A couple of months ago I wrote a blog about the world cup, informing you that people in Brazil were upset about the World Cup being held in Brazil and protesting on the streets. That’s because of the bad public services that are considered priority by the population: Education and Health Care.
I agree that Education and Health Care are very important and that the government should and need to address those issues immediately. However, the World Cup is happening regardless and protests are probably not going to help with anything. Hopefully after the games Government will improve the lives of people by investing the revenue in the more than needed areas.
So, with that said, let’s have fun in Brazil. I will give you an overview of the cities that will be hosting the games so you know what to expect and what to do in each city and surrounding areas.
As you are getting to know Brazil a little better, you will find out through the World Cup, that Brazil is not as bad as someone would think. Of course there are many concerns about security but let’s be honest, there is no place in the world that we can say it is free from violence, of any type. We don’t know much about them because we are not living day by day in these other countries. But if you live or visit the country even for a week or so and you know the language and watch the local news, then you will find out that even the United States is full of crimes, every day. So let’s not worry so much.
I’ve been seen some news about Brazil here from a very respected media in the USA that not even my friends and family in Brazil know about it. Seems to me that someone is getting the news from the worse newspaper and sending here perhaps to try to boycott this event and scare people off. That’s my opinion, I’m sorry if I offend anyone. That’s not my intention so let’s put this way. It might be because of language barrier.
So, to keep safe and enjoy your time in Brazil, just use common sense and check out my tips and I found another great source of information from the LAPD about crime prevention and travel tips from them as well. And here is another one from SDPD. I’m sure you can find them in all cities’ PDs. Use them for your own protection. They apply to any place you live or visit. Brazil is not different guys, just unknown, and that’s what scary us, the unknown.
Okay, now that you feel more secure to travel to that beautiful country, let’s talk about the cities where the World Cup 2014 will take place. Here they are: Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Cuiaba, Salvador, Recife, Natal, Fortaleza and Manaus. In this map from the FIFA’s website you can have a better idea where they are located at.
Oh, and before I forget, I need to mention that the World Cup will coincide with the festivities of June called Festa Junina or June Festival! They are everywhere… in little squares or streets, schools… they draw a lot of people to them. It is a family oriented event where kids and adults dress in costumes, woman and girls dress in colorful skirts or dresses and man and boys pants with checkered shirts with hats and they have mustaches and fake freckles painted in their faces. Girls also have the freckles painted in the face, to represent country people. I found another thing for you to familiarize what it is about, just click in this link from YouTube. It is a lot of fun. These festivities are to celebrate Saint John. It has music, dance, games and the decoration is very colorful with little flags. Oh, and they have all kinds of food made with corn: corn cakes, pamonha which is like tamales but sweet, cural, which is a type of flan and many other things. All made with corn! And of course Pop Corn! You also have to try the “Quentao”, which is a drink made with Brazilian rum and ginger! It is delicious. You are going to have a lot of fun, that’s for sure!!
*the above carton is created by Mauricio de Souza and it represents our Festa Junina. He is the creator of "Turma da Monica"!
Porto Alegre is the capital of Rio Grande do Sul. People in this city, as you will find out, are very friendly and fun, like most Brazilians. The majority of the population is European descent because when the process of immigration started a lot of people from Germany, Italy and Poland, made their way and established themselves there.
They are called “gauchos” and have very typical costumes. One of them is the way they drink tea, the so called chimarao. You will see people drinking tea everywhere with cute little cups that I’m sure you will bring one home! Come on, it is something you will not find in many places in the World.
The churrascarias (barbecue places) are another huge part of the lives of these people and the servers wears a traditional pair of pants called bombacha. You will see them all over the place. Even in other churrascarias in other states.
The gauchos have their unique costumes and are citizens very proud of their culture and state. You will see many presentation of their “danca gaucha”, gaucho’s dance, in restaurants, shows.
There are incredible museums and great hotels there. And you can visit some of the cities in the surrounding areas always referred to as Serras Gauchas. They are Gramado, Canelas, Bento Goncalves, Caxias do Sul among others. They are very cute and they are destination for romantic couples or honeymooners. The predominant style is German and Italian.
