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Fortaleza

Snapshot: A favourite with Brazilian tourists for its uncomplicated sun, sea and cerveja (beer) charms, Fortaleza lacks the cultural rhythms of Recife and Salvador, but is otherwise a fairly typical big nordestino city: an older downtown district, middle-class apartment buildings stretched along miles of beachfront, a friendly welcome, and the sense that a great many people are living in hardship somewhere not too far around the corner. The Arena Castelao was the first of Brazil's World Cup stadiums to open. Away from the city, the state of Ceara has some dazzling beaches, such as Jericoacoara and Canoa Quebrada.

Getting there: This is arguably the toughest of the stadiums to get to. Public buses departing from the seaside promenade at Avenida Beira Mar -- which by day is ideal for a stroll and a spot of shopping at the craft shops, but by night should be treated with caution as it has a reputation for crime -- as well as from the city centre, will leave you more than 1.2 miles away from the stadium, meaning a dehydrating walk under Fortaleza's merciless sun awaits. At least you can buy water in several small shops along the way.

Where/what to eat: Coco Bambu (Avenida Beira Mar 3698) offers huge portions -- one serving will suffice for three -- of local delicacies, including shrimp and fish cooked in coconut milk. The long-established Colher de Pau (Ana Bilhar, 1178) is the best option to savour Baiao de Dois, a traditional state of Ceara dish that uses rice and beans. And if you enjoy fresh fish, Vojnilo (Frederico Borges 409) will impress even the most demanding connoisseurs.

Where/what to drink: Several bars at Avenida Beira Mar, which runs along the coast of Baia Norte, keep the atmosphere alive until late -- Boteco Praia (Av. Beira Mar 1680) is a good example -- although, again, be safety conscious. More centrally, Boteco Original (Av. Antonio Sales 3177) does not have the view of the waterfront but its appetisers are better. Both have a great selection of Brazilian beers, although in the state of Ceara, Antarctica is usually the coldest. Try their caipirinhas made with local fruits instead of lime.

Later on, Orbita (R. Alm. Jaceguai 93) gives you an option to avoid an early night, and comes highly recommended.

If you happen to be in Fortaleza on a Monday night, consider heading to El Pirata (R. dos Tabajaras 325), for what has been dubbed "the craziest place on earth on a Monday night" by the New York Times, courtesy of its nonstop music and enthusiastic attendees. 

Where to stay: The best hotels are concentrated in the seaside neighbourhoods -- Praia Iracema, Meireles and Mucuripe -- because it is the area with most security and support for tourists. Fortaleza has had its problems with violence and crime -- in June 2013, Reuters reported that the wife of Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar was victim of an armed robbery.

Area trivia: Fortaleza was a focal point at the Confederations Cup, for the right and wrong reasons. The beautiful northeastern seaside town is one of Brazil's most popular destinations off the Rio-Sao Paulo axis and boasts the Castelao, which is arguably one of the most beautiful World Cup arenas. However, it was also the stage for battles between protesters and police when the Selecao played Mexico there in June -- the clashes were particularly under the microscope because they caused a logistical nightmare that involved FIFA sponsor guests being caught in the crossfire.

Nonetheless, it was at the Castelao that supporters at the stadium famously ignored FIFA's shortened version of the Brazilian national anthem and sang it a capella -- a stirring moment that became a battle cry for Neymar & Co. in the competition.

In February 2012, Ceara's club mascot "Grandpa" was banned for two home matches for making obscene gestures in a game against Ferroviario. The Grandpa mascot, complete with white beard and eyebrows, is modelled on Meton de Alencar Pinto, the club's former president.

Sightseeing: It's a city for those who enjoy lounging by the sea, although it is also well served by huge malls, such as Iguatemi. The Meireles neighbourhood is famous for a traditional crafts fair, while Mucuripe hosts a fisherman community and a seafood market. Being a blustery place, Fortaleza is also popular with kite-surfers -- Cumbuco is an amazing kite-surf beach with great atmosphere only 60km away from the city.

Estadio Castelao opened: 1973

Matches to be played at Estadio Castelao: Uruguay vs. Costa Rica (June 14), Brazil vs. Mexico (June 17), Germany vs. Ghana (June 21), Greece vs, Ivory Coast (June 24).

Capacity: 64,846

Cost: 520 million reals ($240 million; 150 million pounds)

Stadium history: The Castelao, which took four years to build before its opening in 1973, is the home to clubs Ceara and Fortaleza, which are famous for their fervent supporters. On an international level, it has been reported that the stadium once held 118,496 during a game between Brazil and Uruguay in 1980. The stadium was also the venue for Ronaldo's long-awaited return for Brazil when they beat Yugoslavia 2-1 in 2002.

Stadium trivia: The stadium's revamp has been extensive, with upgrades including a new roof that will shelter fans from the heat and plans to improve transport links to the ground. Despite concerns about the progress being made on some grounds, the Estadio Castelao was the first of Brazil's stadiums to be confirmed as ready for the 2014 World Cup.

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