Belo Horizonte City Guide

An introduction to the city of Belo Horizonte


Location

In the southeast region of the third largest Brazilian state, the State of Minas Gerais, lays its beautiful capitol - Belo Horizonte. Situated at an altitude of 858.3 meters and surrounded by parks of great natural richness and beautiful Serra do Curral mountain range, with mild climate throughout the year, Belo Horizonte justifies its Portuguese name, meaning “beautiful horizon”.

History

After settling in this region in the year of 1701, seeking fortune and adventure, bandeirante explorer origin in São Paulo, has founded a small village and established a land named “Curral del Rey”, which is archaic Portuguese for the “King Corral”. He was so successful running this farm, that the people from surrounding places, as well as numerous migrants from the São Francisco river region, who had to pass through Curral del Rey in order to reach southern parts of Brazil, charmed by the wealth and success of the village, decided to move in, thus resulting in Curral del Ray great expansion, becoming a village surrounded by farms. In the year of 1889, Brazil became a republic, and it was decided that the capital of the State of Minas Gerais should be moved from Ouro Preto to a new city.

In the year of 1893, Governor Afonso Pena has selected Curral del Ray as the location for the new economical and cultural center of the state under the new name of “Cidade de Minas”, also known as City of Minas. It was the first planned city in the country of the republican period and projected to be the new capital of Minas Gerais. On December 12th 1897, Minas City was inaugurated as the capitol of Minas Gerais and four years later, in 1901, the name Belo Horizonte was adopted.

Since then, the city continually experiences large economic and commercial growth, with an constant rise in population, mostly from 20th century, to this day.

General facts

Belo Horizonte or, also referred as, “BH”, is known as the "garden city" and is recognized for its stunning views of Serra do Curral mountain range, neoclassical and modern architecture, a culturally diverse population, booming economy, delicious local cuisine, vibrant bar scene and remarkable historic surroundings, making the city standout as contemporary and surprising.

The city’s calendar is always filled with events, such as grand cultural spectacles, offering show for all tastes. With a great infrastructure for national and international events, its touristic diversity constantly attracts people from all over the world, enchanted with arts, and literature. Belo Horizonte is filled with wide avenues, charming plazas and beautiful wooded areas, maintaining the original designs of its streets from over 100 years ago.

Beside the mentioned, the strong impact on Belo Horizonte’s urban appearance is made by Oscar Niemeyer, the best known Brazilian architect, by artist Cândido Portinari, by the world famous landscape architect Burle Marx, by sculptor Ceschiatti and by urban designer Aarao Reis, who has designed to plan this new city.

Landmarks

One of the most iconic landmarks of Belo Horizonte represents Cathedral Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem, a beautiful church built in 1932. It translates to “Cathedral of Our Lady of Good Voyage”, because there was once a chapel, where travelers would stop by to pray for a safe travel. This church is built in neo-gothic architectural style, which contains lots of impressive stone carvings.

There is also Igreja de Sao Francisco de Assis, or Church of St. Francis of Assisi, which is unusually beautiful, mostly because of its stylish curved lines and elegant contemporary architecture. At first, it was considered to be so highly controversial and “outlandish” in design that it was not actually used as a place of worship for many years.

One of the landmarks is also the Torre Alta Vila or Alta Vila Tower, which measures in at just over 100 meters in height. On the top of it is placed panoramic Sky Lounge restaurant, from where you can experience an astonishing views of the surrounding city and distant mountains of Minas Gerais. There is also located a popular branch of the Hard Rock Cafe, along with a small group of shops and the Convention Bela Vista avenue, where you could enjoy various events throughout the year.

A great contribution to the overall architecture in the city is given by the buildings of the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais. This huge complex of buildings together makes up one of Brazil's top five universities. Also, it hosts almost 40,000 students and some 4,500 staff and offers a total of 75 individual undergraduate degrees. The university was founded in the year of 1927.

The very first building of significance to be finished during the planned development of the city represents the majestic structure of Palacio da Liberdade, which is serving as the residence for the current seat of government in the state of Minas Gerais.

The most beautiful plazas and squares in Belo Horizonte are Praca de Liberdade, Praca de Savassi, Praca Raul Soares, Praca Sete de Setembro and Praca de Estacao, also known as Praca Rui Barbosa. One of the most stunning natural landmarks of Belo Horizonte is Maquine Grotto and Rei do Mato Grotto, which are two of the most beautiful and famous caves in the state of Minas Gerais.

General specifications

Belo Horizonte contains 69 parks that make up an approximate area of 8.6 million meters squared. There are almost 600 plazas, 17 from them with tourist attractions. Estimated population in Belo Horizonte is 2,491,109 inhabitants, estimated 2014.07.01., estimated density is 7,516.9 inhabitants per km², There are 36 hospitals, with one municipal, two federal, and 7 state hospitals, with the rest being philanthropic or private hospitals, offering nearly 5,500 hospital beds in the capital.

The public network has 141 health posts. There are also 4 Public Universities - The Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), the Federal Center for Technological Education of Minas Gerais (CEFET-MG), the Government School of the João Pinheiro Foundation and the University of the State of Minas Gerais (UEMG).

Prices

Belo Horizonte market’s, restaurant’s and transportation prices are low, but on the other hand clothing and utilities are high, while apartment renting prices depends on the locations throughout the city.

Places to go

Belo Horizonte offers a lot of places to go. From cultural places there are museums, such as Museu de Artes e Oficios, Museu de Arte da Pampulha, Museu de Historia Natural e Jardim Botanico and Museu Mineiro, also cultural manifestations such as International Festival of Comics, International Festival of Theatre, International Circus Festival and the Comida di Buteco Food Festival, a competition that brings out the best of the food served by the city’s bars.

It is a traditional host of the largest gastronomic festival in Brazil, which preserves the mineira culinary tradition, historically fulfilled, where a lot of creativity is put in simple ingredients.

The city offers typical food options and regional drinks and an elaborated international cuisine in the diverse hotels and restaurants that maintain a high standard in customer service. The coffee, artisanal beers, cachça - a sugarcane alcohol, and queijo minas - Minas cheese are just some of the main characteristic representatives of the local gastronomy. The most characteristic Belo Horizonte cuisine is the famous cheese bread - pão de queijo.