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World Cup 2014 City Guide: Belo Horizonte

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World Cup 2014 City Guide: Belo Horizonte
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The 2014 World Cup in Brazil next summer will be many supporters' first visit to the South American country.

So, in order to help any would-be first-time visitors ahead of the competition, Bleacher Report will be producing a brief football-oriented city guide to each of the host cities. First up, Minas Gerais state and the city of Belo Horizonte.

City: Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Population: 2,475,440

 

History

The city of Belo Horizonte was planned and built in the 1890s, with the idea of replacing Ouro Preto as the capital of Minas Gerais state—an area made wealthy by the country's gold rush in the 18th century.

Then known as Cidade de Minas, the city was located at the heart of the state and was intended to reflect the wealth of the area at the time, following the founding of a Brazilian republic in 1889. Industry was quickly attracted to the area, and with that investment, the city has continued to grow.

A planned city, based upon the design of Washington, D.C., Belo Horizonte is surrounded by mountains that provide stunning scenery and, also, incorporates several large parks into the metropolitan area.

Stadium: Estádio Governador Magalhães Pinto (Mineirão)

A 57,483-person crowd will pack into the newly renovated Mineirão next summer, with six matches to be played at the stadium—including the first of the semifinals.

The ground recently hosted an international fixture between Brazil and Chile, its first since renovation, and was one of the first grounds ready for action ahead of next summer's tournament.

Major Local Teams: Atletico Mineiro and Cruzeiro

There are two major sides in Belo HorizonteAtletico Mineiro and Cruzeiro—both of whom attract tremendous support in comparison to many of Brazil's most traditional sides.

While Cruzeiro have been the more successful of the pair, remaining well in contention for the 2013 Brasileirão title, it is a Ronaldinho-inspired Atlético side who are current Copa Libertadores champions.

A Raposa (The Fox) is the nickname of Cruzeiro, who play in blue and hold Tostão, Wilson Piazza and Ronaldo among their greatest former players.

For O Galo (The Rooster), as Atletico are known, Toninho Cerezo and Eder are among the greatest players to have worn the black-and-white-striped shirt.

Major Landmark: São Francisco de Assis Church

Located in the Pampulha neighbourhood that also hosts the Mineirão stadium, the São Francisco de Assis Church is an unusual example of modern architecture that one would not usually expect from a church.

Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer is the man responsible for the design, as well as for many other buildings in this unusual area of the city.

Must-Eat Food: Tutu a Mineira

Roast pork served with tutu, a thick bean sauce, a local cabbage-like vegetable (couve) and salted pork crackling. A regular item on local menus in the Belo Horizonte region.

The Local's Tip: James Young, Belo Horizonte resident and football journalist (@seeadarkness)

No trip to Belo Horizonte would be complete without a trip to the downtown Mercado Central, a giant indoor market teeming with bars, restaurants and stalls, selling everything from delicious cheeses from the Minas countryside, to puppies and parrots. It’s a great place to relax with a beer and a snack and watch the locals go about their business.

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