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São Paulo is the fast-paced, diverse, and absolutely enormous cultural capital of Brazil. There is so much to do here that it is easy to get lost when planning what neighborhoods to explore and what places to visit, so you should find out which São Paulo neighborhood is right for you.

I spent two months in the city, and if I didn’t have my host family pointing me in the right direction, and the study abroad program I was part of taking me around the city, I could have easily gotten lost in the urban sprawl.

If you only have a few days in the city, and you want a quick and easy guide to point you in the right direction, here is what you can expect in some of the most well-known neighborhoods of São Paulo to help you plan your stay.

Vila Madalena

Photo by Kristin Rust via Trover.com

If you are looking for a young crowd and great culture, food, and nightlife, Vila Madalena is definitely one of the top places to visit in São Paulo. This slightly bohemian neighborhood has some of the best bars and clubs in the city, as well as art and designer galleries scattered throughout the streets. A lot of Paulista artists call Vila Madalena home, so if you are looking for an alternative yet cultured vibe, definitely check this neighborhood out.

Jardins

Photo by Caio F via Trover.com

Explore Jardins to see how the other half lives. This is probably the most prestigious neighborhood in the city, so if you want to splurge on your trip to São Paulo and enjoy fine dining and great shopping, book a São Paulo hotel in this area. If you want to keep to a budget, you should still walk around and window shop in this luxurious district.

Liberdade

Photo by Vanessa Machado via Trover.com

There is a huge Japanese community in São Paulo, and Liberdade is the center of that community. This “Little Tokyo” has plenty of stalls and shops with great deals for shoppers on a budget, as well as amazing Japanese cuisine. If you are in town on a Sunday, explore the huge street fair with Asian crafts and foods.

Avenida Paulista

Photo by Vivian Rossi via Trover.com

The financial and business community of São Paulo rules Avenida Paulista. The long avenue also has some of the best hotels in São Paulo, so if you are in town on business, book your stay here. You should also consider the bustling Avenida Paulista area for its wonderful (and often free) museums: Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP), Centro Cultural FIESP, and Espaco Cultural Citibank display great exhibitions and often host cultural events. Walk down the street to Casa das Rosas to get a glimpse of São Paulo history in a preserved historic mansion belonging to a former coffee baron.

Centro

Photo by Denny Ayres via Trover.com

If you want to dive even further into Brazilian and São Paulo history, Centro is the way to go. This is the neighborhood where São Paulo began; the city spread out from a small town established in the modern-day Centro area. Head to Praca da Se to people-watch, browse through street vendors, and admire the imposing Catedral de Se. Check out the nearby Banespa building and the Edificio Italia for two of the greatest views of the São Paulo skyline from the roof. Art lovers should also spend an afternoon in the wonderful state gallery, Pinacoteca do Estado. Budget travelers will love Centro even more, since you can find some of the cheapest hotels in São Paulo here.

Thanks again to the wonderful folks at Hipmunk for providing hotel deals for us as part of the Hipmunk City Love Project.  

Have you been to São Paulo? What neighborhoods did you visit and what would you recommend? Comment below!

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