For the tourist, Manaus is one of Brazil’s glories. The city grew up during the rubber boom of the 19th century; its erstwhile prosperity is evident in the monumental shape of the Teatro Amazonas, the opera house that attracted the world’s greatest artists. Today, the city is most notable as the hub for Amazonian adventures, with wildlife tourism the 21st-century growth industry.
Brazil’s largest city is not a place to linger. The US State Department issues a specific warning for travellers to Sao Paulo about: “Young women slipping various drugs into men's drinks and robbing them of all their belongings while they are unconscious. Armed hold-ups of pedestrians and motorists by young men on motorcycles are a common occurrence. Victims who resist run the risk of violent attack.” The only positive: it is well-connected to more alluring parts of the country.
The nation’s third-biggest city is twinned with Minsk in Belarus. Travel-weary cynics might say it is equally industrial and unappealing. But Belo Horizonte is gateway to the colonial gold-mining towns, of which the most notable is exquisite Ouro Preto, rich in Brazilian baroque. If, by the time of England’s last match against Costa Rica, the team need a miracle, Roy Hodgson may take heart from the fact that Belo Horizonte is also twinned with Bethlehem.