Your tour guide for Belo Horizonte
Belo Horizonte is probably not the first city which comes into your mind when you think about Brazil. But the capital of Minas Gerais offers a lot of leisure time activities and places of interest and it is worthwhile to have a closer look at it.
Belo Horizonte was founded by the prospector João Leite da Silva Ortiz. He enjoyed the climate conditions and founded a farm called Curral Del Rey. Step by step more people moved to the farm. Curral Del Rey became the capital of Minas Gerais in 1889. At the same time Brazil became a republic. The renaming to Belo Horizonte happended in 1897 and this is also the official founding year.
The streets of Belo Horizonte were planned by Aarão Reis. They are designed in a tessellated pattern. This led to some very steep streets which reminded my of San Francisco (there is even a district which is called California).
The most comfortable but also most expensive kind of transportation in this area is a car. Especially during the rush hours there are a lot of traffic jams, but also the public buses are not able to avoid them.
The busnetwork is quite good and a very heavy used mean of transportation. Especially the ride from the airport to downtown is quite comfortable. Due to special bus lanes these buses are going on schedule.
According to some "rumors" even a rapid-transit railway exists. But I have seen it just once and it doesn't stop at the main attractions of the city.
Cabs are a good alternative to buses and they are quite cheap in comparison to Europe. The basic fee is low and even the fee per kilometer is not high. The ride from downtown to the airport costs about 120R$ and takes about 40 to 60 minutes. Especially during the night I recommend to take a cab instead of walking or taking the bus.
Places of interest
As I mentioned at the beginning, Belo Horizonte offers many possibilities for hiking and going sightseeing. The entrance fee amounts between one and five Euros.
Parque das Mangabeiras and Parque da Serra do Curral
Maybe hiking is the wrong word, but Parque das Mangabeiras and Parque da Serra do Curral offer a great number of trails for walking tours and breathtaking views over the city. The only things you need to take with you are good shoes, sunscreen and some water.
At the entrance of Parque da Serra do Curral (-19.961702,-43.918589) there are some parking lots for free and also the visit of the park is for free. Five trails with different levels of difficulty are offered, but just the first one is accessible without a guide. This one is a gravel road and leads to the observation deck where you have an amazing view over the city. This walk takes about one hour.
For getting to the green lake, you have to move along the second part (and maybe also the third one). In autumn 2014 these parts were not accessible due to lack of guides.
Parque das Mangabeiras is on the other end of Av. José do Patrocinio Pontes (-19.952031,-43.90536) located. If you wanna save the parking fee (about one Euro), you can leave your car a couple of meters in front of the checkpoint and walk to the park. This takes about 15 minutes. They charge no entrance fee but offer a lot of activies for the whole family.
At the park entrance 3 trails are described, but I went just on number two (the water trail). The first 2/3 of the way are on a street through the forest where you meet small monkeys and coati-mundi. The little lake Lagos dos Sonhos is a good place for a short rest. The last part consists of a small, muddy trail through the forst which leads you back to the entrance. All in all you need about two hours for this trail.
On the way to the Lagos dos Sonhos a bus passes about every 30 minutes which brings you back to the entrance. So you do not have to walk all the way by foot.
Lagoa da Pampulha
The famous church São Francisco and the huge football stadium Mineirão are situated in the northern district called Pamulha.
Since the last reconstruction for the football world championship in 2014, up to 62.160 people can watch a football game in the stadium and in 90 VIP lounges they can enjoy a special service. During the week from 9am to 6pm tours are provided hourly through the stadium. On Saturday they take place from 9am to 1pm. You will see the rooms for the teams, can feel like a star in one of the VIP rooms, can take pictures on the field and go up the grandstand. We joined a tour in Portuguese because it was the last one of this day. Thanks a lot to one of the guides who translated the main facts into English.
After buying another ticket you can visit the museum about the stadium. But due to the price and the amount of information we already got during the tour, we didn't visit it.
In my opinion, the area within the Av. do Contorno may be called downtown. Here you find some very nice places as well which can be discovered by walk (the tour described below takes about 5 hours and I recommend to start at about 10am).
Whatever you are looking for, you will find it in the Mercado Central. You get pets, kitchen equipment, cheese, meat - actually almost everything you can imagine. You also get a lot of samples and it is really fun, to stroll around there.
After having a short break in the market, you can go on to the Parque Municipal. On Sunday there is also a market where different kind of food, arts and crafts are offered.
Last but not least you will arrive at the Praça da Liberdade. A lot of young people are spending their sparetime there and the athmosphere is really great. Therefore Praça da Liberdade is my favourite park in Belo Horizonte.
Nightlife in Belo Horizonte
You get a breathless view over the city and delicious but expensive food at Hosi in the Torre Altavila tower (Rua Sen Milton Campos, 115). It is a Japanese restaurant where you get great Sushi, Maki, different kind of fish and so on. Not far away from that restaurant WOOD'S is situated. It is a fancy club where live bands are playing on the weekend.
The district Savassi is the right location for all, who are looking for a vibrant nightlife in Belo Horizonte. Dozens of bars and clubs offer cool drinks and hot music. If you like rock music, I recommend Jack Rock Bar und Circus Rock Bar (www.circuitodorock.com.br). At midnight several rock bands are playing gigs and after that, they show music videos on big flatscreens from the 80ies and 90ties.
For eating a traditional Brazil dinner, visit a Churrascaria. I recommend Fogo De Chão who offer a comprehensive buffet with salads and side dishes and first-class beef. Since their great reputation and popularity do not forget to book a table in advance.
I hope, I could give you some useful information about Belo Horizonte. If you have already been in Belo Horizonte or in the state Minas Gerais, I am looking forward to some stories from you!