343km (213 miles) N of Rio de Janeiro, 487km (303 miles) NE of São Paulo
This thriving city of 2.5 million residents lies in the hills of Minas Gerais, 450 km inland from Rio de Janeiro. One of the oldest planned cities in Brazil, Belo Horizonte has a 19th–century downtown with a leafy square framed by outstanding art museums and lovely pedestrian-friendly streets. Further afield, the city boasts some of Brazil’s finest contemporary art and striking Modernist architecture. Foodies flock here to savor the hearty meat-based regional cuisine, sample fresh cheeses, and sip traditionally distilled cachaça.
Things to Do
Visit the recently restored 19th–century Praça da Liberdade in the heart of Belo Horizonte’s downtown. Stroll the elegant French-inspired gardens, visit the Mining Museum, or catch an art exhibit at one of the cultural centers that line the square. Browse the Mercado Central for local cheeses and other delicacies. Explore the Architectural Complex of Pampulha, a collection of buildings designed in the 1940s by Brazil’s premier architect, Oscar Niemeyer, that feature his signature curvaceous style in modern concrete.
Nightlife and Entertainment
At night, locals love to gather at one of the many botecos, simple local bars such as Bar do Antonio or Via Christina that serve cold beer and regional cachaça, a fragrant liquor made from sugar cane. These local bars have also elevated pub food to an art form and each boteco will proudly serve a delicious and often unique selection of snacks, such as deep fried dumplings, home-made grilled sausage, spareribs with guava sauce, or fried green tomatoes.
Restaurants and Dining
Traditional Mineiro cuisine is a tasty but hearty affair with rich beef or pork stews, beans, and bacon. For a lighter and more modern take on local dishes, head to Xapuri in Pampulha, one of the best restaurants in town. The centrally located Lourdes and Savassi neighborhoods also feature elegant French cuisine at Taste-Vin, spicy Thai dishes at Bangkok, or top-notch Italian dining at Splendido.
Only 60 km southwest of Belo Horizonte lies Inhotim, Brazil’s finest contemporary art exhibit. Installations by Brazilian and foreign artists are set amidst a lush botanical garden. Ouro Preto, a former gold rush town and UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasts some of the best baroque architecture in Brazil. In the 18th–century Church of Saõ Francisco de Assis you can admire the ornate wood carvings by baroque artist Aleijadinho. Board a historic steam train for a stylish ride through the countryside.