Where to stay in São Paulo, the city of drizzle and street carnivals
Long overshadowed by its sister city Rio De Janeiro, the city of São Paulo slowly overtook the spotlight to become the megacity it is today. One of Brazil’s most vibrant cities, it is known for its crazy weather, mixed culture, commitment to art, and diverse architecture. It also happens to be the most populated city on the South American continent. You could spend weeks exploring it, and you’ll still have plenty left to see and do.
With a city this large, it’s difficult to decide where to stay in São Paulo. To help you out, we will list the best areas and give you reasons why to pick them. Here are some top areas to consider:
- Centro Histórico
- Bela Vista
We made our picks after careful consideration, based on the following factors:
- The overall vibe of the neighborhood
- Fun things to do and see
- How connected the area is
- Accommodation options
Where to stay in São Paulo
|Best for first-timers||Centro Histórico||The historical center of the city with plenty of sightseeing options|
|Best for the nightlife||Republica||The most vibrant part of the city packed with clubs and bars|
|Best long term||Bela Vista||A peaceful neighborhood with all the amenities you could wish for|
São Paulo transportation system
São Paulo metro map. Photo credit: Wikimedia
There are several ways you can get around São Paulo:
- Metro: There is a total of 15 subway and suburban railway lines run through São Paulo and connect pretty much all the important districts. São Paulo metro is fast and reliable since it plays a major part in the city’s tourist economy and connects many business sectors.
- Bus: Buses are plenty throughout the city, and they are frequent and reliable since the majority of citizens commute with them to work. They’re good for short distance hopping and are color-coded for the areas they pass through, making them easy to memorize.
- Taxi: Taxis are relatively cheap and reliable. A usual starting fee is around 4.5 reals ($1), and the price of one kilometer is about the same. Just make sure the driver uses a taximeter to avoid any unwanted “tourist taxes”.
- Uber: As in most modern cities, rental car services, such as Uber, are present in São Paulo. Although not necessarily cheaper than a regular taxi, they still provide the comfort and safety that attract customers to these types of services.
- Helicopter: Here’s a transportation method unique to São Paulo. The city has the largest fleet of helicopters in the world. The Voom service, for example, is similar to Uber and other vehicle renting services, charging passengers based on the distance traveled and weight carried. Although it’s obviously more expensive than ground transport, it’s worth checking out, if at least once for the experience.
- Biking: The city has constructed over 400km (250 miles) of bicycle routes to battle its high traffic. Make use of them for short distance traveling to avoid getting stuck.
Where to stay for first-timers in São Paulo — Centro Histórico
There is no better place to start your journey through São Paulo than where it all originated from. Centro Histórico (city center) is the city’s core that brings all the pieces together. It’s a diverse combination of economic prosperity and cultural development. The district has plenty to offer for everyone.
What to see and do in Centro Histórico?
São Paulo Cathedral
The land upon which the cathedral stands has been a place of worship since early settlements in the then village of São Paulo. Construction began in 1913 under the guidance of Duarte Leopoldo e Silva, the first archbishop of São Paulo. The project was handed to German architect Maximilian Emil Hehl, who was renowned for his architectural work in Brazil.
This Neo-Gothic style megachurch stands at 111 meters (364 feet) tall and serves as a reminder of the city’s European roots and the strong spirituality among Brazilian people.
Photo credit: assembleiasp
Mercado Municipal de São Paulo
There’s no better place to experience the Brazilian taste and smell (literally) than the Marketplace of São Paulo. This legendary marketplace consists of two floors, the first floor being the shopping area and the second a restaurant. The stands are full of homegrown fruits and vegetables, coffee, spices, meat, and similar delicacies ready to intrigue your taste buds.
Although the historic building the market is housed in was built for the purpose it serves, looking at its architectural style, it reminds of elements typically found in cathedrals, such as large stained windows, pillars, tall ceiling, and a dome.
Photo credit: lubelingieri
Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo
Focused mainly on Brazilian art pieces from the 19th century, the museum also houses a department of European works. Most notably, you will see the works of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin, who inspired many Brazilian artists. The part of Pinacoteca devoted to his art is considered to be one of the most important art displays in Brazil.
