Brazil’s First World-Class Airport Terminal Opens in São Paulo

Brazil hasn’t traditionally made it very difficult to give travelers a reason to complain about its airports: Most of them are outdated relics from the ’50s and ’60s and the ones that aren’t, such as Recife in the Northeast, come off at best as missed opportunities. Shopping? Not really. Good restaurants? Not really. Comfortable spaces to kill a few hours between flights, perhaps at a spa, in a sleeping pod or in a very nice cocktail bar? Not really.

That all changes with this month’s opening of Terminal 3 at GRU Airport – Aeroporto Internacional de São Paulo’s in Guarulhos, Brazil’s first world-class international airport terminal; a modern, 192,000-sq-m space designed to move 12 million international passengers per year.

Terminal 3 from the outside  Brazil's First World-Class Airport Terminal Opens in São Paulo Z

Terminal 3 from the outside – photo courtesy of GRU

Upon arrival at departures level, the first thing that comes to mind is the design aesthetic of many of Asia and Europe’s best airports, with massive signage as tall as buildings providing the gateways to 90 check-in counters, distributed in three islands with 30 counters each.

Departures level  Brazil's First World-Class Airport Terminal Opens in São Paulo Z

Departures level – photo courtesy of GRU

After check-in, passengers enter the security area by passing through boarding card-reading scanner gates and that’s where a whole new world for Brazilian air passengers opens up. There are 100 commercial outlets, such as shops, bars, restaurants, and general services and 15 high-end shops in an area called “GRU Avenue.” Passengers can now give fast-food options like Bob’s a miss in favor of 27 restaurants, including Italian Caffé Pascucci, and finish off with dessert at Brazil’s best gelato, Bacio di Latte. There is even a Red Lobster and Olive Garden in the pre-security areas and Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville post-security, three American comfort food restaurants that were previously nowhere to be found in Brazil. The country’s first Hudson News is also at the ready with English books and magazines.

Entrance to Terminal 3 from Terminal 2  Brazil's First World-Class Airport Terminal Opens in São Paulo Z

Entrance to Terminal 3 from Terminal 2 – photo courtesy of Kevin Raub

Once satiated, passengers can now shop till they drop as well. Whereas in the secure passenger areas of Terminals 1 and 2, shopping was previously limited to very few options such as H. Stern and Dufry, T3 features brand name shops recognizable the world over, including Salvatore Ferragamo, Burberry, GAP, Desigual, Diesel, Victoria’s Secret, Michael Kors and Coach as well as a genuine Duty Free FNAC for electronics, smartphones and the like – items traditionally over-the-top expensive in Brazil can now be purchased by international passengers for US prices, including those departing to South American destinations, which will remain in the old terminal (there is a post-security passageway for travelers to bounce between terminals).

Shopping at Terminal 3  Brazil's First World-Class Airport Terminal Opens in São Paulo Z

Shopping at Terminal 3 – photo courtesy of GRU

Behind the scenes, the new terminal is steeped in sustainability as well, favoring glass-walled natural lighting heavy-framed windows and rainwater-retaining roof whose waters will be treated and used for hand-washing basins in the bathrooms and flushing toilets.

Over the next 10 years, Terminals 1 and 2 will be given modern facelifts as well, bring the entire airport into the modern era with the addition of new parking buildings and real estate investments, including office buildings, hotels and a convention center.

Welcome to the future: There’s even a Travellator!

TAM operates nearly 50 flights per week between Miami, New York and Orlando to São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.


