Introducing Belo Horizonte
Capital of the southeastern boom state of Minas Gerais, no nonsense Belo Horizonte is Brazil’s third most powerful economy, boasting a GDP roughly the same as that of Chile and Israel. From gem mining to steel and textile production, Belo Horizonte (B.H, or Beagá, as the locals say) forms one of Brazil’s most important industrial centers with a strong reliance on its natural resources. Over recent years, the city has also garnered global prestige as an Information Technology center and is frequently invoked as Brazil’s answer to Silicon Valley.
Surrounded by serrated mountains and undulating hillsides carpeted with coffee plantations, Belo Horizonte’s fortunes have ebbed and flowed since the discovery of gold in the early 18th century gilded the limbs of the Portuguese empire. Once the gold was exhausted, the miners turned their attention to ranching and the stoical, pragmatic Mineiro spirit that defines the region was born.
Brazil’s first planned city, B.H. is a pleasant enough city to explore with lively bars and cafés, tree-lined thoroughfares, lush parks, kaleidoscopic markets, and seminal modernist architecture. Minas Gerais’ unassuming and warm culture is embodied in the deliciously simple mineiro cuisine that defines most restaurant menus. Hunks of beef, pork, and chicken laced with piquant spices and combined with bulbous beans and vegetables create memorable taste-of-the-earth dishes.
The area’s real attractions are to be found within a couple of hours’ drive of the city. The sumptuous ‘gold towns’ of Ouro Preto, Tiradentes, and Mariana exude Baroque splendor and beg exploration for a day or two, at least. Atmospheric caves (or grutas), including the Gruta Rei do Mato and Gruta do Maquiné, awash with prehistoric paintings, present a fascinating opportunity to trace Minas Gerais’ timeline and explore the region’s diverse landscapes and striking geological features.
In a country where football is elevated to the status of a religion and footballers are cast as saints or fallen idols, it comes as no surprise that Belo Horizonte’s Estadio Mineirão (set to host six World Cup games) is one of the region’s most venerated attractions. The stadium’s metamorphosis from down at heel to cutting-edge is apropos of a thrusting city in which the curvaceous imprint of legendary Brazilian architect Oscar Neimeyer (1907-1912) is palpable.
The Zeitgeist of 1940s’ modernist architectural design, Neimeyer’s signature Pampulha Complex—a preconceived neighborhood of ceremonial buildings—is simply breathtaking. The Igreja de São Francisco de Assis, with its billowing parabolas and intricate mosaic tiles, is a statement of iconic and polemical genius; it took the Catholic church 16 years to consecrate what was deemed a site too profane for worship. Just an hour’s drive southwest from the city, the Instituto de Arte Contemporânea Inhotim is one of the region’s hottest attractions with modern art galleries woven through an arboreal tropical eden with more shades of green than you’d think imaginable. For a soulful respite from Beagá’s stark linearity, the Parque Municipal is the city’s lungs, a lush playground that is home to over 280 species of trees, around 50 species of birds, a lake, and an orchid garden.
Executive airports located within a 50-mile radius of Belo Horizonte:
- The Pampulha Airport
- Lagoa Santa Airport
- Tancredo Neves Airport
Popular aircraft charters in the Belo Horizonte region include:
- Citation Excel (super light)
- Learjet 45 XR (super light)
- Citation CJ3 (light)
- Learjet 31ER 400A (light)
- Learjet 60 XR (midsize)
- Citation III (midsize)
- Gulfstream G200 (super midsize)
- Citation Sovereign (super midsize)