Belo Horizonte is Brazil's third largest city and the capital of the state of Minas Gerais. With its orderly grid plan and tree-lined avenues, it's a pleasant metropolis. For travelers, it's a good stopping point on the way to the beautiful colonial towns such as Ouro Preto and Tiradentes.
Founded in 1897, Belo Horizonte (or simply "BH" (beh-ah-GAH) to locals) is a little over a century old. With a metropolitan population reaching more than 5 million (edging out Salvador), it was built as a planned city to take the place of Ouro Preto as the state's capital. Its layout features square sections delineated by broad avenues, intersected diagonally by smaller streets.
The city lies in the center of the Minas Gerais state, and was intended to bring together the many parts of this very diverse state.
BH is a major national hub for bus travel. The bus terminal rodoviária is located downtown at the northern end of Afonso Pena Avenue. Approximate travel times from other capitals:
BH is served by two airports:
- 1 Confins (Aeroporto Internacional Tancredo Neves CNF IATA) (Rodovia MG 010 S/N, 40 km - Confins/MG.), ☏ . Confins connects the city with direct flights to the USA, the Caribbean and Europe, and to most major cities in Brazil through domestic flights. It's about 40 km from the city center. To get to the city center (around Mercadão), expect to pay around R$ 75 for uber-like ride services, or R$ 125 for a cab. There are also two types of bus services: "conventional" for R$ 13,50 and "executive" for R$ 29,40 and some itineraries desserve Pampulha Airport and the City Bus Station - details at Conexão Aeroporto website.
- 2 [formerly dead link] Pampulha (PLU IATA Aeroporto Carlos Drummond de Andrade) (9 km from downtown.). For a few domestic flights, especially within the state of Minas Gerais.
You can safely drive to Belo Horizonte from major Brazilian cities, including São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia and Vitoria. You have to pay toll on the roads from Rio de Janeiro and from São Paulo. All major car rental companies can be found in Brazil. You can also drive from/to the historical cities of Minas Gerais, like Ouro Preto, Tiradentes, Diamantina, São João del Rey, Mariana and others. The roads and the city of Belo Horizonte are GPS mapped. Be sure that the GPS contains the latest version of the maps.
Belo Horizonte is one of very few Brazilian cities with a scheduled long-distance train service. A daily morning train operated by mining giant Companhia Vale do Rio Doce takes around 12 hr to get to Cariacica's Pedro Nolasco station, which is one bridge hop away from Vitória, the island capital of Espírito Santo state. As of Jan 2019, tickets cost R$ 105 for first class (executiva) and R$ 73 for second class (econômica). The central station, 3 Estação Central, is located in the city centre on Av. dos Andradas.
If you plan to get around the city center on foot, you might want to take a map. Because the city grid is laid out with both ordinal and diagonal streets, it is very easy to take a wrong turn. Also, the land where the city was built has plenty of hills, so one should wear comfortable shoes to go up and down the streets. At night, stay on the main avenues and streets for safety, because it can be dangerous.
BH is well served by buses. The SC buses circulate through the downtown area; others serve outlying neighborhoods.
To pay the bus tariff, you can use cash, or the electronic billing card (Cartão BHBUS). For the tourist, its recommended to use cash. As of 2014, you can buy a rechargeable bus card with the onboard agent or the driver for R$12. You can recharge it on some BRT stations, BHTrans offices or even into some buses.
From 2016, the bus tariff is R$3.70 (or R$ 2.65 for some feeder lines or specific lines)
The buses are color-coded:
- Blue buses go from one region of the city to another, via the city center;
- Lemonish-and-gray normal and articulated buses are from the municipal BRT service. Usually, they link some specific stations to some region of the city, and are feed by the yellow or green buses, as well. These buses have air conditioned system, and a little more of comfort.
- Yellow buses are called "circular" (or SC) buses - they circulate within a single city region, and unlike other bus lines, travel in a roughly circular route. Stay on long enough, and you'll eventually loop back to where you originally boarded;
- Orange buses go from one region of the city to another, without going through downtown (there are very few of these lines). It also serves for the Orange minibuses as well (as known as "Suplementar")
- Green buses serve BHBUS bus stations, going from a BHBUS station to downtown and then back or connecting two different BHBUS stations.
- Grey buses (can be identified by the SE prefix in line number), are the special executive service, and it's a more expensive buses, that circulate through some specific regions. These lines have free Wi-Fi and Air Conditioned system.
Some companies sometimes use temporary replacements buses with the wrong color, so even thought the colors can help, always pay attention to the line number.
