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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Curitiba

Snapshot: The differences between Brazil's regions are made clear by traveling from the heat and history of the nordeste to the chillier (at least during World Cup season) climes of the south. Not that Curitiba lacks history. The city was influenced by waves of immigration from Europe, most notably from Italy, Poland and Germany, and has a quality of life and an organised feel that is rare among Brazilian cities. There are plenty of parks and green spaces and some interesting architectural sites, including the historic central district (particularly around the Rua das Flores and the Largo da Ordem) and the Museu Oscar Niemeyer, an art museum built in the shape of an eye.

Getting there: Staying around the Batel or Agua Verde neighbourhoods puts you within walking distance of the stadium, which is situated in the Batel district, in the middle of the city. There, you can take advantage of Curitiba's impressive public transportation network, unique in Brazil and copied by several cities abroad. In any case, take your coat. It's the coldest city among the 12 venues, with an average high for that time of year of 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius) and average low of 46 degrees Fahrenheit (7.8 degrees Celsius).

Where/what to eat: Meat is the local delicacy, and to experience it at its most traditional you should visit Nyck Costela (Guilherme Pugsley, 1111), a low-profile option specialising in amazing ribs. Zea Mais (Barao do Rio Branco, 354) offers modern dishes in more of an upscale setting. If you're into wine, Durski (Avenida Jaime Reis, 254) won't disappoint, while Ernesto Ristorante (Myltho Anselmo da Silva, 1483) will satisfy even the most demanding Italian food fanatics.

Where/what to drink: You might feel that the locals are more introverted than you would expect Brazilians to be, and you'll be right. That has to do with the Curitibanos' ancestors (mostly German and Eastern European), and it generates a more reserved atmosphere in the city. That said, several bars will make you feel welcome. Taj (Bispo Dom Jose, 2260) is a trendy venue that offers fine sushi. Vox (Rua Barao do Rio Branco, 418) is always packed and has an excellent beer and spirit selection.

View of the Barigui Park in Curitiba.
View of the Barigui Park in Curitiba.

Where to stay: As mentioned, the Batel and Agua Verde neighbourhoods are unbeatable, as not only are they extremely close to the stadium but they also offer a wide range of hotels and restaurants and even a number of quite decent shopping malls, including the Crystal Plaza (Rua Comendador Araujo, 731) and Shopping Palladium (Av. Republica Argentina, 4121).

Area trivia: Coritiba, founded in 1909, is the state's oldest club. In October 2011, they were written into the Guinness World Records after achieving 24 consecutive victories in all competitions.

Sightseeing: Such an organised city boasts an amazing network of parks. You can go from one to the next through the impressive bike paths network. The Jardim Botanico, with its beautiful Crystal Palace inside, is the best one to visit. The Crystal Palace is also a wonderful venue for shows and concerts -- try to catch one if you can.

The Oscar Niemeyer Museum, which is in the shape of an eye as designed by the great architect Niemeyer, is a popular destination that offers exhibitions by local artists. Also, take the Sierra Verde train through the lush green hills to the coast. Stop at Morretes for lunch and try Barreado stew -- a delicious local delicacy.

Arena da Baixada opened: 1914

Matches to be played at Arena da Baixada: Iran vs. Nigeria (June 16), Honduras vs. Ecuador (June 20), Australia vs. Spain (June 23), Algeria vs. Russia (June 26).

Capacity: 41,456

Cost: 220 million reals ($95 million; 60 million pounds)

Stadium history: The Arena da Baixada will be the oldest venue to host matches at the tournament. Located on land once occupied by a Brazilian army depot, the stadium was built in 1914 and renovated in 1999. The Arena da Baixada is considered one of the country's finest grounds.

Stadium trivia: The upgrade to the facilities has been funded by Brazilian club Atletico Paranaense. Among the improvements are extra pitchside seats to boost attendance, but plans to have a retractable roof have been abandoned in an attempt to ensure it is ready in time for the big kickoff.

In October, work at the stadium was suspended on the orders of a Brazilian labour tribunal due to safety breaches. Judge Lorena Colnago said there was "a serious risk of workers being buried, run over and of collision, falling from heights and being hit by construction material, among other serious risks." The news has led to concerns about the ground meeting FIFA's completion deadline of December.

Arena da Baixada was due to have a retractable roof in time for the 2014 World Cup, but those plans have been cancelled.
Arena da Baixada was due to have a retractable roof in time for the 2014 World Cup, but those plans have been cancelled.

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