The 2014 World Cup is right around the corner and thousands of tourists will soon flock to Brazil for the games, culture and excitement that the host cities offer. To give World Cup travelers – and anyone interested in Brazil – a leg up on their trip, Fox News Latino has compiled a concise list of what to do, where to stay, what to eat and more, for the 12 cities that will host World Cup matches. Enjoy and be safe.
Rio de Janeiro
The Town: It’s not called the Marvelous City for nothing and when most people think of Brazil, images of its famed hills, colorful Carnival celebration, gorgeous skimpily-dressed women and pulsating nightlife pop into mind. Brazil’s cultural capital, which hosts the World Cup final, will be on full display this summer and the 6.32 million Cariocas, or Rio residents, hope to show what the town has to offer. The mix of cultures through the centuries – African, European, Indigenous – has given rise to a rich cultural heritage and have spawned musical styles like samba, choro, tropicalia and bossa nova, as well as baile funk parties and the infinite variations heard in the bars and clubs of the Lapa neighborhood. While Brazilian security forces have made concerted efforts to help bring violent crime down in the city before the World Cup, in parts Rio still remains a dangerous town. Sprawling favelas, or urban slums, run up into the hills, offering both stunning vistas but also safe havens for drug gangs. While some of these favelas have seen major improvements in recent years, visitors should do their homework before venturing into these neighborhoods and employ the help of a local Carioca.
The Stadium: What Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden or the Rose Bowl is to American sports fans, the enormous Maracanã is to Brazilian soccer fans. Host to the 1950 World Cup final, where Brazil lost to Uruguay 2-1 in what has been called the Maracanazo, the stadium has been updated for the 2014 games. While the enormous capacity – once packing in almost 200,000 people – has been reduced to a more manageable 73,531, Maracanã is still the country’s largest sports stadium. While construction has included a new ring offering improved visibility, the expansion of the access ramps and the replacement of all seating along with a new roof complete with a rainwater collection system, the facade, which has been listed by the National Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage, has remained untouched.
Weather: While the World Cup may be taking place during South America’s winter season, don’t expect to need any snow gear when traveling to Rio. Average temperatures for the city hover around the mid-70s and rarely dip below a chilly 50 degrees even during the coldest nights.
What To See: This could go on for a while. A person could spend years wandering around Rio de Janeiro and not see everything. Some must dos for any tourist, however, include the train ride up to the top of Corcovado Mountain to visit the famous Christ the Redeemer statue and enjoy the stunning views of Rio de Janeiro and neighboring Sugarloaf Mountain. No trip to Rio would be complete without a trip to one of the city’s beaches. Whether you choose to look for the girl of Ipanema, the posh luxury of Copacabana or surf the pummeling left hand break at Arpoador, there are no lack of options. Just remember that Brazilians tend to wear less on the beach than their northern neighbors – so children and prudes might need their eyes shielded. For a more cultural twist, Rio de Janeiro is one of Latin America’s oldest cities and home to a slew of museums, cathedrals and colonial architecture. The downtown Centro area is home to the National Art Museum, the National History Museum and the impressive Ilha Fiscal, a neo-gothic place that played host to the last waltz of imperial Portugal in 1889. For those hungry to explore late-night Rio, the neighboring Lapa and Bohemian Santa Theresa neighborhoods provide a contrast of pulsating clubs and cool cafes for partygoers to explore.
Where To Stay: Despite some travelers venturing in to the favelas for a so-called “authentic,” Brazilian experience, the beachside neighborhoods of Ipanema and Copacabana are the main tourist draws in Rio de Janeiro. With everything from the Americanized Best Western Chain to the elegant Belmond Copacabana Palace (Phone: 1-800-237-1236) to choose from travelers will be able to stay in comfort. Just book quick because many hotels have already sold out in advance for the World Cup.
What To Eat: While there are always the beachside barzhinhos de praia where one can grab a quick bite of fresh fruit or coconut milk, for more hearty fare A Garota De Ipanema (Rua Vinicius de Moraes 49, Phone: 00 55 21 2523 3787) is a solid choice and made for being the place where the song “The Girl From Ipanema” was written. If looking to class it up a bit, try Centro’s Confeitaria (Rua Gonçalves Dias 32 , Phone: 00 55 21 2232 2300) Colombo. An elegant café full of old photos and glass cabinets full of silverware from a yesteryear.
Where To Drink: There is no shortage of places to quench your thirst in Rio de Janeiro and with places ranging from swank hotel bars to downhome local favorites, there is something for everybody. Hotel Santa Teresa, a former plantation house in the Bohemian Santa Teresa, features both a cozy lounge and a lantern-lit terrace where hip, young Brazilians drink top-shelf caipirinhas. Feeling like wearing flip-flops rather than dress shoes? Then try the Academia da Cachaca in the Leblon neighborhood, where you chase your shots with some Northeast Brazilian fare. Also be sure to sample the bar’s 500-variety collection of the country’s unofficial liquor, cachaca.
Out Of Town Trip: So there may be enough to do in Rio de Janeiro to last a lifetime – and that’s not even including going to a World Cup match or two – but sometime you may want to venture outside of the city for a day trip. One good option is heading to the sleep mountain town of Paraty. About three and half hours from Rio, Paraty is a fully-conserved 18th-century colonial town nestled next to the ocean and hidden by tall jungle-covered mountains. Used as a hideout for pirates during Portuguese rule, the town is a must-see for people interested in history and culture. It’s also good for rainforest hiking and kayaking.