World Cup matches will play in 10 stadiums, located in nine cities across South Africa.
Here's a guide to the varied signposts for the world's largest sporting event:
South Africa's biggest and richest city was born in a gold rush in the late 1800s, emerging from the dust and din of the mines. It includes the historic township of Soweto, a hotbed of resistance to the fallen apartheid regime and one-time home to Nobel laureates Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.
More than a mile high, the altitude can bring freezing temperatures during the winter months from June to August.
The new Soccer City stadium is the biggest in South Africa with nearly 95,000 seats, and will host both the opening and final matches.
Covered in clay-coloured panels, the stadium's design is inspired by an African calabash pot. Built between downtown Johannesburg and Soweto, some of the seats were part of a 1980s stadium demolished to create the new building.
Ellis Park Stadium in downtown Johannesburg hosted the Rugby World Cup final in 1995, an event Mandela used to unite whites and blacks behind a sport once the domain of the country's apartheid rulers.
The 28-year-old stadium has been upgraded to hold 62,000, and was memorialised in the Clint Eastwood film "Invictus."
Cape Town lies on a peninsula reaching into the Atlantic Ocean at the Cape of Good Hope. The city was founded in 1652 as a way station for European ships traveling to Asia, and is now the jewel of South African tourism and the source of most of the country's wine.
The undulating, sculptural new Green Point Stadium holds 70,000 and sits between one of South Africa's most famous landmarks, Table Mountain, and one of its most infamous, Robben Island, where Mandela spent 18 years in prison.
The eastern city of Durban, Africa's busiest port, was named after a British colonial governor and is home to a significant Indian community that once counted Mahatma Gandhi among its residents.
The metro area is called eThekwini, which means "near the harbour" in Zulu. The mayor has offered the alternative translation of "bull testicle" - intended to describe the shape of the city's harbour.
The beachfront Moses Mabhida Stadium, named for a former secretary general of the South African Communist Party, was inspired by the national flag.
This new 70,000-seat stadium features a 106-metre-high (348-foot) central arch whose two legs merge in a tribute to the unity of a once-divided country. A car carries visitors to the top of the arch, where they can bungee jump over the pitch.
The capital Pretoria, part of the Tshwane metro area, is home to government ministries and diplomatic missions. The life of the city is increasingly intertwined with nearby Johannesburg.
The 50,000-seat Loftus Versfeld Stadium honours Robert Owen Loftus Versfeld, the father of organised rugby in South Africa. The venue has hosted major sporting events since 1906.
PORT ELIZABETH/NELSON MANDELA BAY
Port Elizabeth, named for the British wife of the man who founded the southern city, is home to South Africa's auto industry. Popularly called just PE, its metro area is known as Nelson Mandela Bay, to honour South Africa's first black president.
Nicknamed "the sunflower," the new 48,000-seat Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium has a luminescent roof shaped like the petals of a flower, built to withstand fierce coastal winds blowing in off the Indian Ocean.
Bloemfontein means "Fountain of flowers" in Afrikaans, but is part of the Mangaung municipality, which means "Land of cheetahs" in Sotho.
The Free State Stadium refers to the former Afrikaner Orange Free State, an independent republic in the 19th century founded by descendents of early European settlers. Bloemfontein is capital of the modern Free State province.
Built in 1952 and home to some of the country's most passionate football fans, Free State Stadium has been outfitted with a new second tier that expanded its capacity to 45,000.
In Swati, Mbombela means "a lot of people together in a small space". The city is using the earlier name Nelspruit until after the World Cup to avoid confusion.
With its giraffe-shaped roof supports and zebra-print seats, the new 46,000-capacity Mbombela Stadium pays tribute to the wildlife at nearby Kruger National Park, one of Africa's largest game reserves.
Polokwane is a Sotho word meaning "place of safety", which in 2003 replaced the previous name of Pietersburg. It's the last major town on the highway to Zimbabwe.
Peter Mokaba Stadium bears the name of an anti-apartheid activist.
Inspired by Africa's iconic baobab, the new 46,000-seat stadium features distinctive corner supports reminiscent of the massive tree.
Rustenburg, located north-west of Johannesburg, means "Town of rest" in Afrikaans.
The Royal Bafokeng Stadium sits on land within the Bafokeng nation, a traditional kingdom that manages several of South Africa's platinum mines. Nearby is Sun City, a Vegas-style casino resort.
The saddle-shaped stadium, built in the 1990s, needed just minor upgrades for the World Cup: a new roof and 4,000 extra seats expanded its capacity to 42,000.