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Massive, vibrant Sao Paulo, known as “Sampa” to locals, is an urban traveler’s dream: world-class museums, boutique shopping, gourmet restaurants, elite sporting events, wildly diverse live music and theater options, and an internationally-famous club scene that keeps the city buzzing at all hours of day and night.
Whether you’re looking for a quiet haven away from the hustle and bustle or a bed just an elevator ride away from the party, Sao Paulo has a hotel for you.
Best Overall: Hotel Emiliano
With a posh location right at the heart of Rua Oscar Freire, Sampa’s famous high-end shopping street, this five-star luxury boutique is the epitome of both style and comfort. Emiliano’s guests are in striking distance of the local outposts of Dior, Versace and other high-end designers, as well as restaurants and boutiques. A metro stop two blocks away opens up the rest of the city for convenient exploration.
The location is just a sliver of Emiliano’s charm. Many of its finer offerings don’t involve leaving the hotel at all. The in-house restaurant, also called Emiliano, serves contemporary Italian cuisine and is far from a generic hotel restaurant — critics and travelers agree that it’s a destination unto itself. Santapele Spa offers guests a unique Japanese-style outdoor tub and body treatments using coveted Sisley Paris products. End your day with a quick stop at the lobby bar or have champagne from the hotel’s 80-brand selection sent to your room, where you can sip on your leather couch before slipping in between your Egyptian cotton sheets for an exquisite night’s sleep.
Best Budget: Bê Hotel
Don’t let the surprisingly affordable price tag fool you: Bê Hotel is chic, modern and well-located. Rooms are small, but well-appointed with minimalist designer furniture that includes a work desk (and if you’re planning on getting some work done, TripAdvisor reviewers repeatedly note the speed and reliability of the Wi-Fi). Small groups traveling together, take note: Bê offers hard-to-find triple rooms that feature three twin beds — cozy, to be sure, but a real money-saver.
Culturally-minded travelers will enjoy Bê’s two-block distance from the Memorial da América Latina, a performing and visual arts complex that focuses on art and music from around the Latin American world. Nightclubs, sports stadiums and plenty of shopping and dining are also within an easy walk.
Best Boutique: Hotel Fasano
If style is your priority, you’ll do no better than the impeccably elegant Hotel Fasano. Wood and leather, brass and linen: it’s a classic aesthetic; one that is perfected down to the detail in both public spaces (which include a spa, a piano bar,and a 21st-story pool) and in each guestroom. The details don’t stop at aesthetics, though: goose down pillows and high thread count Egyptian cotton sheets finish every bed, and instead of industrial carpeting, guests’ feet hit the floor each morning onto a Persian Kilim rug. Superior rooms are shower-only, but Deluxe rooms and all suites include a separate tub. All bathrooms have bidets and towel warmers.
Dining options include the five-star Restaurante Fasano, where diners can enjoy multi-course gourmet Italian meals, as well as the charming Nonno Ruggero trattoria, which offers breakfast, lunch and dinner on a terrace overlooking the posh Jardins neighborhood. Designer boutiques abound just around the corner on Rua Oscar Freire. Dozens of small museums and galleries are in walking distance and theater lovers should check what’s on at the Teatro Procópio Ferreira, just a block away.
Best for Families: George V Casa Branca
This stylish all-suite hotel is an ideal choice for families traveling with children. Suites include a living room with a couch on which to snuggle up for a movie or storybooks, as well as a full kitchen — a fantastic amenity for picky eaters (or simply young diners who may not be able to handle three sit-down restaurant meals a day). Décor is sleek, neutral, and minimal, with plenty of surfaces upon which to build Lego or play Barbie. A daily dunk in the marble whirlpool bathtub should keep the stickiness at bay.
An in-house restaurant, Hillman, offers a nice breakfast and lunch buffet and à la carte dinner menu, as well as room service, all the easier for families who need some quiet down-time.
Though children might not be as tempted by the fashionable offerings of nearby Rua Oscar Freire, they will enjoy being a quick taxi ride or 20-minute walk from the massive Parque Ibirapuera, San Paulo’s equivalent of Central Park, where they can run, play, climb and be noisy while their parents enjoy sculptures, music and people-watching aplenty.
