City Break in Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Angela Wood

Senior Contributor

Minas Gerais is a fascinating region of Brazil. Home to colonial mining towns, rocky mountain ranges, forests and cosmopolitan cities, there’s much to see and do. There’s no better place to begin your exploration of this coffee growing region than in the garden city of Belo Horizonte. It’s known for its verdant parks, tree-lined plazas and museums. As an added benefit, it’s also the culinary capital of Brazil and boasts up to 10,000 bars and restaurants!

Stroll through Freedom Square

Freedom Square stands proudly in the heart of Belo Horizonte. Also known as Praça de Liberdade or Liberty Square, until recently it was a hub of the city’s political activity. With towering palms, cobbled pathways and iconic buildings such as Governor’s Palace, Niemeyer Building and a vast public library, it’s a pleasure to stroll through. The best time to visit is during late afternoon to early evening when fountains illuminate, and musicians play lilting Brazilian tunes by the bandstand.

Shop in Colourful Central Market

Belo Horizonte’s Central Market opened in 1929 when the city’s mayor decided to sell all the city’s products in one place. Since then, Central Market has evolved from a few market stalls in a covered shed to a bustling indoor emporium with over 400 shops, bars and restaurants. Stalls are bedecked in ochres, reds and olive greens, filled with bottles of salsa and dairy produce shops display Jenga-like towers of Minas cheese which defy gravity. This region is famed for its coffee growing and as the scent of aromatic beans linger in the air, you can sample a cup or three from vendors throughout the market. Foodies will adore this place, there are tasty morsels to procure for a road trip or picnic, or you can sit down with a beer and plate of delicious feijoada for lunch. Whether you’re shopping for handicrafts and spices, fruit, vegetables and dairy products, Central Market is a vibrant experience in Belo Horizonte you don’t want to miss.

Discover Belo Horizonte’s Museums and Galleries

Belo Horizonte is capital of Minas Gerais state in eastern Brazil. The mining state was a key player in the Brazilian gold rush during the late 1600s. Prospectors from across the world ventured here in search of gold, gemstones and diamonds. Therefore, a great place to learn about this fascinating era is at Belo Horizonte’s Museum of Mines and Metal. Located on the Liberty Square cultural circuit in a pink Neo-Classical building, the aspects of mining and metallurgy are displayed across 18 rooms, each representing the cultural, historic and economic impact on the region. Alternatively, if you appreciate fine art and architecture, venture to Oscar Niemeyer’s first masterpiece, Pampulha Art Museum. The impressive lakeside gallery surrounded by lush landscaped gardens is home to over 1500 pieces of art created by local artists. 

Visit Colonial Gold Mining Towns

If the idea of prospectors searching for gold has piqued your interest, venture 1.5 southeast of Belo Horizonte to the gold rush town of Ouro Preto. This UNESCO World Heritage town tucked between verdant mountain ranges is brimming with Baroque churches, cobbled streets and museums. Delve into the town’s fascinating past at Mine du Veloso. A guided tour transports you 400 metres below ground into underground chambers where gold was once mined. Discover the untold stories of men who worked tirelessly in these subterranean caverns, learn about the gold cycle and visit the on-site jewellery and craft store. You can also explore Ouro Preto’s famous landmarks above ground. The architectures of Church of Francis of Assis and Museum Casa Guignard are particularly interesting – the latter dedicated to one of Brazil’s renowned artists. If its incredible views you seek, Itacolomi State Park is the place to be. Popular with hikers, it’s home to scenic waterfalls and a swimming lake. However, the main highlight is a trek to Itacolomi Peak which boasts awe-inspiring views over Minas Gerais.

Explore Belo Horizonte’s Foodie Culture

Belo Horizonte is foodie heaven. Residents create a unique fusion of Portuguese, African and traditional indigenous recipes known throughout Brazil as ‘mineira’ cuisine. Much of it stems back to the gold rush, when migrants all brought their recipes to the region, cooking with coal ovens and cast-iron pans. The most famous dishes to try are ‘feijoada’ – a national dish created with pork, dried beef and black beans, ‘frango com quaibo’ – chicken served with okra and ‘pao de queijo’ – scrumptious Brazilian cheese bread rolls. Belo Horizonte also has the most bars per capita in Brazil. You can try the city’s popular drink ‘cachaca’ created with brandy made with distilled sugar cane. If you plan to visit the city during April or May, Belo Horizonte is buzzing with Comida di Buteco – a month-long food festival where you can make new friends, sip caipirinhas and party till the sun comes up over Belo Horizonte (Beautiful Horizon).

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