Curitiba is the capital of Parana (state I was born). According to some magazines, Curitiba is one of the best cities to live in Brazil. It is a very clean city. People often refer to it as a city model. Like Porto Alegre, Curitibanos descend from European.
There are many attractions in Curitiba to visit, such as parks, museums, historic constructions that are worth seeing. While there, visit the Botanic Garden, a “Opera de Arame” and the Santa Felicidade neighborhood with many Italian restaurants.
Oh, and sometimes it can snow a little bit there. Not as much snow like you have in the US or other countries but yes, you might get some.
And as you are there, how about visiting Iguacu Falls? One of the most monumental waterfall in the world and it will be totally worth seeing it. If you can, try to see if from both side, Brazil and Argentina. You can drive to the other side easily.
*Check with your travel agent about Visa, if it is necessary. I don’t think you will need it because my husband, who is American, didn’t have a Visa and we had no problem when I took him there.
Sao Paulo is the largest city in Brazil. In fact it is the third biggest city in the world. Did you know that?
Everybody knows that the traffic in Sao Paulo is bad but Sao Paulo has its beauty and charm too, with interesting places to visit, such as Teatro Municipal, MASP Sao Paulo Museum of Art, Park Ibirapuera . Museu de Arte Moderna, Obelisco de Sao Paulo, Avenida Paulista Aveneu (the financial center of Sao Paulo), Museu da Lingua Portuguesa (Museum of the Portuguese Language), Pinacoteca do Estado, Edificio Italia (Italia Building), Edificio Copan (Copan Building), Estacao da Luz (Luz train station), Praca da Se (Se Square), Mercado Municipal (Municipal Market), Largo de Sao Francisco (Saint Francis ), Monumento da Independencia (Monument of Independence), Museu do Ipiranga (Ipiranga Museum), Estadio do Pacaembu (Pacamebu Stadium), Estadio do Murumbi (Murumbi Stadium) , Instituto do Butanta (Butanta Institute).
There are also some interesting neighborhood to visit such as Liberdade (Japanese immigrants), Bexiga (Italian immigrants), Higienopolis, Cerqueira Cesar, Vila Madalena, Moema and Jardins.
Sao Paulo prides for its nightlife and the nightlife in these neighborhoods is intense. With plenty of nightclubs, bars and restaurants, Paulistas spend their nights in these places with their friends. And there are no funnier people in the world like people from Sao Paulo.
An interesting fact about the river that cuts the city and stretches all the way from the Guarulhos International Airport, actually it goes beyond GRU, all the way to the other extreme of the city is called, well, there is two names for it (from GRU until Rodovia Castelo Branco it is called Tiete River and from that point forward it is called Pinheiros River). In the past it was source of fresh water and people would swim on it. Salesopolis is the city of the rising river and the rising location was discovered only in 1954 where it was still a clean river. Unfortunately now it is completely polluted due to the industry and wastewater discharges. Despite that, you still see families of capivaras here and there swimming along it. The last time I visit though, I realized that they have them in an enclosure, a very large are for them to grow as many time they would cross streets and get hit by cars. I’m against any kind of captive for animals, but I have to admit that sometimes, it is better for them and for their own safety. We are invading their lives and space!
Typical food in Sao Paulo is very diverse with see food, pasta, meat, salads. Rice and beans are part of the daily diet, not only in Sao Paulo, but in the entire country. Also a variety of stews, including feijoada (black beans, all kinds of pork meat on it and served with rice, collard greens, chop filet, fried egg and “farofa”, and moqueca (seafood flavored with coconut milk) is always part of the menus in restaurants.
If you are going to Sao Paulo and have some extra time I strongly suggest you to go to Campos do Jordao! It is about 90 kilometers from Sao Paulo and it is worth seeing it. In July they have the Winter International Festival. The style, like the cities of Serras Gauchas, which you will know about when you get to Porto Alegre in this blog, is European.
I guess I don’t need to say much about Rio. Who doesn’t know the most famous city in Brazil. Rio is one of the most visited cities in Brazil and it is known for its beaches Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon and Barra da Tijuca, among others. Ipanema and Leblon are the best ones in my opinion, with beautiful people.
Carnival here and in Sao Paulo is the most beautiful festivity in the country and attracts millions of people from all over the world every year to see it and to participate in it.
