São Paulo is home to 20 million fiercely proud Paulistanos (as residents are known), all of whom will happily rant and rave to you how they'd never live elsewhere. Spend time with them and the reasons will soon unfold. Maybe they will introduce you to the city’s innumerable art-house cinemas and experimental theaters. If they’re gourmands, they’ll focus on the smart bistros and gourmet restaurants that make the city a world-renowned foodie haven. If they’re scenesters, follow them on a raucous tour of underground bars and the 24/7 clubbing scene. Whatever pleasures you might covet, Sampa (the city's affectionate nickname) probably has them in spades.

Of course, it's also enormous, intimidating and, at first glance at least, no great beauty (to say nothing of the smog, the traffic, the crumbling sidewalks and the gaping divide between poor and rich).

A beautiful mess, if you will? And Brazil's city of dreams.