While unique among Brazilian state capitals in that it was founded by the French, Portugal annexed São Luis almost immediately after settlement. The city now boasts the most well-preserved colonial architecture in all of Latin America, its historic centre even recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
São Luis is also one of only three Brazilian state capitals built on a collection of islands, which adds considerably to its allure. Pastel-coloured mansions, craft shops and art galleries enchant tourists, while a lively reggae scene and vibrant Afro-Brazilian culture make sun-filled days unforgettable. Quaint streets are beyond tempting in the soft moonlight but we'd advise that visitors don't explore São Luis alone, especially at night.
History lovers will enjoy visiting the pretty historic town of Alcantara. Lying just across São Marcos Bay, it has a laid-back and rustic aura, and bundles of charm. Many celebrated poets and writers have called the city home, including Brazil's national poet, Gonçalves Dias.