Brazil’s World Cup began and Rio and the others host cities in Brazil are receiving lots of visitors from different parts of the world. If you are one of them, it is a nice idea to check this guest post by Journeys of Distinctions , where they list 10 cultural experiences to live when visiting Brazil. Enjoy your reading!
The attention of football fans the world over will turn toBrazil this summer, as the country hosts the quadrennial World Cup, the tournament seen as the ‘Blue Riband’ of the sport. If you’re going to be among those heading south of the Equator, you may have quite a bit of time to spare between watching England’s group games, and then – who knows? – following them as they progress even further.
One of the drawbacks – or advantages, depending on your viewpoint – to a World Cup is that, while there are games almost every day for six weeks, there will be times between those teams you’re following when you’ll want to find other things to do. And as Brazil is the world’s fifth largest country, its attractions vary widely, from equatorial forests and sun-kissed beaches, to thriving, throbbing modern cities.
Here at Journeys of Distinction, we’ve compiled a list of sights and experiences which will ensure that your time and money are well spent in the country. We’ve based our suggestions on the locations for England’s three qualifying group games – that means we’ll take a close look at the cities of Manaus, Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte – but we’ve added a few of the most important sights of Rio de Janeiro for those who have more time to spare, or, luck permitting, may even be following England through to the later stages of the tournament.
But first, we present a list of cultural experiences which you should aim to sample while in the home of coffee and samba, and we’ve also incorporated some tips from Mr Arlo into our city profiles, where appropriate, later in this article:
10 – Visit a cultural museum: Rio de Janeiro is one of the best place for this, with the Baukurs Cultural Center filled with tens of thousands of artefacts and documents outlining the history of such cornerstones of the country’s culture as samba, film, performance, religion and art.
9 – Put on your jogging shoes: Brazilians everywhere, particularly in the major cities, love to jog – it’s part of their major preoccupation with health and fitness. Rio’s quieter districts and beaches are particularly recommended as places to head for, but for a quieter location, the Lagoa (lagoon) Rodrigo de Freitas offers a little more space, coupled with beautiful surroundings.
8 – Seek out the local markets: As a country founded largely on trade, Brazil takes great pride in its local markets, where producers bring their goods to sell directly to the public, which makes them great souvenir hunting grounds.
7 – Look for a favela tour, especially if you’re heading to Rio: These hillside communities are dotted all around the slopes close to the city. Often suffering from a reputation as places inhabited by its less savoury residents, on an organised trip, however, you’ll gain an insight into the lives of the 20 per cent of the population who live in these rambling suburbs, which are also the home of many of the country’s most renowned samba schools.
Speaking of which, you should also try at least once to:
6 – Visit a samba school: Usually taking place once monthly, these are establishments which welcome visitors, so you’ll be fed a simple, traditional lunch, and then get the chance to watch as the school pupils show off their skills. Many more regular public demonstrations of samba take place, in numerous community centres found in the centres and suburbs of every major town and city.
Situated in the north-west of this vast country, Manaus is also the main departure point for the many tours of the Amazon rainforest, to which it owes its prosperity today. However, it was once the centre of the country’s vast rubber industry, although the sole reminders of this prosperity are the buildings around the port area, and the Teatro Amazonas. This grand, Renaissance-style opera house is a spectacular reflection of the city’s most prosperous times, its red-tiled roof and ceramic cupola marking it out as a landmark visible from most other parts of the city.
Animal lovers will also be rewarded by the short (eight-mile) trip from the centre of Manaus to the local zoo (Zoologico do CIGS), which houses collections of monkeys, caimans, exotic birds – and a pit full of anaconda snakes.
5 – See the Meeting of the Waters: This is a remarkable sight which should be experienced while in Manaus, resulting from the confluence of the Rio Solimoes – the northern extremity of the Amazon – and Rio Negro. The different chemical composition of the two rivers results in a clear line between the bodies of water – as if the two are resisting nature’s attempts to bring them together.
Football fans will know this city as the home of South America’s oldest football club, Corinthians, the biggest domestic team outside Europe. Visitors arriving in the city for the first time will be struck by the apparent dominance of modern concrete towers. But in their shadows lies one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, whose sprawling suburbs make it the second largest on earth by land area.