Ask any musician about Bossa Nova and they will tell you all about it. The Girl from Ipanema is one of the songs that every musician knows as well and it was written by Tom Jobim and interpreted by many other musician in Brazil and around the world.
Rio is home of famous landmarks and among them it is the giant statue of Crist Redeemer, Corcovado Mountain, Sugarloaf (Pão de Açúcar), Sambodromo (where the Carnival takes place), Maracana Stadium and more.
Rio is also known for its favelas (slams) and Drug cartels. About a couple of months ago I came across with an article which lead me to a Facebook page promoting certain type of accommodations that some of the favelas were or are offering for tourists during the World Cup.
Come on, seriously? I’m not saying that people who live in favelas are all bad people. No way, most of the people who live in such places are really wonderful people that happened to have no other place to live due to high cost of living and or lack of work or whatever other situation they have.
But, on the other hand, everybody knows that in those same favelas, live the worse drug dealers in Rio de Janeiro and very often there are “wars” between the different favelas because the leader of one wants to control the other and their war starts and believe me, you don’t want to be caught in the middle of a gun fire. So, please, don’t be fooled by such invitation. I wouldn’t. Perhaps if I knew the Leader of the favela that is offering the deal, then I would consider… but only if I was a personal friend of the leader, because then I would know that I would be protected by him and his group, other than that no thank you.
If you have friends in Rio, connect with them and they will give you all the tips so you can feel comfortable and safer.
If you stay in the neighborhood Lourdes or Savassi, you will enjoy alamedas with trees all over with stores with famous clothes and charming cafes where you can relax.
Pampulha has many architecture from Oscar Niemeyer. He is famous for his work in many cities in Brazil.
One of the best things about Belo Horizonte are not the places but the people. They are very sweet. They speak very calmly.
The hotels in Belo Horizonte are business oriented and most hotels are in Downtown and has easy access to other areas of the city. A lot of people fly to BH every day for business purpose so the hotels are discretely decorated and has good services, such as gym, business center and Wi-Fi.
The gastronomy is very good with delicious and distinct flavors.
Some good options for your to enjoy are in the Praca da Liberdade (Liberty Square), with gardens inspired by Versailles Palace (France). There are museums such as Memorial Minas Gerais, Centro Cultural do Banco do Brasil (CCBB) and the Church of San Francis of Assis.
There are many bars and it is said that if you visit BH and don’t go to a bar is like going to Rio and not walk in Copacabana or Ipanema.
I found a very useful website that is in English for you to be familiarized with Belo Horizonte. It has lots more information for you. http://visitbh.pbh.gov.br/
You will probably going to find Brasilia different from all the other cities in Brazil. It is a flat land with lots of interesting architecture. Oscar Niemeyer, Lucio Costa, Burle Marx and Athos Bulcao are all over Brasilia’s architecture. Brasilia is an art itself in the form of an airplane. So much so that the addresses are South Wing, North Wing (Asa Norte, Asa Sul).
Most of the hotels are located in the Sectors North and South that are also near the Mane Garrincha Stadium, around three kilometers. Food I’m not talk about the food again. Everywhere you go in Brazil, the food is just delicious and restaurants in Basilia are no different.
You can do your tourist thing visiting Congresso Nacional, Palacio Itamaraty, Palacio do Planalto, Catedral Metropolitana and Memorial JK.
Cuiaba is the capital of Mato Grosso and it is a huge center of agro business in the country.
Warm all year round and it doesn’t rain much in June or July.
Cuiaba is a typical country city and has its tourist attractions such as museums, parks, Jaguar Ecological reserve among other. But if you are in for a great adventure I suggest you to go see Chapada dos Guimaraes which is approximately 70 kilometers from Cuiaba but it is worth seeing it. I refer to it as Brazil’s Grand Canion!
Salvador is a mixture of race, religion and colors. Music and traditional culinary are a huge part of the Bahia culture.
Wherever you go in Salvador you will see people doing Capoeira. Capoeria is a type of martial art dance that brings a lot of fast and vigorous movement. It is fascinating to watch it. It is part of their culture.
