eat vegetarian food in retro surroundings at Tubaína.
– Check out the gallery at Teatro Augusta.
– Visit O Pedaço da Pizza for a slice or two of late-night pizza.
– Drink cocktails and eat boteco (classic Brazilian finger food) at Z Carniceria, a cool bar housed in an old butcher’s shop.
– Rock-lovers should head to Beco 203 for music and drinks.
Best Hostel in Baixo Augusta: Bee W
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.
Best Airbnb in Baixo Augusta: Bohemian 1 bed loft
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.View on Airbnb
Best Hotel in Baixo Augusta: Hotel San Gabriel
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.
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.
Things to See and Do in Liberdade
– Get your photo snapped under the Liberdade torii.
– Browse the buzzing Liberdade street market every Saturday and Sunday.
– Eat some incredibly tasty ramen at Restaurante Lamen ASKA.
– Try Korean comfort food at Restaurante Portal da Coreia.
– Visit the Buddhist temple at Instituto Lohan.
– Pick up some impossibly tasty baked goods at Famiglia Franciulli.
– Experience vegan cuisine at Lanchonete Broto Primavera.
– Stroll and people-watch in the bustling Praça Liberdade.
Best Hostel in Liberdade: Aki Hostel
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.
Best Hotel in Liberdade: Leques Brasil Hotel Escola
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.
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.
Things to See and Do in Moema
– Stroll around the sprawling Parque Ibirapuera and check out…
– …the Pavilhão Japonês (a historic Japanese pavilion)…
– … the art museum of Oca Ibirapuera…
– … São Paulo Museum of Modern Art…
– … Planetarium Ibirapuera Aristotle Orsini…
– … and the Museum of Afro Brazil, charting the African diaspora in Brazil.
– Eat at one of the best pizza places in town, Pizza Speranza.
– Try a seriously tasty burger at Lanchonete da Cidade.
– Visit the unique Hannover Fondue, a fondue-only restaurant with options like cheese, meat, chocolate and chicken!
– Enjoy some high-end Tuscan dishes at the rustic La Pasta Gialla.
Best Hostel in Moema: Hostel Ibirapuera
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.
Best Hotel in Moema: Mercure São Paulo
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 safe. At this branch of Mercure there’s also a gym.
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 and explore 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!
Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.
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Need More Inspiration?
- Backpacking South America Travel Guide: Itineraries, Travel Tips, & More
- Backpacking Brazil on a Budget – Maps, Itineraries, and Things To Do
- 20 Best Hostels in Sao Paulo • Epic Insider Guide
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Writer and Editor, Ana Pereira is a California native, inspired by Earth exploration and introspection. Recently, she spent several months exploring Africa and South Asia. She spends most of her “down-time” out in the wilderness, climbing, hiking, and beyond, and is feverishly passionate about travel and health.