Natal (lit. “Christmas”) is the capital and largest city of Rio Grande do Norte, a northeastern state in Brazil. As of the IBGE July 2009, the city had a total population of 806,203 (1,263,547 in its Greater Natal).
Natal will be one of the smallest cities chosen by FIFA to host games of the World Cup 2014 (only Cuiabá is smaller); the city celebrated heartly the nomination, as there was a fierce dispute with other cities.
Natal is known as City of the Dunes. A combination of beaches, dunes, lagoons, and a still calm city have turned Natal into one of the main tourist destinations in Brazil. Tourists who want to combine a trip to the Cup with beach scenery can choose between Natal, Recife, Fortaleza and Salvador.
The implementation of the Via Costeira (Coastal Highway), 10 km (5.5 mi) long avenue along the shore and the dunes, was the true starting point for the beginning of tourist activity in the State in the 1980s. That is where the main hotels, shopping centers and restaurants of the capital city, Natal, are concentrated.
Natal has several tourist attractions and is famous for its natural beauty (such as the crystalline waters of Maracajaú and the largest cashew tree in the world), for its historical monuments and buildings (such as the Forte dos Reis Magos and the Alberto Maranhão Theater), for its beaches (such as Ponta Negra, Pipa and Genipabu) and also for its off-season carnival, the Carnatal.
It is the capital of Brazil closest to Europe and Africa, and the Augusto Severo International Airport currently connects Natal with many Brazilian cities and also operates some international flights. Until 2014, a new airport shall be ready in São Gonçalo do Amarante, metropolitan area of Natal.