Best for Romance: L’Hotel PortoBay Sao Paulo
Take your romantic Sampa getaway to the next level and surprise your sweetie with L’Hotel PortoBay’s signature “Romance Experience,” which will see your already-elegant neoclassically-designed room (complete with marble tub) taken to the next level with candles, rose petals, strawberries, truffles, a bottle of Veuve Cliquot champagne, trousseau dressing gowns and even in-room breakfast and a couple’s massage in the hotel spa.
If you plan to stay inside the whole visit, no one could blame you, but PortoBay is conveniently situated just a stone’s throw from the bustling Avenida Paulista, which connects the historic city center and the modern business district. It’s packed from end to end with shops, restaurants and museums and is a perfect place to walk hand-in-hand for hours.
Best Luxury: Palacio Tangara
One of San Paulo’s newest hotels, Palacio Tangara is tucked into the beautifully landscaped Parque Burle Marx, providing it with lush surroundings that are decidedly unique for a hotel so close to a major urban center. Deluxe rooms offer a balcony, many of which overlook the park. Suites (and many “prestige rooms”) offer a furnished terrace, where discerning guests can take coffee or a meal and enjoy the verdant, peaceful backdrop.
For the ultimate in luxury, treat yourself to the Grand Suite Sao Paulo, 3,000 square feet of sheer tranquil opulence, designed to bring the wooded surroundings indoors and give a nod to colonial style, with touches of green, fresh flowers, hints of rattan and heavy use of warm-colored woods and classic white linen and rich leather. The suite is complete with a panoramic balcony, a living area large enough to entertain in and two bathrooms with marble and glass fixtures. Even the hotel’s simplest rooms, though, offer extravagant comfort and style. All guests have access to indoor and outdoor pools, a Jacuzzi, a fitness center, the in-house Flora Spa by Sisley and even a kids’ club, where childcare is offered.
Best Nightlife: Hotel Unique
Hotel Unique is as well-known for its impressive modern architectural profile as it is for its famous rooftop bar, Skye, which offers a stunning 360-degree view of the city and a crimson-colored pool into which guests can enjoy a dip in between sips of caipirinha. Skye is not the only place to drink in the neighborhood: Within striking distance, you’ll find literally hundreds of other bars and nightclubs in which you can sip, dance and flirt the night away, making the very most of Sampa’s legendary nightlife.
Guestrooms are neatly furnished with modern décor, and the large round porthole windows in each room are an internal reminder of the striking architecture of the building. It’s a room you can be proud to bring a guest back to, should the bar flirtations pay off. If your night ends with a less-exciting hangover, though, a push of a button pulls a blackout screen over the window and lets you sleep it off. Late checkout times are also available at the discretion of the hotel.
Best Business: Tivoli Mofarrej
Any stylish visitor will feel right at home in the Tivoli Mofarrej, with its garden landscaping and sweeping modern interiors, but travelers on business, particularly if they’re looking for meeting facilities, should take a serious look at what the property has to offer. Eleven separate meeting rooms, on-site catering, a business center, free Wi-Fi and a staff ready to fulfill all of your needs make it an ideal choice for your meeting or convention.
Should you need to relax before or after those meetings, the in-house Anantara Spa is an ideal place to do it. The convenient location means that even a traveler with a packed itinerary can get a taste of the local culture, whether its via one of the many restaurants or boutiques in the immediate neighborhood or a browse through the Sao Paulo Museum of Art, widely considered the finest art museum in Latin America, located less than five minutes from the hotel on foot.
Rooms are comfortable, sleek and minimal, decorated in shades of beige, brown, gray and white, with comfortable beds and seating areas provided in even the basic rooms. Windows are huge and many provide views of nearby Trianon Park.
Best Hostel: Bee W. Hostel
Young travelers will be thrilled with the accommodations at this surprisingly chic and well-designed hostel in a central location just blocks from Av. Paulista. Shared dormitory-style rooms (including one for women only) hold most of the beds here (bunkbeds, more often than not, though TripAdvisor reviewers repeatedly pronounce them “surprisingly comfortable”). Two semi-private rooms are a good choice for small groups of travelers, also. As is often the case with hostels, bathrooms are shared.
The on-site hostel pub is a great place to get acquainted with your fellow hostel-stayers, as well as pub-crawlers, both local and visiting, and you can also take drinks and snacks up to the rooftop to mingle and check out the scenery. A simple breakfast is provided in the pub, just enough to get you tucked in for a day in gorgeous Sao Paulo.