State: Rio Grande do Sul
Stadium: Estadio Beira-Rio (cap. 50,287)
Games: Five including Australia v Holland, France v Honduras, and a round of 16.
Airport to portside: If you’re swift through the airport, you can be watching the sunset at Usina do Gasometro within half an hour.
Porto Alegre is Gaucho region but along with a strong Argentinian and Uruguayan influence, the city itself feels very modern European. It even once snowed there.
Being the furthest south of the host cities, many teams were keen to play in Porto Alegre because of its more agreeable climate. Average highs reach 20C so it is more comfortable than the equatorial cities in the north-east. And as its name suggests, it’s a port city so there’s no beach and no beach culture. Instead, the Fan Fest will take place in the middle of the city close to the historical centre.
However, there are nice portside spots to soak up the rays including the Usina do Gasometro (left), where you’ll find people walking and running as the sun goes down and a good range of food and drink sellers on the streetside.
Yes, Porto Alegre has cowboy heritage so don’t be surprised to find horses roaming or pulling carts even in the city. Gaucho land also means good meat and mate. This is a herbal hot drink also known as chimarrão. You’ll see Gauchos drinking this in silver-lined goblets with thick silver straws with a green herbal mix floating in hot water. It’s not dodgy; it’s just full of caffeine. If you like green tea, then you’ll enjoy it but if not, you’ll probably find it quite bitter.
Is it ready?
This seemed a stupid question when I visited in January. The stadium was pretty much complete and inside was certainly ready for the World Cup ahead of its inauguration in February. But since then, there have been serious concerns raised about the surrounding infrastructure and temporary structures, some of which falls to the local government to complete. In all likelihood, everything will be fine but plan your route to the ground as the stadium is hemmed in to the bayside by only one main road.
That said, the ground, belonging to Internacional, is beautiful and seeped in history. It’s where Eusebio scored at the inauguration of the Beira-Rio in 1969 between Inter and Benfica. Marcelo Medeiros, the vice-president of Internacional told me it was “the most beautiful place in Porto Alegre”.
:: The centre of Porto Alegre has some lovely historic buildings to check out, including the Nossa Senhora das Dores church (left), which was one of the most stunning I’ve seen.
:: Don’t get confused if you hear Spanish. The rest of the continent speaks Spanish and Porto Alegre is very close to Argentina and Uruguay.
:: If you’re down south, have time to spare and want to visit great beaches, take a trip to nearby Florianopolis. It’s an island city in the next state up, Santa Catarina, and has some spectacular beaches.
:: Pop by one of the official training centres to see the Gremio ground. Gremio fans are a bit bitter that close rivals Internacional were picked to have the new World Cup stadium but the Gremio arena is also pretty impressive.