Soccer Isn’t All You’ll See in These 12 World Cup Host Cities

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Bucket List Worthy  

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Roughly 3.7 million tourists will be traveling throughout Brazil during the 2014 World Cup. And if you’re one of the millions headed to Brazil with soccer on your mind, there’s no doubt you should spend some time outside of the stadium to take in the sights, sounds and cultures of the World Cup’s 12 unique host cities.

#1. Manaus – Wonder of the Amazon

Manaus — the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas — is known for more than the heated rivalries among the city’s many football clubs. Manaus is the remarkable place where the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimoes (the name of the Amazon River in this area of the country) flow parallel to each other for 18 kilometers without ever converging — one of the most amazing sights in all of the Amazon.

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#2. Fortaleza – Brazilian Beach Paradise

While you may be headed to Fortaleza for ‘football,’ you may just fall in love with the area’s 34 kilometers of gorgeous beaches. Munch on some fresh, local seafood at Future Beach (Praia do Futuro), but don’t forget your wallet or your dancing shoes, because nearby Beira Mar is home to some of the area’s best handicrafts and top places to dance the farro.

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#3. Natal – City By the Sea

Breathtaking beaches, towering sand dunes and an improved city infrastructure that caters to beach-loving tourists has made Natal an increasingly popular Brazilian beach destination for the last 30 years. Enjoy some soccer, then sink your toes in the sand, because Natal’s beaches are not to be missed.

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#4. Recife – The Capital of the Northeast

Recife is commonly called “The Capital of the Northeast,” because of its positioning at the center of one of Brazil’s largest metropolitan areas. A vibrant history due to the area’s Dutch presence in the 17th century, famous beaches and an exciting city scene are just a few of the many draws to this capital city.

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#5. Salvador – First Colonial Capital

Salvador was the first Brazilian city colonized by Portugal and one of the main locations of the South American slave trade. The city’s unique history has created an atmosphere unlike anywhere else in the country. Colourful buildings and churches mesh with African handicrafts, capoeira and percussion instruments to create a city that’s bursting with culture and excitement.

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 #6. Cuiaba – The Center of South America

Cuiaba is located directly at the center of South America — 2,000 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean and 2,000 kilometers from the Atlantic. This drastically growing city is more than the home of the fan-favorite football club Mixto Esporte Clube. Cuiaba is home to three of Brazil’s most famous ecosystems — the Cerrado savannahs, the Pantanal wetlands and the enchanting Amazon, making it an ideal destination for nature-loving tourists.

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#7. Brasilia – The Modern Metropolis

Construction of Brasilia started in 1956, and the city was officially founded on April 21, 1960. This relatively new capital city, and the only city constructed in the 1900s to become a World Heritage Site, is a must-see for soccer fans with an interest in ultra-modern architecture. Don’t miss a visit to the city’s most famed structures — the Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Brasilia.

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#8. Belo Horizonte – The Beautiful Horizon

Belo Horizonte (‘beautiful horizon’ in Portuguese) offers one of the highest qualities of life in all of Latin America with remarkable city planning featuring plenty of green space, cultural activities and its gorgeous border: the Parque Serra do Curral. When the match ends, head over to Pampulha to admire the area’s gorgeous parks and squares designed by world-renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer in the 1940s.

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#9. Rio De Janeiro – The Old Capital

With more than 6 million residents, it’s no wonder that Rio De Janeiro is the country’s cultural epicenter. This massive city is nestled between picturesque beaches and lush tropical forests, but the landscapes aren’t the only contrasting features of this popular tourist destination. Rio De Janeiro’s historic Portuguese colonial architecture is meshed with modern city structures, painting a picture of old and new Brazil.

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#10. Sao Paulo – Birthplace of Brazilian ‘Football’

Not only is Sao Paulo the biggest city in Brazil and one of the most populated in the world — it’s where Brazilian ‘football’ was born. And while you’ll probably be visiting the city to watch a number of World Cup matches, you’ll want to visit a handful of Sao Paulo’s 12,000 restaurants and spend some of your travel money in the city’s high-profile malls.

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#11. Curitiba – A Carefully Constructed City

When you arrive in Curitiba, you’ll notice that this World Cup host city was carefully designed with people and the environment in mind. The city offers a high quality of life, a wide variety of European cultural influences, enchanting theaters and museums and plenty of gorgeous parks to preserve the beauty of the southern region of Brazil.

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#12. Porto Alegre – The Folklore Capital

When you venture down to southern Brazil for a soccer match, you’ll find yourself in the unforgettable capital city of Porto Alegre. The city’s mild temperatures, unique location on the Guaíba River and cultural influences from Uruguay and Argentina give it an entirely different feel than the country’s other state capitals. Be sure to taste the chimarrão (a mate infusion drink) and lend an ear to the area’s rich folklore music.

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About the Author: Courtney McCaffrey

Courtney McCaffrey is a freelance writer and editor based in Wilmington, N.C. In addition to writing, she lives for travel - seeing new places, learning new cultures and surfing new waves.

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