Southeast Brazil is home to the sixth largest city; Belo Horizonte, which is a cosmopolitan and lively city, sporting an impressive mountainous backdrop, hence the name, Beautiful Horizon. And this year is the perfect opportunity to explore the city’s cultural and historical gems.
Get to know Pampulha
This quirky 1940s neighbourhood is packed with outstanding architectural gems from world renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, before he became famous for co-creating Brasilia. This planned suburb is home to the rather controversial Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, with its curved one-piece outer shell and top-heavy tower.
Set around a lake of the same name, Pampulha is also home to the largest federal university in Brazil at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais and the interesting Museum of Modern Art. And you’ll recognise the Mineirão soccer stadium which plays its part during the FIFA World Cup 2014. In fact the Estádio Governador Magalhães Pinto (to give it its full name) is the second largest stadium in Brazil (after the Maracana Stadium in Rio), hosting 62,000 fans.
Get a birdseye view over Belo Horizonte
Head up into the spectacular Parque das Mangabeiras Mountains which cosset BH; admire the panoramic views over the urban sprawl by day, and watch the sun set by dusk. The best views are from Mirante das Mangabeiras and at the Praca do Papa, aka Pope’s Square, where Pope John Paul II gave Mass in 1980. This is also the perfect spot for a picnic, long walks or a serious biking session. And mesmerise the kids on Rua do Amendoim where stationary vehicles appear to actually roll uphill.
Get to know the local history
By Brazilian standards, Belo Horizonte is actually a pretty young city, founded in 1897, the city soon grew far beyond its original plan. Set around the central Praca da Liberdade, this is the cultural hub and a great place to admire the architecture and enjoy a spot of people watching. Pass by the Palacio da Liberdade and various government buildings which have recently been converted into the Praca da Liberdade Cultural Complex – home to no fewer than nine museums and galleries. It’s here that you’ll find the Metal Museum, the Memorial Minas Gerais Vale, the Mines, the Bank of Brazil Cultural Centre and the inimitable Niemeyer Building, which was the work of the legendary architect back in the 1950s. Many of the local museums and attractions are closed each Monday.
Lose yourself in Central Market
Serving the state of Minas Gerais since 1929, Central Market is the cultural and commercial heart of Belo Horizonte – the 400 stalls sell fruit, vegetables, herbs, kitchenware and objects from all over the state. Locals and tourists alike come here to shop, eat, drink and chat. Check out one of the bars that serve up authentic fare including local sausage (inguica mineira), bean stew (feijao-tropeiro) and the ubiquitous salt beef (carne-de-sol). Pair it with the local specialty; Cachaca spirit, which is distilled from sugarcane juice – after all, the locals’ favourite saying is “since there’s no sea, let’s go to the bar”.
Cool off in Mangabeiras Park
Nature lovers will appreciate the laidback Mangabeiras Park, where the Cerrado (vast tropical savanna) mixes with the dense Atlantic Forest; home to many endemic birds and animals.
Image credit; Homemdelata via Wikipedia CC