I got a long holiday to know the historical cities of Minas Gerais. I spent only an afternoon and two nights in Belo Horizonte, but that was enough to get the idea and make me want to go back for more. Like any other, the third largest capital in the country has a lot to offer.
I started by going to the Tourist Information Center to get a map and see how to make the most of the little time I had; after all, my friends only gave me tips about the nightlife. I found out Belo Horizonte has the highest number of pubs in Latin America, concentrated in the neighbourhood of Lourdes, Santa Tereza and Savassi.
From the city centre, a walk down Afonso Pena Ave. until Liberdade Square, then a cab drive to Pampulha Lagoon; exploring the place for a while and, eventually, a tour at Central Market.
Afonso Pena Ave. is the main avenue in the city, crossing one end to the other with several museums, historical buildings and pubs.
Liberdade Square is a pleasant and refreshing place in the heat of September, sitting by the fountains is a relief. There is a very well-maintained garden, sculptures, gazebo, a corridor of Imperial Palm Trees, illuminated fountain and museums.
The Pampulha architectural complex was designed by Oscar Niemeyer to be a leisure facility. There is the São Francisco de Assis Church, Art Museum, Yatch Tennis Club, Ball Room and Mineirão Soccer Stadium. The most famous is the church, aka Pampulha Church – covered with tiles by Candido Portinari and gardens by Burle Max.
After passing in front of all of them, I went for a walk around the lagoon and just let my mind wonder. There is a neighbourhood with wonderful mansions and desert streets. I spotted and photographed several capybaras and unusual birds, till I reached a very pleasant park – PAMPULHA ECOLOGICAL PARK. Lots of children flying kites, people riding bikes and a zoo. I wanted to visit the famous Market, so I left the animals for the next time.
The Central Market is a reference in culture, it is huge and you find everything; great to buy souvenirs and try the spices of Minas Gerais. I tried juices and candies, brought home sweets and did not stay longer because it was closing time.
Both nights I was there I went to the pub, of course. On Saturday it was busy, but on Tuesday, the end of the holiday, completely empty! Just a few were open, with a couple of customers having a beer.
It was fun to look for the hotel when we arrived; we had a lollipop as a landmark. No one told us what it was, I kept looking for a huge and colourful lollipop like the ones children eat. After passing in front of the Obelisk a few times, somebody pointed at it and shouted “Lollipop!” These cultural differences in vocabulary amuse me!
Where to stay: Brasil Palace Hotel – simple, in the downtown area, fair price but very old. On the first night we were in a horrible room; on the second we moved to a remodeled one. There are few options in Belo Horizonte; it is worthwhile staying at Ibis or Fórmula 1.
Nightlife: The pub TOP BAR was an amazing surprise, unusual and only for couples. People say it is a classic. It is dark, tables for the two love birds sit close and tight, only tacky romantic music playing and a dance floor. Pretty romantic! Everyone gets in the mood. The down side is that they only serve fat appetizers. It costs R$ 20 and is on 200 Tamoios St., 24th floor with the night view of the city centre.
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Translated by Lúcia Maciel