This South American city is the largest in Brazil, but there's more to marvel at in São Paulo than just its size. It's the lively cultural scene that brings travellers back time after time. São Paulo has a little bit of everything – towering modern buildings sit beside historical hubs dotted with 17th-century churches, museums and green spaces. The city's many restaurants and market places mean there's plenty for food lovers to get excited about too.
Hostels in São Paulo range from the traditional and homely to the minimalist and contemporary. For old-world charm, stay in a 1920s mansion complete with period features, or a villa that feels like a local Paulista house. Lots of São Paulo hostels have friendly communal eating areas where you'll get a free cooked breakfast each morning. To see night-time views of the city, pick a São Paulo hostel with a rooftop bar – some even have a Jacuzzi for an extra touch of luxury.
São Paulo's neighbourhoods include the popular Vila Madalena in the Pinheiros district. This has become a centre for all things cultural, whether that's art, fashion boutiques or nightlife. In the evening, the terraces and bistros fill up with locals unwinding over craft beers and listening to live music. Shopaholics should look for a hostel near Paulista Avenue. At nearly 3km long, this stretch is also home to the Museu de Arte de São Paulo, the city's enormous modern art gallery.
To begin exploring São Paulo, start in the city centre. Here you'll find both the Gothic São Paulo Cathedral and the Pátio do Colégio – the square and church where the city was founded in 1554. The Municipal Market is a perfect lunch stop – try one of the city's famous mortadella sausage sandwiches. Nature-lovers can take a trip to Ibirapuera Park, which has hectares of picnic-perfect grass, as well as a lake and several art galleries.
To reach São Paulo from Guarulhos International Airport, catch a bus or shuttle or grab a taxi, which should take around an hour. Once in the centre, hop on the São Paulo Metro. It's cheap, quick and open till midnight on a number of lines. Or, to see the city up close, you can cycle. São Paulo has its own bike-sharing system called Bike Sampa, and many hostels keep bikes on-site for travellers to borrow.