TOP THINGS TO DO IN BELO HORIZONTE
January 18, 2020
Belo Horizonte or BH (pronounced as Beh-Agá) is the capital of Minas Gerais, one of Brazil’s largest states. Many travelers often overlook this city in favor of nearby Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, but in my opinion, they are missing out on a lot of stuff! I stayed here for almost 2 months and I can say that it is one of my favorites in Brazil; I’ve made friends with a lot of Mineiros (people from Minas Gerais), and the food here is the best in Brazil! (Even other Brazilians will confirm that).
There are a lot of things to do in Belo Horizonte. Aside from the sites and activities you can do within the city itself, it is also strategically located near other colonial towns and natural wonders that one can visit as a side trip. And If like me, you decide to stay here longer, then I am 100% sure you will also enjoy it.
Here are some of the activities I did and the places I visited during my stay in this wonderful city.
BELO HORIZONTE TRAVEL FAQ
IS IT SAFE IN BELO HORIZONTE?
I can attest that it is safe to travel around this city. I’ve been out and about the streets almost every day on my own and I never encountered any problem. Though of course, you need to take some precautions in some areas, particularly the city center (even the Mineiro friends I know hate going to the city center).
WILL I SURVIVE IF I ONLY SPEAK ENGLISH?
Unfortunately, your stay here will be a bit challenging if you only speak English. I only know one person who speaks English here – my friend Bruno, who hosted me for 2 months. I speak an ok level of Portuguese, but I still have some difficulty when my friends speak with their full-on Mineiro accent, dubbed to be one of the most challenging Portuguese accents to decipher.
Nevertheless, try to learn a few Portuguese phrases to get by.
IS BELO HORIZONTE AN EXPENSIVE CITY?
I would rate BH on the upper scale of being expensive. I still get by ok in some instances – gym membership here is dirt cheap, and tasty treats such as pão de queijo and coxinha are affordable. One of the aspects I find expensive is the transportation – a bus ride is Rs 3.15 to Rs 4, more costly than other Latin American cities I visited, while short-distance travel in Uber will cost around Rs 10.
You should definitely get a BHTRANS card. You can load it in kiosks around town and you can use it to board the metro and the buses around the city.
THINGS TO DO IN BELO HORIZONTE
SHOP AT MERCADO CENTRAL
Deemed to be one of the best markets in Brazil, the Mercado Central of BH has something for everyone. It was established during 1929 and has been the go-to place for every Mineiros for their culinary needs. Fresh produce and ingredients sourced not only in Minas Gerais, but other parts of Brazil can be found here. What intrigued me the most was the different variety of chilies they sell here, which also include the top 3 spiciest chilies in the world – Bhut Jolokia (3rd), Trinidad Scorpion (2nd), and Carolina Reaper (1st). And also, if you collect magnets, then you can buy some here too.
VISIT THE COLONIAL TOWN OF OURO PRETO
Ouro Preto is a colonial town two hours away from BH that used to be the capital of Minas Gerais. It was the center of the Brazilian gold rush during the early 19th century, and now it is famous as a university town. You can still see old churches and houses that were made during the 18th century, and you can also buy souvenirs made from pedra sabão. Everyone I talked to also said that Carnaval here is wild, with non-stop parties at the numerous Republica dorms.
WATCH A SOCCER GAME AT MINEIRAO STADIUM
I had the opportunity to watch a historic game when I was staying in Belo Horizonte. It was a match between the home team Cruzeiros vs Palmeiras of Sao Paulo, and the Cruzeiros needed to win so that they don’t fall into the 2nd division. Unfortunately, they lost, and I experienced the bad side of Brazilian soccer – fans were so upset that they started destroying chairs and so many people were crying. Still, an experience though and I will watch another match given the chance.
RIDE A BIKE AT LAKE PAMPULHA
Lagoa da Pampulha is a man-made lake situated in the center of the city. It is a favorite spot among the Mineiros to hang out, jog, and bike around. I went here several times to cycle with friends and watch the sunset while enjoying the view from the lakeside. There are several kiosks renting bicycles per hour, or you can also rent one via the yellow/grin app; just download the app, connect it to your google account, and load credit via your credit card, and voila! You can now rent the numerous bikes by scanning the QR code with the app.
Other things to do here include – hunt for capybaras, visit Saint Francis of Assisi Church, and enjoy the nearby mini theme park.
EAT THE BEST BRAZILIAN FOOD
Most Brazilians that I talked to from other regions of Brazil confirmed that Mineiran cuisine is the best in the country, and I definitely agree with it. Every version of the Brazilian food I tasted here is superior from other parts of Brazil (except for acai, the Cearense version is better). I am also lucky that my friend’s parents, Tio Helio and Tia Junia cook the best Brazilian food, so I know what I tasted was really authentic. They also have a lot of cheap, artisanal beers that taste really special. My favorites were IPA with its citrus taste and chocolatey Cacau Porter.
Some foods to try are – pescoço de Peru, feijoada, pão de queijo (the best version in the country), caldos, galinha caipira, tropeiro, and piqui.
RELAX AT LAPINHA DA SERRA
If you want to relax and escape the urban sprawl of BH, then you can do a weekend trip to the Lapinha da Serra. It is a picturesque place tucked away at the foot of Pico de Lapinha, where locals go swimming in its numerous waterfalls or hike its peak, where you can have a nice viewpoint of the whole area. It is also a good idea to camp at night and watch the sunrise in the area.
OTHER THINGS TO DO IN BELO HORIZONTE
VISIT INHOTIM MUSEUM
SWIM AT THE WATERFALLS OF CERRA DE CIPO
VISIT THE COLONIAL TOWNS OF DIAMANTINA, TIRADENTES, AND MARIANA
VIEW THE CITY AT THE MIRANTE
Got any questions? Feel free to send me a message or write a comment below.