Snapshot: The state of Rio Grande do Sul has a sense of independence from the rest of the country, similar to Texas in the United States. A World Cup visit to Porto Alegre will not be complete without drinking some chimarrao (mate tea) and feasting on some churrasco (barbecue). Rio Grande do Sul is a traditional home of Brazilian football managers (including Luiz Felipe Scolari and his predecessor as Brazil coach, Mano Menezes), and the rivalry between the two big Porto Alegre teams, Gremio and Internacional, is notoriously fierce. Both are getting new stadiums — Gremio are already playing at the impressive Arena do Gremio, and Inter will move back to their refurbished Beira Rio ground, the city’s World Cup venue, next April.
Getting there: FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke has insisted access to Estadio Beira-Rio is easy, but being next to the river Guaiba, and with some heavy traffic issues, you’d be wise to leave at least one hour early for the match if stationed in one of the recommended neighbourhoods for accommodation: Moinhos de Vento, Mont Serrat or Bela Vista. Plenty of buses will get you there, while a cab ride should cost about $20.
Where/what to eat: Southerners are compulsive meat-eaters. Thanks to a few pioneering entrepreneurs, their churrasco is now well-known abroad, so you’d do well to try the real thing. The best spots are Na Brasa (Ramiro Barcelos, 389) and Bah (Diario de Noticias, 300 — Barra Shopping Sul).
Besides their daily portion of red meat, the locals also enjoy more sophisticated food, and restaurants such as Del Barbiere (Jeronimo Coelho 188) and Le Bateau Ivre (Tito Livio Zambecari 805) will impress you. If you’re into wine, Rio Grande do Sul is also the source of the best wines of the country, although it is opined by some they still fall short of expectations when compared to their Argentine neighbours.
One of the best Thai restaurants outside of Thailand is also in Porto Alegre. If you enjoy curry, give it a go: Koh Pee Pee (Schiller 83).
Where/what to drink: The short but intense Padre Chagas street and its surroundings will keep you busy for at least a couple of days — great bars, restaurants and clubs abound. For instance, Rambla (Felix da Cunha, 977) has been a sensation since it opened in January 2013, and Z Cafe (Padre Chagas 314) is always fun.
Dublin Irish Pub (Rua Padre Chagas, 342) and Mulligan Irish Pub (Rua Padre Chagas, 25) provide reasonably served Guinness, although you may wish to walk along Padre Chagas street and choose whichever bar takes your fancy — the options are plentiful
Outside that region, consider a visit to Boteco Natalicio (Coronel Genuino, 217) for fantastic beer and bar food, and Lola bar de tapas (Castro Alves, 422) for a quite authentic tapas experience.
Where to stay: The Moinhos de Vento neighbourhood, even if a bit upscale, is extremely well located for eating, drinking and shopping. Mont Serrat and Bela Vista are also good options.
Area trivia: Right now, Luiz Felipe Scolari, who is back in charge of Brazil after leading the nation to World Cup glory in 2002, is probably the most revered coach from the Rio Grande del Sul region. Also from Porto Alegre, Dunga and Mano Menezes suffered the scorn of most Brazilians while at the helm of the national team.
Sightseeing: The sunset at the Guaiba river is incredible to watch, with an amazing blend of colours as the night draws in. Watch it from a boat — one-hour tours cost about $6.5 per person — to really maximise what is a beautiful experience.
The Ibere Camargo Foundation (Av. Padre Cacique, 2000) also offers a nice view of the river and shows works of an intriguing local artist together with temporary expositions.
Estadio Beira-Rio opened: 1969
Matches to be played at Estadio Beira-Rio: France vs. Honduras (June 15), Australia vs. Netherlands (June 18), Korea Republic vs. Algeria (June 22), Nigeria vs. Argentina(June 25). The stadium will also host a last-16 tie.
Cost: Reportedly a figure in the region of 290 million reals ($130 million; 80 million pounds) on refurbishment
Stadium history: Estadio Beira-Rio, nicknamed “The Giant of Beira-Rio,” is the home of club side Internacional, which are the rivals of city counterparts Gremio. In its original form, the ground took a decade to build, with fans doing their bit to aid its construction by donating raw materials, and it has since hosted a number of memorable derbies between the two Porto Alegre foes.
Stadium trivia: The stadium’s new roof is considered its crowning glory, as it is both aesthetically pleasing and also laden with the latest technology — the promotional information claims it to be self-cleaning. Such innovation does not come cheap, with Internacional taking the hit by funding the reconstruction.