If you are outside the downtown area (and wish to go there), take a blue bus headed in that direction. As there is no bus map, remember its number to find your way back. Keep in mind that the return route may be on a different street than where you got off. Check BHTrans-Ônibus  [dead link] for more information on buses.
The buses are complicated and are excruciatingly slow and crowded during rush hours. Don't go anywhere by yourself without properly planning your itinerary first.
The Metrô. snakes through the city, from Eldorado northeast to Vilarinho, tangential to the north side of downtown. Lagoinha Station is near the rodoviária (bus station), Gameleira Station is near the ExpoMinas Convention Center and Minas Shopping Station is near the Mall of the same name and Ouro Minas Palace Hotel. Unfortunately, unlike subways in developed countries or in São Paulo, the Metrô lines, even though connecting the two biggest cities in the metro area, Belo Horizonte and Contagem, do not cover most of the city and outside the stations can be dangerous (true for São Paulo's). New lines have been planned and when completed will connect downtown to Pampulha and Savassi, the two most visited neighborhoods.
The trains are useless for someone traveling. Take a taxi.
Taxis inside the safe are generally considered very safe (if a bit expensive).
The main taxi companies in Belo Horizonte include Hutaxi, Jo Taxi, Intertaxi, Pitangui and Protaxi. Most cabs in Belo Horizonte are painted white - however, starting from 2012, there are some so-called "special" cabs which are black (and are marked as such). Inside the city, all cabs work with taximeters. However, in case of travelling to the countryside or others states, the fare can be discussed.
There are also radio taxis such as Coopertramo  ((31) 3454-5757) which can be booked and the fare discussed beforehand. It's a common way of getting from the airport to the city and the other way around. They have boths in Confins airport. Their cars are all dark blue.
Belo Horizonte is covered by some e-hailing services, Uber being the largest of them. Notable e-hailing services in the city, are:
You can rent cars at the Confins Airport or at Pampulha Airport. All major car rental companies, like Localiza and Hertz have booths at the airports. It is a long drive from Confins airport to downtown Belo Horizonte. Be sure to get a GPS with new maps, since there were some modifications on main avenues for the World Cup. You can also rent a car at other places around the city.
Note that a lot of places including museums, the parque municipal and the Mangueira park are closed on Mondays.
- Pampulha - This 1940s neighborhood has some of the highlights of Brazil modern architecture, including the São Francisco de Assis Church, designed by the famous architect Oscar Niemeyer (designer of the United Nations building in NYC and also Brasilia, Brazil's capital) . The building is not shocking by itself, until you realize it was meant to be a church. Not surprisingly, the Catholic Church refused to consecrate it for more than one decade. Next to the church, there's the Parque Guanabara, an amusement park that is small, but worth visiting. In Pampulha lies the world-famous Iate Tenis Clube, founded along with the Pampulha Architectural Complex designed by Oscar Niemeyer. Invitations to the club can be bought at the place (they are free if you know someone affiliated to the club). The Pampulha Modern Ensemble is listed as a world heritage site.
- Mineirão Stadium - One of the largest and newly renovated stadiums in Brazil, where several matches from the FIFA Federation Coup (2013) and FIFA World Cup (2014) were played including the infamous 1-7 semifinal loss in Brazil v Germany. It is located at Pampulha neighborhood.
- Mangabeiras Park - This is an amazing place for nature lovers, a place where the Cerrado mixes with the Atlantic Forest, this is a great visit for children and family.
- Praça da Liberdade - A beautiful palm tree-lined square, sidelined by interesting buildings from the 19th century, including the seat of the State Government, and a curvaceous (yes, you can use this word to describe an Oscar Niemeyer building) edifice from the 60s. Also museums and a Planetarium (you can get tickets for free)
- Museum of Arts and Crafts, Praça Rui Barbosa, Centro, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu Th F 12:00-17:00, W 12:00-21:00, Sa Su 11:17:00; groups: daily, from 09:00-12:00. The Museu de Artes e Ofícios is installed in the 19th-century buildings of the former Central Train Station. Its collection shows the richness of Brazilian popular work and professions before the country's industrialization. R$4. Saturday - free.
- Alta Vila Tower - Located in the district of Nova Lima, (Belo Horizonte city Metro area), this tower offers a spectacular view of Belo Horizonte and its surrounding mountains. On the main floor is the Hard Rock Cafe - Belo Horizonte.
- Parque Municipal - An oasis of green right in the centre of downtown. Based on French parks, it has small lagoons where you can rent a boat or feed the ducks. It has the Casa Maluca (Crazy House), the Casa dos Pneus and a small amusement park - three places where children always like to play.
