“Belo Horizonte” means beautiful horizon in Portuguese, which is fitting for its magnificent landscape. When the city was first built, it was planned to house only a few hundreds of residents. No one ever expected that it would grow to have more than 5 million inhabitants. Unlike São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasília, tourists often overlook Belo Horizonte as a travel destination. That means those who venture out to Belo Horizonte gain unique experiences that most visitors don’t know exist.
Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s “Bar Capital.”
Belo Horizonte is the capital of Minas Gerais state, but it is also known as Brazil’s “bar capital.” The city has more than 14,000 bars for locals and tourists to choose from, which makes Belo Horizonte’s nightlife extremely animated. This is the ideal setting for people who don’t necessarily have tickets to the World Cup games in the Mineirão Stadium (Estádio do Mineirão), but want to celebrate with some of the world’s most spirited fans.
Sah-oo jee is how to pronounce “saúde” or “cheers” in Portuguese, which is a handy word to know when celebrating the World Cup games and its motto “all in one rhythm” in Belo Horizonte. With thousands of bars to choose from, how is a first-time visitor supposed to know where to go? Luckily, some local experts have tried and tested each and every bar. During the month of April, the city holds an event called the “Comida di Buteco” (pub food) competition where judges and the public cast votes on bars for different categories. People who are unfamiliar to this area can limit the search of bars to explore based on beer coldness and even types of “tira-gosto” (appetizers) to accompany your beer.
Food and Drink Specialties in Beagá
Belo Horizonte is nicknamed “Beagá” for the way its initials “BH” sound in Portuguese. Beagá has various delicious restaurants where you can taste the traditional flavors of the city. Locals and visitors occasionally wander to the Central Market (Mercado Central) to venture into the 400 food stores available for people to purchase fresh produce, cheeses, pastries and sugar cane liquor, also known as cachaça. Belo Horizonte is most known for its cheese, which is why visitors must try the Pão de queijo, Brazilian gluten-free cheese bread. Other local favorites that visitors can’t leave Belo Horizonte without tasting are:
- Porco assado – Brazilian-style pork ribs
- Tutu de feijão – A dish of black beans, pork sausage, garlic, onions, tomatoes and manioc flour
- Bife ensopado – Flavorful steak stew with vegetables
- Feijão tropeiro – A bean casserole with sausage, peppers and bacon
Guests can never go wrong selecting cachaça or caipirinha as their drink of choice while in BH, but there is also a wide selection of local and international beers offered in most bars. Going to “botecos” or bars are not only a nighttime affair — they are also open during the day for people who are out and about in the Mercado Central.
The city’s unique cultural landmarks reside around Pampulha, a man-made lake that extends 12 miles. This is where the Church of São Francisco de Assis in Pampulha (Igreja São Francisco de Assis), the eye-catching blue and white building that is usually associated with Belo Horizonte, is found. The church was a collaboration of some of the most skilled and well-known Brazilian professionals who followed the architectural design of Oscar Niemeyer. The church has curves resembling mountains where people would usually see straight lines. This building represents the unique, signature style of Niemeyer. Another Niemeyer-inspired building is the Art Museum of Pampulha (Museu de Arte da Pampulha), which was originally built to be a casino in 1946, but was later transformed into a museum in 1957. Since then, the museum has provided the public with approximately 1,600 masterpieces by several Brazilian artists. Nearby, the Pampulha Architectural Complex (Conjunto Arquitetonico da Pampulha) surrounds the lake and holds the Mineirão soccer stadium, Mineirinho gym, a zoo and an amusement park.
Local Artists and Creative Minds
The people of Belo Horizonte are not only friendly, but they are also very forward-thinking. Palace of the Arts (Palácio das Artes) is a large multicultural center full of concert venues, theater halls, a cinema, library, newspaper archive and music archive where people can experience what Belo Horizonte is all about. The Museum of Mineiro (Museu Mineiro) has a permanent collection of baroque artists Aleijadinho and Ataíde’s masterpieces, as well as additional works of local contemporary artists on exhibit. Visitors traveling with children are recommended to tour the Toy Museum (Museu dos Brinquedos) where there are 700 toys on display that date as far back as the 19th century. If guests are looking to do some local shopping, the Mineiro Handicraft Centre (Centro de Artesanato Mineiro) is the place to go for unique, handmade souvenirs, including lace, embroidered carpets, sculptures, paintings and ceramics made from local artisans. Afterwards, join locals at the Park of Mangabeiras (Parque das Mangabeiras), designed by Roberto Burle Marx, where people can walk around and enjoy the many species that inhabit the park. The park is an impressive 716 acres, and is full of trails, sporting equipment and a playground.
– By the Brazilian Tourism Board (Embratur)
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