World Cup Stadia #1: Estadio Mineirao

Capacity: 64,000

Snapshot: Belo Horizonte has neither the beaches of the northeast nor Rio’s pizzazz, but it has at least one redeeming feature: BH, as it is also known, has more bars per capita than any other Brazilian city. Furthermore, the local cuisine, comida mineira, is considered the best in Brazil. BH is a pleasant, if unspectacular, city, and there are some wonderful places to visit in the hills on the outskirts, such as the old colonial town of Ouro Preto and the mesmerising country park/outdoor art installation of Inhotim.


Getting there: The 6.5-mile journey to the stadium from the city centre will provide a proper matchday feel. Congested public buses or taxis will take you there — if you are lucky enough to flag an open one down. If travelling from the centre of Belo Horizonte, leave at least one and a half hours before kickoff to make sure you get there in time.

Where/what to eat: Less than three days is arguably not enough time to devote to the state of Minas Gerais’ cuisine. Mineiros love their food and rightfully so, but pao de queijo (cheese bread) aside, you’ll have to try just one dish per day to avoid serious indigestion. Leitao a pururuca (roasted young lamb), feijao a tropeira (a delicacy combining beans and vegetables) and tutu a mineira make for a fantastic meal but will probably leave you comatose for the rest of the day.

Dona Lucinha (R. Padre Odorico, 38) in the city and Xapuri (Rua Mandacaru, 260) in a beautiful farm outside Belo Horizonte offer the best versions of these classics, although you’ll probably eat well in most restaurants. If you want something more cosmopolitan, Provincia di Salerno (Italian, Maranhao 18) and the amazing Oroboro (contemporary, Maranhao, 18) deliver a high standard as well.

Where/what to drink: The extremely traditional Pinguim (Grao Mongol, 157) beer house is still the best meeting point to drink cold draught beer. However, Belo Horizonte is packed with fantastic bars (botecos), some of them among the best in the country. Mineiros love their bar food (comida de boteco), so you can find excellent appetisers to complement your draught in Bartiquim (Rua Silvianopolis, 74), Redentor (Fernandes Tourinho, 500) and Patorroco (Turquesa, 865). But try any bar that takes your fancy; they are plentiful and of a good standard.

Where to stay: Savassi is an ideal neighbourhood to stay close to the most interesting eating, drinking and shopping spots. Nearby, the Lourdes and Carmo neighbourhoods are also well located and have good hotels.

Area trivia: The prolific Dada Maravilha (“There are no ugly goals; ugly is not scoring”) had more than one stint at Atletico Mineiro and scored almost 1,000 goals in his career, yet some Mineiros still say he could not play ball.

Former Barcelona and AC Milan forward Ronaldinho currently plies his trade at Atletico Mineiro. Since joining the club in 2012, the Brazilian has impressed, helping the club to Copa Libertadores glory while also claiming the personal accolade that is the Bola de Ouro (Golden Ball) as a reward for his performances.

Sightseeing: If it wasn’t clear already, the best tourism you can enjoy in Belo Horizonte is closely related to food and drink. Make the most of your meals and happy hours.

If you have a couple of extra days, head to the beautiful colonial city of Ouro Preto (100 kilometers away) or spend a night at the open-air museum of Inhotim (60 km away). Both are unforgettable visits.

Estadio Mineirao opened: 1965

Matches to be played at Estadio Mineirao:Colombia vs. Greece (June 14), Belgium vs. Algeria (June 17), Argentina vs. Iran (June 21), Costa Rica vs. England (June 24). The stadium will also host a semifinal.

Capacity: 62,547

Cost: Estimated 666 million reals ($287 million; 180 million pounds) spent on reconstruction

Stadium history: The Estadio Mineirao, which is owned by the state, has staged numerous footballing memories, having been the home of Cruzeiro. The likes of Ronaldo and Tostao have graced its turf, while it once hosted a match between Cruzeiro and Vila Nova in 1997 that was witnessed by 132,834 spectators.

Stadium trivia: The stadium has undergone a significant makeover to bring it up to modern standards, including the facilities to “capture and store up to 6,270,000 litres of rainwater,” which can be reused on site for the likes of the restrooms, while the pitch has been lowered to improve visibility for the fans.