- Museu de Ciencias Naturais - Take the Metro to the Gameleira station, go NW to the PUC campus, and turn right. Diverse mollusks, whales, and Brazilian forest animals. A new exhibit is under construction. Admission: R$3.
- Museu Histórico Abílio Barreto, Av Prudente de Morais, 135. Cidade Jardim Neighborhood - (0xx)31 3342-1268 - This museum is dedicated to the history of the city and was created in the only standing farmhouse from the old Curral d'El Rey, farmland replaced by the new planned city.
- BH Shopping. BH's oldest and largest shopping malls, with shops, a food court, movie theatre and games. It's in the Belvedere area and close to Nova Lima road.
- Shopping Del Rey. Another of BH's oldest and largest shopping malls, with shops, food court, movie theatre and games.
- Minas Shopping. Among the largest shopping malls, with shops, a food court, movie theatre and games. Metrô station nearby.
- Diamond Mall. A very refined (and usually expensive) shopping center.
- Pátio Savassi. Also very refined (and usually expensive) shopping center, in the heart of Savassi.
- Mercado Central, Av. Augusto de Lima and R. Curitiba. A large, traditional indoor market founded in 1929 where you can find tofu, whole grains, cheese, meat, herbs, traditional foods, religious articles, fruit, live birds, pots, souvenirs and lots of other stuff. It's one the most visited places in the city.
- Hippie Fair, Av. Afonso Pena in front of the Municipal Park. Opens every Sunday, from 08:00-14:00. This artesian fair is one of the largest in the country and offers everything from crafts to jewelry, furniture to souvenir, clothing to food. Receives from up to 100,000 people every Sunday. Definitively worth the visit.
Minas Gerais is renown for its cuisine across Brazil, and is the origin of many famous foods such as pão de queijo (small baked roll made with cheese and cassava flour) and feijoada (black bean and meat stew). Like elsewhere in Brazil, restaurant food is typically served in some variation of a buffet. For a good sample of traditional mineira food, here are some options:
- Dona Lucinha II, Rua Sergipe, 811, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M-F 12:00-15:00 and 20:00-00:00, 12:00-17:00 and 20:00-00:00, Sun 12:00-17:00. R$19-27.
- Restaurante Xapuri, Rua Mandacaru, 260. Pampulha, near the Pampulha Lake and the City Zoo, the restaurant is open Tu-Th 11:00-23:00, F Sa 11:00-02:00 and Sunday and holidays 11:00-18:00. It has live music from W-Su (and holidays)
For great Brazilian food, here are some options:
- [dead link] Porcão, Avenida Raja Gabaglia 2671, ☏ . Cep:30350-540. One of the most famous restaurants in BH is the steakhouse chain Porcão. Considered to have the best meat in BH, it is also one of the most expensive in town. Some nights there are live performances by some of the more well-known performers in BH.
- [dead link] Fogo de chão, Rua Sergipe, 1208, ☏ . Savassi. It's a restaurant chain similar to Porcão. Both offer the traditional Brazilian barbecue. They are a must go to any tourist who isn't familiar with the Brazilian way to prepare and serve meat. Fogo de chão started in Porto Alegre (Brazil) and now has subsidiaries in many other Brazilian cities and even in the United States.
For great international food, here are some options:
If your food tastes lean toward brown rice and tofu, try Bem Natural. This is both a snack bar with tuna and chicken sandwiches on whole wheat, and a por quilo buffet with stuffed tomatoes, vegetarian feijoada, and brown rice. There are four locations in BH:
- Av. Afonso Pena 941, Centro, +55 31 3224-1385.
- Augusto de Lima 1652, Barro Preto, +55 31 3295-2325.
- Bernardo Guimarães 166, Funcionários, +55 31 3284-6680.
- Tomé de Souza 947, Savassi, +55 31 3261-5676, open weekends and holidays too.
- People from BH are famous for their love of bars. The central Savassi neighborhood has dozens of bars. Also, at São Lucas neighborhood, on Contorno Avenue, you will find "Sociedad Pub", one of the best Pubs in town (Contorno Av., n.3849). The city is widely known (although without any confirmation) as the city with most bars per capita in the world. Some clubs that charge a cover are overrated and expensive. The outdoor bar scene is the authentic Brazilian experience. Good places to look for a bar:
- Avenida Prudente de Morais
- Rua Marília de Dirceu (follow it while it becomes Rua Curitiba and then Rua São Paulo—yeah, that's how streets work in Belo Horizonte)
- Rua Pium-í crossing with Rua Passatempo
- Avenida Fleming (only if you are in the Pampulha region)
- You may know it only as an ingredient in vitamin pills, but here you can get fresh acerola puree in orange juice squeezed before your eyes. This is called a vitamina with good reason. The fruit is perishable and is stored on ice. Other fruits prepared the same way are abacaxi (pineapple), açaí, banana, and mamão (papaya).
