2014 World Cup guide

Sao Paulo

December 2, 2013
By ESPN staff

Snapshot: Sao Paulo can be an intimidating city, with its population of more than 20 million and landscape strewn with skyscrapers. The city is home to Brazil’s best museums, including MASP, its leading art museum, and the Museu do Futebol, tucked under the stands of the Pacaembu stadium. It is a cosmopolitan Brazilian city, with Italian (Bixiga) and Japanese (Liberdade) neighbourhoods, among others. No surprise then that Sao Paulo has an extensive range of restaurants, clubs and bars. A warning: Sao Paulo is huge and the traffic is infamous, so allow plenty of time for getting around.

Japanese neighborhood of Liberdade Brazil
GettyImagesHead to Liberdade, the Japanese quarter, for great street food and markets on Sunday.

Getting there: When the construction work is finished, two subway lines (3 and 11) should take you there from the centre of the city to the stadium. It is worth bearing in mind, though, that the stadium is some distance from the most interesting neighbourhoods in Sao Paulo, so allow at least one hour to get there.

Where/what to eat: For the best cheese bread in the city, head to Pao de Queijo Haddock Lobo (Rua Haddock Lobo). Warning: Attempts to eat less than three of these treats will end in failure.

Sushi aficionados would do well to head to the Liberdade district, home of Sao Paulo's Japanese diaspora. For a few city blocks you could almost be in East Asia, with supermarkets, cafes and shops replete with Japanese staples -- and kitsch manga paraphernalia.

Elsewhere, head to 348 (Miguel Caifat 348) for outstanding red meat, featuring both Brazilian and Argentine cuts, while Primo Basilico (Gabriel Monteiro da Silva 1864) offers pizza made to perfection.

Where/what to drink: The Vila Madalena neighbourhood offers the best drinking spots, from endless supplies of beer and chat (Filial, at Fidalga 254, which boasts one of the best waiters in the city, Joaquin) to an amazing gin and tonic menu (Astor at Delfina 163). There's fantastic live music at Jazz nos Fundos (Joao Moura 1076), or Grazie Dio (Girassol 67) if you are seeking something local.

In the area on a Thursday night or Saturday afternoon? Then you're advised to frequent the samba joint called Traco de Uniao (Claudio Soares 73).

If you are not on a tight budget, Royal (Consolacao 222) will provide you with your own waiter, but at a considerable price.

Where to stay: Jardins, Itaim or Pinheiros, near Vila Madalena, are the most interesting districts in Sao Paulo regarding shops, restaurants and nightlife, and will allow you to roam from one to another without wasting much time in traffic. Avoid Augusta (noisy) and Morumbi (too far away from the stadium).

Area trivia:  The Museum of Football, located at the Pacaembu stadium, is a must for fans of the game. With collections of football shirts, futebol de botao (the Brazilian equivalent of Subbuteo) sets and plenty of interactive displays, you could easily wile away an afternoon here.

Legendary right-back Cafu was born in Sao Paolo, and went on to make more than 100 appearances for the Tricolor and helping them win a number of trophies. Cafu made 142 appearances for Brazil, appearing at three consecutive World Cups, lifting the title twice.

Sightseeing: Two skyscrapers offer staggering views of Sao Paulo's concrete jungle. The Banespa building (Joao Bricola 24) is the more popular of the pair, meaning there can be queues during busy periods. Edificio Italia (Ipiranga 344), meanwhile, is usually quieter, with many people unaware that there is a viewing platform (with no real safety barrier, incidentally) one floor above a swanky restaurant. You have to pay, but the panorama is worth it.

For something a little obscure, head to the Butantan Institute to watch snakes being milked for their venom once a day.

Arena de Sao Paulo is to be opened: 2014

Matches to be played at Arena de Sao: Brazil vs. Croatia (June 12), Uruguay vs. England (June 19), Netherlands vs. Chile (June 23), Korea Republic vs. Belgium (June 26). The stadium will also kick off the 2014 World Cup, while a semifinal will be played there.

Capacity: 65,807 (including 20,000 temporary seats)

Cost to build: 820 million reals ($370 million; 230 million pounds)

Stadium trivia: After the tournament the ground will be used by Brazilian club Corinthians, which currently plays at Estadio do Pacaembu. Indeed, the decision to construct a new stadium in a city that already has three grounds has been the subject of debate.

On Nov. 27, part of the stadium collapsed, killing at least two people and causing significant damage. The venue was reported to be 94 percent complete before the tragedy, which could further delay delivery of the stadium -- FIFA has set a December deadline for all 12 World Cup venues to be ready. Tim Vickery has written about how the accident highlights the need for less haste and more care ahead of the tournament.

Arena de Sao Paulo stadium construction World Cup 2014APThe Arena de Sao Paulo will host the opening match of the 2014 World Cup.

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