It gained this distinction in 1992, after a survey of urban centres in various countries carried out by the United Nations (source: Embassy of Brazil in the UK). The city is characterized by the juxtaposition of tropical beaches, modern architecture and historic buildings from colonial periods.
João Pessoa is the capital of Paraíba, a state in the northeast region of Brazil and home to some 19th and 20th century Brazilian poets and writers such as Augusto dos Anjos, José Américo de Almeida, José Lins do Rego and Pedro Américo. It took its current name in 1930, in homage to state president (governor) João Pessoa Cavalcanti de Albuquerque, who was assassinated on 26 July of that year. It is the state's largest city, with a population of circa 720,000 (about one sixth of the state's population). Its metropolitan area comprises eight other satellite cities (Bayeux, Cabedelo, Conde, Lucena, and Santa Rita) and about 384,000 people, totalling more than one million inhabitants.
It is the capital with the shortest distance from another capital (Recife) which is approximately 120 km (74.6 mi) away, as well as Natal, 180 km (111.8 mi) north of João Pessoa. Due to the high growth rate of these three capital cities, it is believed that for the next few decades an informal megalopolis will be set up, especially between Recife and João Pessoa.
The city is one of the oldest in the northeast of the country. Theatres, auditoriums and convention centres are part of the available infrastructure in the city.
The new Presidente Castro Pinto International Airport connects João Pessoa with many Brazilian cities and also operates some international flights.
The new "Estação Ciência, Cultura e Artes" (Science, Culture and Art Station) located at the most eastern point of the Americas (Ponta das Seixas) is both an educational and cultural institution as well as a national landmark. The complex, inaugurated in 2008, was created by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer and is one of his latest projects.