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Belo Horizonte
Overview

Situated in the hills of the Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte serves as the state capital of what is known today as the "cidades historicas" (historic cities). This bustling city lies in the center of what used to be the agricultural and mining hub of the area during the 18th century. Today it is a sprawling city filled with an eclectic mix of colonial architecture, art nouveau, and modern skyscrapers. The third largest city in Brazil, Belo Horizonte is surrounded by hills and the rust-colored skyline of the Serra do Espinhaco, which the city was named after.

Highlights
A great place to start wondering is the Praca da Liberdade, which leads to the Palacio da Liberdade, the state government headquarters. Built in 1897, the neoclassical style of the building contrasts to the two modern buildings next door that were designed by Niemeyer. If you walk further on you'll come to the cardinal-archbishops palace, which is a lovely example of Art Deco. Close by is the Savassi District, which has many stores and good restaurants.

Pampulha is also a neighborhood that has many architectural and artistic highlights. The district was designed by Niemeyer and planned around a man-made lake. The area is known for the Museu de Arte, a great place to see cutting edge Brazilian art. Also of interest is the Igreja de Sao Francisco de Assis, which houses bronze statues by Alfredo Ceschiatti and gardens designed by Burle Marx.

History
Belo Horizonte started out as a small agricultural village that was settled in 1701 by Joao Leite da Silva, an explorer from Sao Paulo. The village began to grow as immigrants from the Sao Francisco river region passed through on their way to southern Brazil. Because of the good climate and soil conditions, the area was to be named the capital of Minas Gerais, and thus began the designing of the first planned city of Brazil, Belo Horizonte, which was constructed in 1906.

Getting There
By car or bus the trip from Rio de Janeiro to Belo Horizonte is about 6 hours. The roads are quite good, but at times very windy so a speed higher than 50 mph is not maintained for long. If you want to fly, all major Brazilian cities offer regular flights to Belo Horizonte, the center of the mining town of Minais Gerais.
Map of Minais Gerais State
Transportation in Minais Gerais State

Lodging
There are many options for hotels in and around the city centre that can fit into most budgets. The Othon Palace is housed in a renovated 70's skyscraper and has spectacular views of the Parque Municipal and the Serra do Curral. Metropole is also a nice option, as it is conveniently located downtown and in the Art Deco style. Ibis Belo Horizonte, also in the city centre, has rooms in a renovated colonial house typical of the neoclassical French style.

Map of Minas Gerais
Map of Minas Gerais Nearby Sights


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