- Although Savassi is the place to go on Friday and Saturday nights, Trevo Five Place (close to the Hard Rock Cafe) is a great spot on Thursday nights. The dancing is great however the environment is not for the cautious.
- The state of Minas Gerais is famous for their cachaça (distilled spirit similar to rum made from sugarcane juice). The price ranges from R$1 to R$50 and above, for some high-end brands. It is the main ingredient of the famous caipirinha cocktail, but Brazilians enjoy drinking it straight as well.
- Another great drink is a sweet tasting wine-like substance called pronounced "catuaba".
- If your looking for some dancing and clubbing visit naSala . For sure the best nightlife in town. Expect to meet beautiful people.
- Rei Do Pastel, Savassi. Rei Do Pasetel is a small little corner bar located in the centre of Savassi. It has cheap shots, cheap food and always has something interesting going on, a great place for backpackers.
Major high-rise hotels are generally on Av. Afonso Pena or at Savassi neighborhood, while mid-range and budget accommodations are clustered around the train station.
- Rock! and Hostel, Rua Cristina, 1185 (Santo Antõnio), ☏ . Located in the most exclusive area of the capital, 10 minutes walk from Savassi Rock! and Hostel offers a truly Brazilian experience, with comfort, safety and fun.)
- Hostel Chalé Mineiro, Rua Santa Luzia, 288 (Santa Efigênia), ☏ . This hostel is a member of Hostelling International and has a nice swimming pool for its guests. (From Rodoviaria take bus 9801 (Saudade-Santa Cruz), at Rua dos Caetés, or the subway to the Santa Tereza station) From R$15.
- Hostel Sossego da Pampulha, Av. Coronel Jose Dias Bicalho, 1258 (Quite distant from downtown but really closer to Pampulha's Lake), ☏ .
- Hotel São Bento, Rua dos Guaranis, 438 (Located within walking distance of Mercado Central, Parque Municipal and Minascentro Exhibition Centre), ☏ , . Good value. From R$46.
- 1 Normandy Hotel, Rua Tamois, 212, ☏ . The Normandy Hotel highlight is its great location, right at the cultural, commercial and financial hub of Belo Horizonte, making it a good option for travellers looking for commodity and agility when staying in town.
- 2 Le Flamboyant, Rua Rio Grande do Norte, 1007, ☏ . Good value for money. The 80s décor may be a little out of date, but the flats are spacious and there is a swimming pool for guests. Besides, location is excellent: right in the middle of the lively Savassi neighborhood. Singles/doubles R$100-120.
To keep hydrated, drink bottled water or water from drinking fountains, usually located at malls.
Tap water provided by COPASA (sole provider for the city) is regarded as fully potable (filtered, sterilized, PH controlled and fluoridated), but it is important to note that due to historical unreliability of water supply in Brazil, the vast majority of buildings have water tanks, so even if it is provided by COPASA, if you are unsure of the sanitary conditions of the building water tank, you should avoid drinking it before filtering, boiling or ozonizing it.
Even though bottled water in Brazil is labeled as “mineral water”, you should be careful and use good sense when buying it. Cases of tap water and untreated water being bottled and labeled as “mineral” are not uncommon. Always check the color of the water, the general aspect of the bottle and the seal. Some Brazilians are used to untreated water but it is very likely that tourists will have serious issues with it, including diarrhea, vomits, fever, headaches and muscular pain. It is usually safer to drink COPASA tap water then bootleg bottled water.
Free healthcare is widely available, but waiting times may be long (even on minor emergencies), for non urgent cases go to the free “Posto de Saúde” near where you are staying (there are plenty all over the city). Private hospitals usually have faster service and better facilities and you can pay your treatment with either cash or with your insurance. Check with your insurance company the hospitals and clinics covered beforehand. If you have any allergies or known health problems, it is wise to learn some Portuguese words to describe it as it is very likely most of the hospital staff won’t speak English except for more qualified MDs, nurses and social workers. Although you might not see any initial difference, nurses are divided into “college nurses”, “technical nurses” and “auxiliary nurses”. You are more likely to find an English speaker among the college nurses (they are called Enfermeira or Enfermeiro and usually act as sector supervisors in a hospital).
