Known more as Brazil's hardworking business centre than party capital, São Paulo can lay claim to both titles on at least one day of the year. The São Paulo GLBT Pride Parade is the largest in the world, with more than a million people lining the streets and taking part in the festivities. This is no "us and them" kind of parade where spectators watching idly by the sidelines; here in São Paulo, the parade and the spectators all flow into each other. It's hard to resist dancing to the captivating beat of Brazilian music―and there is no need to. Join the parade! Follow behind the trio elétrico of your choice and participate.
Unlike some places where an intimidating police presence, sniffer dogs, and overregulation of every other aspect of the event puts a damper on spontaneous celebration, here the opposite seems to be true. The police were there, discreet except for when they themselves started swaying to the music, smiling and friendly. The positive energy from seeing and hearing so many happy people is an amazing experience for anyone, and many non-gay people come to the parade to enjoy the show and be part of it. The abbreviation in Portuguese GLS means gays, lesbians, and simpatizantes, meaning non-gay people who support gay and lesbian people; in Brazil, there are very few people who are not one of these letters. The Gay Pride Parade is actually the culmination of several days of meetings, discussions, and events related to LGBT topics. Business before pleasure in São Paulo, where another well known saying also applies: work hard, play harder.
One of the most underrated tourism destinations in the world, cosmopolitan São Paulo is also one of the most progressive of the world's major cities. With an enormously comprehensive cultural calendar that encompasses a wide variety of musical concerts, live theatre, art exhibits, and dance performances, São Paulo's sophisticated residents revel in their fortunate bounty, packing museums and the enormous Cultura bookstore on Avenida Paulista with as much gusto as others do the soccer stadiums. And for those who would claim that culture is for the elite in a country where many are poor, the government ensures cultural institutions are available to all by seeing that state museums have at least one day per week free to the public. The gloriously restored Sala São Paulo concert hall, converted with exquisite taste from the former Júlio Prestes train station, offers free tickets for its Sunday morning symphony performances.
Another little known fact about São Paulo is that it is a city of green spaces. Yes, there are skyscrapers to the horizon line in every direction, but there are also very large parks and expansive/expensive residential areas where there are more trees than cement. Parque do Ibirapuera combines the paulistano love of the outdoors with their love of culture; the park is home to several outstanding museums (including the superb Afro Brazil Museum) in avant-garde buildings designed by Brazil's famous architect, Oscar Niemeyer.
Due to the World Cup soccer championship hosted by Brazil this year, the parade was moved from its usual time in June to this first weekend of May, in no small part because many visitors from around Brazil and, increasingly, from other countries make their way to São Paulo for the parade, this year taking place on a long holiday weekend. The luckiest of out-of-towners are guest at Hotel Meliá Paulista, where rooms facing Avenida Paulista provide front-row seats from the best vantage point in town. Spanish-owned Meliá is making a major push for growth in the Brazilian market, where a strong domestic travel sector keeps São Paulo's hotels buzzing; the company has ten properties in São Paulo alone under both its Meliá and Tryp brands.
Visiting Brazil from Australia and the entire Asia-Pacific region has never been easier with LAN's daily flight from Sydney to Santiago, which makes an intermediate stop in Auckland where many travellers from fellow oneworld partner Cathay Pacific and other travellers from Asia join the flight for the trans-Pacific leg. Now that LAN has merged with Brazilian airline TAM to form the LATAM Airlines Group, streamlined connections to São Paulo on both LAN and TAM are available from Santiago. Planning for a visit to Brazil is also streamlined when handled by South America Travel Centre, which specialises in the arrangement of personalised holidays across the continent.