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ESPN FC Posted by ESPN staff
Dec 2, 2013

Cuiaba

The sights and sounds of Cuiaba

Snapshot: Even more contested than Manaus as a World Cup host city, Cuiaba represents both the positive and negative of Brazil's hosting of the event. Negative because it is a relatively small, remote city with no great footballing tradition, best as its inclusion shows that the World Cup, geographically speaking at least, will be an event for all of Brazil and not just for Rio, Sao Paulo and the south. Cuiaba is not the most thrilling city on the planet, and can be feverishly hot -- temperatures can reach 97 degrees Fahrenheit (36 degrees Celsius) even in June, the coldest part of the year -- but it is still lively enough. The main attractions in the region lie outside the city -- the incredible Pantanal wetlands, probably the best place to see exotic flora and fauna in all of South America, and the Chapada dos Guimaraes mountain range and national park.

Getting there: The stadium has a car park of 15,000 spaces, so you could certainly drive there (it is based less than 4 miles away from the city centre) or take a cab that should cost no more than $10.

Where/what to eat: There are three delicious dishes in particular that you should try: Arroz com pequi (rice with a local fruit), farofa com banana (a savoury banana dish that includes onions) and pintado (a local river fish, cooked in a variety of ways).

Mahalo (Rua Presidente Castelo Branco, 359) takes some beating, serving up local, fresh ingredients via contemporary techniques. The fish rodizio at Lelis Peixaria (Rua Marechal Mascarenhas Moraes, 36) offers an all-you-can-eat flow of seafood. If you are seeking somewhere more formal, Getulio (Av. Getulio Vargas, 1147) ticks that box, while Di Pietro (Rua Joao Bento, 108) serves Italian cuisine with decent wine.

Taxis in Cuiaba are inexpensive, making for a swift way to get around.
Taxis in Cuiaba are inexpensive, making for a swift way to get around.

Where/what to drink: The area of Praca Popular (People Square) is an excellent spot to meet for drinks, with a high density of bars and restaurants.

The recently refurbished Agua Doce (Av. Ten. Cel. Duarte, 99) and Ditado Popular (Praca Popular) offer live music from the local area, while Bar do Azeitona (Praca Popular) is always stocked with cold beer.

Where to stay: If you are looking to stay close to the bars and restaurants, then choose the historic centre of the city (Centro). If you'd rather somewhere less busy, then Goiabeiras or Miguel Sutil street would suit -- rest assured the city is not large, so cab journeys are reasonably priced.

Area trivia: Local side Mixto hold the record for most state titles, having won the Campeonato Mato-Grossense on 24 occasions. Mixto are also the only club from Mato Grosso to have played at the top level of Brazilian football, the Brasileirao -- in 1976 and 1986.

Sightseeing: The Mercado do Peixe (Fish Market), now known as the Museu do Rio Cuiaba (River Museum), is located on the banks of Rio Cuiaba and houses exhibitions charting in-depth information about the market's history, as well as a restaurant serving, you guessed it, fish. Adjacent to the market is the Municipal Aquarium, which displays an impressive aquarium containing species of fish from the Pantanal area.

If your budget is of a decent size, you could enquire to your hotel about taking a helicopter flight over the natural wonders of national parks Chapada and the Pantanal. If you are travelling with children, then you could visit the Federal University's Zoo -- where you can see jaguars and albino alligators -- and its Indigenous Museum.

Arena Pantanal is to be opened: 2014

Matches to be played at Arena Pantanal: Chile vs. Australia (June 13), Russia vs. Korea Republic (June 17), Nigeria vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina (June 21), Japan vs. Colombia (June 24).

Capacity: 42,968

Cost: In the region of 520 million reals ($240 million; £150 million pounds)

Stadium trivia: Built specifically for the tournament, FIFA states that "sustainability has been a central theme of the construction," with many of the raw materials used in the process recycled, hence its nickname "The Big Green." Its capacity will be reduced by about 10,000 once the competition has come to a close. And with local sides Mixto and Operario hardly boasting a swell of followers, there are concerns about the regularity of the stadium's use post 2014 World Cup.

The Arena Pantanal stadium has been built with the environment very much at the forefront of the process.
The Arena Pantanal stadium has been built with the environment very much at the forefront of the process.

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