Belo Horizonte can get very hot during summer, so avoid staying out in the sun for too long, specially between 10:00 and 15:00. Even though it is not on the coast, sunscreen is advisable, especially if you have light skin.
Public restrooms can be found at malls and public buildings. A small fee may apply. Also, bars and restaurants are required by law to have a restroom available to its customers, but even if you are not buying anything, just ask nicely and they will let you use it.
Smoking in Belo Horizonte is banned from closed buildings. This includes malls, restaurants, bars (except if you are sitting outside), clubs, public buildings, airports and others. Smoking has been increasingly regarded as a bad habit and even on the sidewalk people might get annoyed by it, so it is best to smoke privately or away from non smokers.
When crossing the street, watch for motorcycles, which can appear out of nowhere and sometimes ignore stop signs. At some intersections with divided streets, you can cross only one side at once.
Minas has both the military police (polícia militar) who are the enforcers of the law at street level, however not linked to the Brazilian Military and the civilian police (polícia civil) who conduct further investigations like the British CID. Most officers don't have a knowledge of basic English. The uniform of the Minas Gerais state military police is brown.
The emergency number (by which you can reach the military police) is 190.
The city has its own police, the Municipal Guard, the uniform is blue and officers are found in parks, near monuments, schools, hospitals.
The city suffers from crime related to drugs. Avoid walking alone at night or carrying expensive electronics such as cameras, notebooks, iPods or jewelry. It is not uncommon to be mugged at traffic lights or walking during the day or night. Tourists can be easily identified by bad guys as people who carry electronics carelessly and seem to be always wondering where are they going. Be discreet.
If someone mugs you, don't resist. You could be killed.
- MP Games, Rua dos Inconfidentes 868, between Pernambuco and Paraíba, Savassi. You can bring your laptop. R$3/hr.
Wifi is readily available in many bars and restaurants throughout the city.
The area code for Belo Horizonte is 31. The code for Oi, the phone company that runs most of the phone booths in the city, is also 31. So to call Belo from outside using Oi, you dial 031 31 and the desired number, for example: from São Paulo to Belo, dial 03131 xxxx-xxxx. But to make a local call, you don't have to dial 31 at all, just the eight digits. Sometimes, it depends, because there are many other cities surrounding Belo, with the same area code, so you might be dialling the long distance code, using 31. Dialing from or to Ouro Preto, to or from Belo, you need to dial 03131 xxxx-xxxx.
There are other long distance companies codes available, which can be used to make calls, such as Embratel (21), Intelig (23), which provides long distance calls with suitable rates, to or from Brazil, and to other countries.
Belo Horizonte has a good network of hospitals. The main hospital area of the city is located downtown, close to the Municipal Park, where it is possible to find lots of healthcare institutions such as hospitals, clinics, and laboratories.
- Hospital das Clínicas da UFMG, Av.Professor Alfredo Balena, 110 - Santa Efigênia, ☏ .
- Hospital de Pronto-Socorro JOÃO XXIII, Av.Professor Alfredo Balena, 400 - Centro, ☏ .
- Hospital Odilon Behrens, Rua Formiga, 50 – São Cristóvão, ☏ , .
- 1 Hospital Risoleta Tolentino Neves, Rua das Gabirobas, 01, ☏ . Bairro Laranjeiras.
- 2 Hospital Felício Rocho, Av.do Contorno, 9.530 - Barro Preto, ☏ .
- Hospital Lifecenter, Av. do Contorno, 4747, ☏ . Serra.
- Hospital Mater Dei, Rua Gonçalves Dias, 2700, ☏ . Santo Agostinho.
- Hospital Socor, Rua Tupis, 1578, ☏ . Centro.
- Hospital Vera Cruz, Av. Barbacena, 653, ☏ . Barro Preto.
- Santa Casa Hospital, Av. Francisco Sales, 1, ☏ . 111 - Santa Efigênia.
Araújo Drugstore - +55 31 3270-5000
Onofre Drugstore - +55 31 3115-1515
Pacheco Drugstore - +55 31 3489-1300
Droga Raia - 0800 774 4040
Free rescue and ambulance service
This can be requested by a free call to one of two instituitions: SAMU (the acronym for the health emergency service) - Phone: 192 or Fire Department - Phone: 193 .
Belo Horizonte is an entryway to many of the country's most important colonial towns:
- Congonhas - 83 km
- Diamantina - 290 km
- Ouro Preto - 96 km
- São João del Rey - 186 km
- Tiradentes - 194 km
Belo Horizonte is an entryway to the following other sights: