Staying in Centro—around Praça da República—has the advantages of being cheaper and more convenient than other parts of São Paulo . The downside is that come nighttime, much of this area shuts down. To ensure your safety, rely on taxis.
For budget travelers, the clean and cheery São Paulo Hostel (Rua Barão de Campinas 94, Centro, tel. 11/3333-0844, www.hostel.com.br , R$64–78 d), right around the corner from charming Largo do Arouche, is a great find. The double rooms are larger and more comfortable than your average hotel room. If you’re really cash-strapped, you can bunk in a dorm room for R$29–36. The hostel offers laundry and Internet services and is a great place to meet other travelers.
One of São Paulo ’s first high-rise apartments buildings, the Marian Palace (Av. Cásper Líbero 65, Centro, tel. 11/3228-8443, www.marian.com.br , R$75–168 d) was built by a Polish princess in the 1940s and then transformed into a hotel in the 1950s. Although its glamor is somewhat faded, its art deco flourishes are well preserved. Aside from original lamps, chairs, and bathroom fixtures, the building’s curves result in some interesting spatial configurations. Rooms are spacious (except for the cramped singles). A bonus is the rooftop swimming pool.
Also good value is the República Park Hotel (Av. Vieira de Carvalho 32, Centro, tel. 11/3331-5595, www.republicaparkhotel.com , R$90–100 d), which is situated on a formerly chic and now very gay, but always comfortingly lively, street adjacent to Praça da República. Although the formerly posh hotel no longer merits any style awards, the rooms are comfortable (those high up offer great views) and the staff is friendly.
A harbinger of the revitalization poised to transform Centro is the Marabá Palace (Av. Ipiranga 757, Centro, tel. 11/2137-9500, R$160–256 d), which opened in 2007 atop a splendid old cinema. Bringing some much needed glamor back to Centro, the hotel has nonetheless opted for contemporary sophistication over nostalgic retro. Amenities such as a fitness room and sauna as well as soundproof rooms and impeccable service add to the comfort factor.
When the Normandie Design Hotel (Av. Ipiranga 1187, Centro, tel. 11/3311-9855, www.normandiedesign.com.br , R$180–210 d) decided to upgrade and modernize, it took the “design” in its name very seriously. While the lobby is immaculately white, the “design apartments” resemble chessboards. Black curtains, black furniture, and even black bedding contrast with light walls and ceiling tones, creating an effect that is ultra smooth and cool though perhaps overly minimalist for some (and downright stark for others).
Occupying an elegant old building on Sampa ’s main gay drag, the Bourbon São Paulo (Av. Vieira de Carvalho 99, Centro, tel. 11/3337-2000, www.bourbon.com.br , R$200–250 d) is a traditional business traveler’s hotel with spacious, handsomely outfitted guest and common rooms, along with the added amenities of free wireless Internet, a fitness center, and sauna.