The forbidding-looking facades of many of the buildings, however, hide a well-kept secret – the city is considered to serve the best food in all of South America, but then, with an urban population of 29 million to serve, it’s clear why it caters for such a huge range of tastes.
THIS MAKES IT THE IDEAL PLACE TO:
4 – Visit a ‘churrascaria’ restaurant: These are buffet-style establishments,where you can choose from a range of different types of meat – and occasionally fish. They will be brought to your table hung on a skewer, from which you then take chunks. A separate salad bar is usually offered, to which you can make unlimited visits to select items to accompany your portion of protein! If you have a real ‘foodie’ in your party though, they’ll surely appreciate:
3 – A chance to learn how to make some of the country’s traditional dishes and drinks:The country’s major cities offer this attraction which is part-cooking school and part-restaurant. If you’re going as far as Rio de Janeiro, the city has one such establishment which is highly rated by visitors on TripAdvisor.
Sao Paulo is built around three city centres, the oldest part containing the most historic buildings, such as Metropolitan Cathedral and the Church of St Francis of Assisi, which boasts an amazing, intricately carved altar.
Anyone up for some star-spotting should head for the Jardins suburb, with its upscale restaurants and some of the most exclusive shops in all of south America, while the greenery promised by this suburb’s name is more noticeable in Vila Mariana, where you’ll find the Parque do Ibirapuera, which provides a welcome break from the concrete edifices which abound everywhere else.
Benefiting from fast and efficient metro and urban railway networks, these are the recommended way of getting around this crowded city – especially after dark, when so-called ‘red light robberies’ from drivers and occupants of cars can be common, so much so that the city has passed a law allowing drivers to slow down and then pass through a red light without stopping if other roads are clear. Daytime gridlock also makes public transport easily the best means of exploring.
As with any other city dominated by high-rise buildings, the best views can be found by climbing well above street level, and Sao Paulo’s equivalent is the 36th-floor observation deck of the Edifico Banespa. The building itself is modelled on New York’s Empire State Building, and the best views can be had as dusk begins to fall and the lights of the city are illuminated.
As the brand’s home, Sao Paulo is also the place to buy the trendy Havaianas brand of flip-flop footwear, which can be bought for a fraction of their price in the select Northern Hemisphere outlets which sell them.
Many visitors report that this city is much like a smaller-scale version of the England fans’ previous stop-off, Sao Paulo (above). But anyone who wants to sample a taste of what Brazil is like outside the major cities can easily head north-eastwards to the Serra do Cipo national park. It is home to an abundance of waterfalls, plants, birds and rare animals, and one guidebook describes the area as “particularly lovely” around June – when England’s followers will be in the region.
Guided tours are readily available, on which you might expect to spot giant anteaters, ocelots, pumas, wolves and howling monkeys.
In the central areas, fans looking for the liveliest nightlife should seek out the Lourdes and Savassi districts, both of which are easy to get around on foot.
However, as with Sao Paulo, you need to take great care, as traffic is a major problem in all major Brazilian cities, and even when using a pedestrian crossing when it is indicated as safe to do so is no guarantee that some drivers won’t ‘take their chance’.
A welcome refuge can be found in the Museu Mineiro, where examples of religious art from the country’s time as a Portugese colony are on display.
OTHER LESS MAINSTREAM OPTIONS DURING YOUR STAY INCLUDE:
2 – See the fine greenery just a short distance from the city centre: Fans arriving for the June 24 game with Costa Rica may want to head for the Pampulha suburb to escape the hurly-burly of the central areas, where you will find extensive gardens, set around a large lake.
AND LAST, BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST:
1 – Seek out a show where you might even get to perform yourself: Brazil’s major cities are magnets for people who love to sing, dance and show off their other talents. As a result, there are venues dedicated to public performances which are open to anyone to get up and have a go. Even if you aren’t that brave, it’s great to see some talented – and brave – local performers offer their skills up for public consumption.
All content and photo credits to Journeys of Distinction