Leave a Reply

  • Kevin Raub

    Co-author of Lonely Planet’s Brazil guide and coordinating author…
  • Photo: By Carla Peirano, in Magazine Photos by: Stefan Schmeling Young, sophisticated and laid-back. That’s Vila Madalena, São Paulo’s hippest neighborhood, a vibrant place where fashion, art and design co-exist with graffiti and a stylish crowd. It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon in winter here in São Paulo, Brazil. I can observe everything and everyone from the strategically located Amüse Food Store, on the corner of Girassol and Aspicuelta. While I wait for my iced tea, I observe the passers-by, most of them women united by their fashion sense and their desire to shop. You sense a certain self-satisfaction in the way they walk. Unlike other São Paulo neighborhoods, this neighborhood in the western part of the city is fashionably chic, but in an unpretentious way. Folks around here obviously pay attention to their look, but there’s a personal stamp in the way they dress. It’s quite different from what you see on Rua Oscar Freire, for instance, where the fashion parade is legendary and most pedestrians look like they stepped straight out of a fashion magazine and into this endless metropolis. It’s no accident that style lovers flock to the winding streets of Vila Madalena. This bohemian neighborhood began its transformation in the 1970s, when young students of art and fashion began to rent and share large houses. Over time, these homes were converted into art galleries, studios and casual restaurants, a chaotic and spontaneous process that nurtured the spirit so evident in the neighborhood today: bohemian, vibrant and full of color. Welcome to Vila Madalena A style all its own. That’s what you’ll find on the streets of Vila Madalena. It’s the perfect place for folks who want to be seen as well as those who would rather people watch, taking in trends, styles and bold statements in clothing and colors. When I stroll the streets here, I am constantly looking around, admiring these well-turned-out fashionistas. I’m struck by the way they’ve managed to achieve such a casually sophisticated look. It seems spontaneous, unplanned and, as result, totally authentic. As I sip on my iced tea, I talk with some girls who are next to me. They tell me they’ve come on a shopping tour of the local stores. They share some addresses and recommendations that I try to memorize as though they were secret formulas. They tell me that my best bet is to start my tour on the nearby street of Girassol. They leave with complicit smiles, as though they’ve helped out someone in dire need. I’ve finished my tea, so there’s nothing left for me to do but immerse myself in Vila Madalena. I walk down Girassol, and before long, I come across Uma, a surprisingly sophisticated store, with a collection dominated by clear and simple lines. Suddenly, I feel like I’m shopping in Tokyo, not São Paulo. I keep walking until I reach the store of Juliana Bicudo, a local shoemaker who designs handmade footwear. Her eponymous shop is both elegant and colorful, and the collection is divine. I adore these shoes because they can be worn to formal and informal events alike, depending on the rest of your outfit. She even has a wedding line with custom designs to accommodate the style of each bride. Crossing the street, I encounter the metallic blue suede and classic lines offered by Luiza Perea, another gifted shoe designer. This shop looks more like a living room. It’s a real delight. I’m barely through the door before they invite me to sit down and have something to drink. The designs are terrific. You can really see the dedication and care in the creations. The two women who make the shoes are usually in the store, so any questions you have can be answered by the shoemakers themselves.   Unlike other São Paulo neighborhoods, Vila Madalena is all about fashion but in an unpretentious way. Peixaria, a stylish but authentic restaurant, offers a taste of the beach in the middle 
of the city. Style on the Sand My tour continues. I soon come to La Cervecería, where the fun atmosphere, conversation and clinking of beer mugs is impossible to resist. When I’ve finished my chope (draft beer), I leave on the heels of two attractive women. They tell their friend who’s parking her car that they’ll meet her at Mocambo. I wonder what kind of clothing they sell there. As my imagination is busy at work, I arrive at a tiny space dedicated to… tattoos? I’m a little disconcerted. All of a sudden, I’m surrounded by rough-looking types straight out of a motorcycle magazine. The owners tell me they only do custom tattoos, one-of-a-kind designs for each client. Maybe that’s why the cool girls who led me here are so excited about a place that seems tailor-made for tough guys. In the small, dark space, they give me some more tips to continue my tour. One of their more interesting suggestions is Chapéu, a heavenly bathing-suit shop. I’m told it’s one of the most popular stores of its kind in São Paulo. And in a country where beach life is an institution, that really says something. The collection of bathing suits is varied and elegant. The designs and styles seem intended for a social event rather than the beach. I envy the women who can pull them off, but I’m afraid that on other Latin American beaches, they’d be more cause for gawking than admiration. I’m fairly certain that you have to be Brazilian – and be in Brazil – to wear them. I leave Chapéu and head down Rua Mourato Coelho. I spot the window of the shop Tonus, and I’m transfixed. I decide to go in. The clerks explain the ideas behind the designs. The back part of the shop features the workshop where designer Sergio Tonus comes up with his creations. Tonus himself explains the production process to me. His designs from the shop’s nine years of existence are carefully displayed on hangers.   The many worlds of Vila Madalena: 
tattoos at Mocambo and rockabilly style 
at Barberia 9 de Julho. With no set destination, I wander through Vila Madalena. Eventually, I come to Barberia 9 de Julho, a barbershop with the air of a rockabilly club. The parking spaces outside are taken up entirely by motorcycles. There’s also a dog sporting a bandana, patiently waiting for his owner. I continue along with no end in mind, accompanied by the impressive graffiti that adorns the walls, shops selling Japanese products, ceramics studios, art galleries and a few eateries. I’m hungry, but all the clothing and design stores keep distracting me. One highlight is the shop owned by Fernanda Yamamoto, who specializes in creations made with patterned fabrics. Best of all, there’s an outlet section with clothing from past seasons at reasonable prices. Another great place is Trash Chic, a mix between a fashion museum and a Buddhist temple. They even have a small altar in honor of Coco Chanel. The collection includes pieces by Valentino, Nina Ricci, Prada and Chanel. It’s the finest vintage store I’ve seen in my life. Finally, I end up at Peixaria. This beach-inspired restaurant is full of grilled seafood, endless caipirinhas and infectiously cheerful people. It turns out to be an excellent choice and a great way to end my adventures in Vila Madalena. in    

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Terms & Conditions

Comments or opinions expressed in the Only in South America blog (the “Blog”) are those of their respective authors and contributors only. LATAM Airlines Group S.A. does not guarantee that the information contained on this blog is accurate or complete, and that it does not necessarily represent the views of the company, its management or employees. LATAM Airlines Group S.A. is not responsible for, and disclaims any and all liability for the content of comments written by authors to the Blog.

Although the Company welcomes feedback from customers, this Blog is not intended to replace its Customer Relations Service. Comments or queries relating to specific issues beyond the scope of the Blog discussions should be directed to