Photo credit: lariduarteoficial
Where to stay for the nightlife in São Paulo — Republica
Republica is the area located around the Praça da República (Republic Park) and the metro station of the same name. You will find it right next to the historic city center.
Its large concentration of skyscrapers is broken by the parks and historic buildings that can be found in the area. This modern neighborhood offers plenty of things to do throughout the day and well into the night, and isn’t shy of its cultural significance either.
What to see and do in Republica
Theatro Municipal de São Paulo
The municipal theater of São Paulo was built in 1911 as a tribute to the city’s increasing presence and importance on the international stage. Architecture connoisseurs will recognize its Renaissance style and notice that its designers took inspiration from the Paris Opera House.
Home to the São Paulo Symphonic Orchestra and the city’s official ballet ensemble, its stage was graced by both the local and internationally acclaimed actors, orchestras, and opera singers.
Photo credit: theatromunicipal
Museu do Futebol
Brazilians are world-famous for their passion for football (soccer). The sport plays one of the largest cultural roles in the country. Located in the area of Estádio do Pacaembu, the most important stadium in the region of São Paulo is a museum dedicated to that passion.
The exhibits are just as much dedicated to the players and their amazing achievements as they are to the fans without whom none of it would be possible.
One of the most beloved exhibits is the World Cup Room (Sala das Copas do Mundo) which hosts modern displays of each World Cup, from its inception in 1930 to the present day.
Photo credit: museudofutebol
Love Story Club
Known as “the house of all houses” and one of the best nightlife venues in São Paulo, Love Story Club has achieved world-famous status in the world of EDM (electronic dance music). The parties hosted in the club are known for lasting up to ten hours straight, usually starting before midnight and ending around 9 a.m. the next day. This makes the club absolutely unmissable. Whether you’ve just started your night or looking for a killer after-party, you’re bound to love this club.
In 2002, the legendary British duo Layo & Bushwacka created a song called “Love Story” to celebrate their time in São Paulo and the club.
Photo credit: Love Story
Where to stay long term in São Paulo — Bela Vista
The district of Bela Vista is the ideal location to base yourself long term for many reasons. It’s close to the city’s historic center, well-connected with public transportation, and has plenty of entertainment options to offer. What makes it ideal for living is that you can find everything you may need within the neighborhood, which makes it completely independent from other areas. Schools, shopping centers, hospitals, and similar necessities are within walking distance, and it’s a generally safe area.
What to see and do in Bela Vista?
Just a few blocks from Bela Vista you will find the Ibirapuera — the most visited park in South America, averaging jaw-dropping 40,000 visitors per day. While the park itself offers plenty of escape from the concrete jungle with its lakes and greenery, the real gems inside it are the many cultural and historical monuments. They include, but are not limited to:
- São Paulo Modern Arts Museum (Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo)
- Ibirapuera Auditorium
- Afro-Brazilian Museum (Museu Afro Brasil)
- Japanese Pavilion (Pavilhao Japones)
Photo credit: paulosilva087
Museu de Arte de São Paulo
The São Paulo Museum of Art is located on Paulista Avenue, one of the most recognizable streets in the city. The building was designed by Lina Bo Bardi, a famous Brazilian-Italian architect. In her effort to conserve as much of the public space as possible, she created a design that elevated the building above ground using four pillars.
Although the museum itself is a private non-profit, its founders went to great lengths to secure the best collection available. Because of their efforts, the museum now holds a priceless collection of recognizable European art, considered the finest one south of the equator.
Photo credit: masp
Some of the notable artists and paintings include, but are not limited to:
- Portrait of a Young Man with a Golden Chain; Rembrandt, 1635
- Portrait of Suzanne Bloch; Picasso, 1904
- The resurrection of Christ; Raffaello, 1502
- Virgin and Child with the Infant St. John the Baptist; Botticelli, 1490
- The Student; Van Gogh, 1888
Livraria Cultura National Assembly
Just down the street from the Museum of Art sits the largest bookstore in all of South America: Livraria Cultura Conjunto Nacional. It is part of the Livraria Cultura bookstore chain and located in a renovated movie theater space inside the Conjunto Nacional building.
The incredible selection of books is tourist-friendly, as most of them can have the English edition as well. Apart from books, the store also houses music records, trading cards, board games, and more. It is also home to plenty of cultural events from the world of literature.
Photo credit: livraria_cultura