There are many attractions for your to see there, like churches, beaches, Pelourinho, Igreja e Convento Sao Francisco, Catedral Basilica, Elevador Lacerda (Lacerda Elevator). This elevator connects the High City to the Low City. And of course the Model Market, Church Nossa Senhora da Conceicao da Praia, Arte Sacra Museum, Convento de Santa Teresa D’Avila, Carlos da Costa Pinto and Museum of Modern Art. At the end of the day, don’t miss the Sunset at Farol da Barra and don’t go home without a suvenier from Igreja do Senhor do Bonfim. This little ribbon has all kinds of colors and each color represent a different Saint from a religion from that state. It is to be wore on your wrist with three knots. With each knot, you have one wish, so you can have three wishes!
Because of its growth the traffic is not good and unfortunately the violence increased but I would say it is no different from big cities in Brazil. You just have to stay alert like you have to at any other place that you’ve never been to. Enjoy it!
Again, another city with beaches and more beaches! Sun, hot weather, friendly people, good food! What else do you want?
Here you will find many museums among them, Instituto Ricardo Brennand and the Oficina de Ceramica Francisco Brennand. A must see is Recife Antigo with its baroque constructions and great restaurants.
You also want to go to Olinda (only 10 kilometers away) and Porto de Galinha (around 80 Kilometers away), which are not far and you are sure to be enchanted. Olinda is one of the hot spot for Carnival where gigantic pupets are part of their festivities for the Carnival. Basilica de Sao Bento and Convento Sao Francisco are things you can go see in Olinda as well.
You don’t need much to be happy in Natal. With tons of things to do from beaches to gigantic dunes that you can explore in a buggy, which you can chose to be regular or “com emocao” (with emotion), which means that high speed limit and radical curves!, restaurants, resorts, etc… you will have plenty of things to do in Natal. There is a huge cashew tree of Pirangi do Norte and it is about 28 kilometers of Natal. It has the size of a soccer field. It is the biggest fruit tree in the world by the Guinness Book.
Again, do your research and enjoy!
The combination of sun and warm weather year round, sea, hotels “pe na areia” with lots of things to do, make Fortaleza one of the most perfect places for those who enjoy the beach. People from all over the world visit Fortaleza and love it. The food, as everywhere in Brazil, is something I love! The people in Fortaleza are very friendly and will make you feel home, wherever you are. Although English is not spoken by many you will probably not have problems with the language in the hotels.
At Avenida Beira Mar you will feel as you were in Copacabana, RJ. If you are going only to watch the World Cup I would suggest you to stay near Avenida Beira Mar but I have to say that Fortaleza has many other great beaches and other places to visit that are a little farther that are worth to visit so if you have some time, do a research on them and go for it!
What can I say about this place?! Wow, it is going to be the adventure of your life! You will be close to one of the most incredible rainforest… the Amazon! Now that will be an adventure. If you enjoy wild life, you couldn’t ask for a more and you must go there! You can’t go to Manaus and not visit at least the encounter of the waters, which is amazing! You must have heard of them and if not, please, check them out. Rio Negro and Solimoes! These two rivers meet to form the Amazon river but what makes this extraordinary is that the water do not mix immediately. It is like seeing oil and water together.
From downtown you can take a boat and go check it out. There are packages to go into the forest as well so, take your must have friends with you, sunblock and insect repellent and hat!
Perhaps you will be better off wearing long pants with thin material as it will be hot and the mosquitos don’t give mercy to anyone! If you are that adventurous you could spend one night in the forest. They have accommodations that might interest you. I have to tell you though, that some accommodations might be expensive but what the heck, you will be in the Amazon rainforest, perhaps the only opportunity of your life! If you decide to do that, be aware that some accommodations are designed for those people who really enjoy the wild life so there might be not hot water or electricity so ask about that before you book so your vacation will not turn to a nightmare. Yellow fever vaccine is advised ten days before your trip. You’d better check into that as well.
Most restaurants in Manaus will be nearby downtown in the neighborhoods of Adrianopolis and Nossa Senhora da Graca.
As you can see, there are many other things you can do nearby the cities you are visiting! I hope you will enjoy and please, when you come back, feel free to send me your pictures and tell me about your great adventure in my Brazil!
PS: if you would like to Google to see pictures of the city, just write the name of the city and add pictures next to it in the search box. I did that for you already, so if you click on the cities it will take you to the search and you will see the photos!