A weekend in Belo Horizonte
January 1, 1970
by Tatiana Gamaliel Lúcio
Choose a new destination!
Travel around the world is the dream of many people these days. And some destinations are almost a unanimity among travelers. When foreign people plan a trip to Brazil or even Brazilians planning their vacation, Belo Horizonte, or Beaga, how we residents like to call it, is never on the map… I can understand that Brazil’s beaches are to die for… The warm waters and the jaw-dropping landscapes are a true paradise on Earth, I cannot deny. But that’s not all Brazil has to offer!
Between the mountains, there is a state so charming, with the most wonderful sunsets, food, and friendly people. This state is Minas Gerais, the second most populated state in Brazil. And guess what city is its capital? That is right, Beaga, Brazil’s sixth largest city and one of the inspirations to build Brazil’s capital, Brasilia.
Belo Horizonte is not a destination very seek, maybe because it has no beaches, maybe because it is a (really) young city… Maybe because it is not as popular as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro or Bahia, but here in this article you will have a chance to know Beaga a little better and maybe come to visit and see all of its Wonders for yourself!
Beaga is a 120 years old city, designed at first to be Minas Gerais state capital. It began as a little village, called Curral Del Rey, the name of the mountain chain that surrounds the city on the south side. The city features a mixture of contemporary and classical buildings and going through some traditional neighborhoods, you can also feel the air of a countryside city. Beaga is also known as the capital of bars, the famous botecos, which are a great option to enjoy a good drink literally in every corner of the city! One other thing that cannot go without mention: the gastronomy, that I truly believe it is the best in the whole world!
Let’s start with the gastronomy!
Minas is well known for its delicious food: rich, diversified, with ingredients found in abundance in the rural environment and that you will only find here. To say a few, there are bread cheese, piglet to pururuca, beef stew with potatoes, tropeiro beans with torresmo, canjiquinha with ribs, chicken in brown sauce and angu, chicken with okra, among so many others…
All over the city, there are bars and restaurants to try Minas’ typical food, that I’ll tell you further.
Starting the walking tour
Beaga is a city very easy to know and a great place to start our adventure in is in one of the city’s most traditional neighborhood: Savassi. It is a central district, with a lot of classical buildings, wooded squares, museums, restaurants and, of course, botecos. The region can be known by foot, so people can enjoy its charm in a calm and inspiriting walk. Walking through Savassi you will get to Liberdade Square, an architectural heritage with buildings signed by Oscar Niemeyer. Liberdade Square houses the cultural circuit composed of 15 institutions, among museums, centers of culture and formation. There you can find important museums as CCBB and Memorial Minas Gerais, which tells the story of Minas Gerais through its collection and exhibit the work of famous artists from Minas Gerais, such as Sebastião Salgado, Lygia Clark, and Carlos Drummond de Andrade.
At Savassi, great restaurants to have breakfast are “A Pão de Queijaria” and “Casa Bonomi”, to try a delicious cheese bread with coffee, cakes, and juices. To have lunch, you must try restaurant “Maria das Tranças” for its famous and traditional chicken in brown sauce. Restaurant “Dona Lucinha” is also specialized in typical food. In Liberdade square, there are two places that deserve a visit: “Pizza Sur” and “Café com Letras”. “Pizza Sur” has delicious pizzas, empanadas, and wines and “Café com Letras” a very charming cafe inside CCBB museum.
Feira Hippie: a must see
On Sundays, nearby Liberdade Square, the main avenue in Beaga downtown area receives a craft fair, called Feira Hippie. This is a must-see.There you can find the work of artists and artisans from the whole state and typical food tents. Choose between a kebab, boiled corn, acaraje or popcorn… But taste this delicious snacks with a cold beverage and walk between the tents! Feel like a true local. This is a must-see and a must-do!
The fair takes place in front of the oldest environmental patrimony of Belo Horizonte: Municipal Park Américo Renné Giannetti. Inside the Park, you can find peaceful paths, with popcorn carts and donkey rides, something you will only find here.
On the opposite side of the Park, is the Rui Barbosa square, known as Station Square, because it is located in front of the building of the old station of the Central Railroad of Brazil, now Museum of Arts and Crafts, the only museum of its kind in Latin America. The entrance of the Belo Horizonte Metro Central Station is also located in this square. It is a beautiful building and the entrance to the museum is free. It is worth visiting.
Central Market: taste of Minas
Going further in Beaga downtown area, you can find the most famous Central Market, with over 400 stores full of typical Minas delights like minas cheese, dulce de leche and our famous cachaça. In the market, there are bars as well, where you can try the gastronomy from Minas and enjoy a good caipirinha! The most famous restaurant in Central Market is “Casa Cheia”. Have lunch here and try more typical dishes, such as “Torresmo de barriga”, chicken with ora-pro-nóbis, chicken with okra and angu or tropeiro beans. All the portions are well served and delicious.
Pampulha: UNESCO World Heritage
On another side of the city, a must-see is a UNESCO World Heritage Site: Pampulha Architectural Complex, which is a set that involves architecture, art, and landscape, designed by Oscar Niemeyer, commissioned by then-Mayor Juscelino Kubitschek. Pampulha Architectural Complex includes the Church of San Francisco de Assis, the Yacht Tennis Club, the Dance House, the Casino (now the Pampulha Art Museum), and the gardens of each building, the boardwalk that links one building to another, the mirror of water and the Lagoon edge where these constructions are. The complex is breathtaking and a must see for sure! A good way to know Pampulha is by bike, which can be rented. Pampulha also offers many restaurant options, in which people can try the wonderful gastronomy from Minas Gerais. A restaurant that is worth visiting is Xapuri. It has a rustic environment, beautiful gardens and produces its own sausages and sweets.
Near the Lagoon, also part of Pampulha Architectural Complex is the biggest stadium of the state and fifth biggest of Brazil. That is Mineirão, officially Estádio Governador Magalhães Pinto. Mineirão was the stage of finals of the Libertadores Cup, Intercontinental Cup and was one of the headquarters of the Confederations Cup in 2013 and the 2014 FIFA World Cup. In days with no games, the stadium offers guided tours, in which the visitors can know the bleachers and areas of exclusive use, such as changing rooms and lawn.
Mangabeiras Park: Nature in the middle of the city
Now, going to the south side of Beaga is another park that deserves a visit: Mangabeiras Park. It is located by the Serra do Curral, another cultural heritage of Belo Horizonte. This park, designed by architect Roberto Burle Marx, is a place to relax and feel completely out of the city madness, despite being in the middle of Beaga. It offers many activities, such as trails, sports courts, skate track, toys and cultural activities and you can have a nice picnic at the end of the day.
To finish with a golden key, go to Mirante Mangabeiras, an observation deck from where the visitor can see a beautiful panoramic view of the city and of the Mangabeiras Park. Watching the sunset from there and you will instantly know why Belo Horizonte got its name… It is an experience you will never forget and the only regret you will have is that you didn’t come to this paradise in the mountains sooner.