Welcome to the heart of Brazil’s Minas Gerais state—Belo Horizonte! As a local who’s lived in the city for years, I’m thrilled to share with you the insider secrets of this hidden gem. Belo Horizonte, or “Beagá” as we call it, is a blend of urban sophistication and old-world charm with a dash of Brazilian warmth. In this travel guide, I’ll be like your local guide. So by the end, you’ll have a full understanding of Belo Horizonte, the food, what there is to do here, and some hidden gems most tourists miss!
Picture this: rolling hills embracing a city, where modern buildings stand shoulder to shoulder with historic landmarks that date back to the mining ages of Brazil. But what makes Belo Horizonte truly special is its people. We’re a friendly bunch, always ready with a smile and a story. So, buckle up for an adventure as I take you through the streets of Beagá, showing you the city through the eyes of a true local.
Belo Horizonte by Area | A Locally Crafted Map of The Best Things To Do in Belo Horizonte
Belo Horizonte is a mosaic of diverse neighborhoods, each with its unique flavor and charm. Let’s dive into some of the key areas that make up the best parts city. Although these are not all of the neighborhoods in the city, they are the most popular ones, with the best restaurants, bars, activities, and security for tourists.
Belo Horizonte Neighborhoods at a glance:
- Pampulha offers tranquility with a scenic lagoon but is somewhat isolated.
- Savassi is the city’s social hub with diverse dining options and a vibrant nightlife.
- Centro boasts historical charm and cultural landmarks but exercise caution at night.
- Lourdes is upscale, convenient, and perfect for accommodation.
- Santa Tereza is the bohemian heart with artistic vibes and lively nightlife.
Safety Tip: Be cautious at night in less populated areas.
Pampulha is not just an architectural hub; it’s an oasis of tranquility. The area is dominated by the Pampulha Lagoon, offering picture-perfect landscapes and a peaceful escape from the chaos of city life. It’s perfect for leisure activities like jogging, cycling, or just enjoying a picnic by the water. Many people take on the challenge of doing an entire lap around the lagoon, which adds to about 18km (I’m actually signed up for the annual ‘volta da pampulha’ jog in December).
The Pampulha Church and the Museum of Modern Art are other highlights, showcasing Brazil’s rich cultural heritage. This is a good zone for people who want some seclusion, as it is kind of far from the other popular areas of the city (and traffic makes it even worse). So, if you’re planning on staying around Pampulha, know that it will be hard for you to go to other parts of town.
Like all neighborhoods of Belo Horizonte, Pampulha has its safe zones and not-so-safe areas. Stick to the populated places and avoid walking by yourself at night.
Savassi is the heart of Belo Horizonte’s social scene. It’s a melting pot of budgets, with many dining options ranging from local Minas Gerais state cuisine to international flavors. The area is also a hub for cultural events, hosting various festivals and street fairs throughout the year. Its pedestrian-friendly streets make it ideal for exploring the urban landscape on foot.
Belo Horizonte is the city with the most bars per square meter in the whole world, and a lot of them are concentrated in Savassi. Also, the neighborhood is close to many other popular tourist places, so it is a convenient place to stay. However, the streets can be loud until late at night, so if you want silence, this is probably not the best place to be.
Centro, the historical core of Belo Horizonte, is where tradition meets modernity. Here, you’ll find markets like the Mercado Central and Mercado Novo, offering an authentic taste of local life. Cultural landmarks like the Palácio das Artes provide a deep dive into the artistic soul of the city.
While Centro is generally safe during the day, it’s advisable to be cautious and stick to well-lit, populated areas at night. I wouldn’t recommend staying here while visiting Belo Horizonte, but definitely pay a visit to this part of town to check out the traditional architecture of when Beaga was built.
Lourdes is synonymous with luxury and elegance. This upscale neighborhood is known for its sophisticated dining scene, featuring some of the city’s best restaurants and wine bars. Lourdes is also characterized by its beautiful, well-maintained parks and squares, offering a calming breath in the middle of the city. Close to Savassi, Centro, and a bunch of other neighborhoods, Lourdes is my favorite place to be (and actually where I live).
From here, I do everything on foot, getting to Savassi in 10 minutes and to the main square in Centro in 15 min. For accommodation, I think this is the best neighborhood to consider.
Santa Tereza is the bohemian soul of Belo Horizonte. It’s a neighborhood steeped in history, once the gathering place for artists and musicians, including the famous Clube da Esquina movement. The area’s laid-back, artistic atmosphere is palpable in its colorful streets, lined with quaint houses and colorful murals. Santa Tereza is also known for its lively bars and restaurants, where the spirit of Brazilian music is always alive.
This is where you will find the largest concentration of butecos, the famous Brazilian corner-bars that offer cheap beer and delicious street food. Pay a visit to Santa Tereza to get to know the true essence of Belo Horizonte’s nightlife.
Areas to Stay in Belo Horizonte
Choosing where to stay highly depends on what you want your surroundings to be like.
Choosing Where to Stay in Belo Horizonte at a glance:
- Tourist-Friendly Areas:
- Savassi and Lourdes offer nightlife, cultural attractions, and safety.
- Pampulha provides a relaxed setting with natural beauty and iconic architecture.
- Budget-Friendly Areas:
- Centro is practical for budget travelers with affordable accommodations.
- Santa Tereza offers economical lodging options but may be less safe at night.
- Party Areas:
- Savassi is the go-to destination for nightlife enthusiasts.
- Santa Tereza also has a lively party scene.
- Quieter Areas:
- Pampulha and Mangabeiras are ideal for tranquility.
- Mangabeiras offers serene surroundings and beautiful views but is more residential.
- Safety Precautions:
- Be cautious in budget-friendly areas when walking at night or displaying valuable items.
Savassi and Lourdes offer a blend of nightlife, cultural attractions, and safety, making them ideal for tourists seeking a lively urban experience. Pampulha provides a more relaxed setting, surrounded by natural beauty and iconic architecture, suitable for those looking to unwind.
Centro is a practical choice for budget travelers, offering a range of affordable accommodations and easy access to the city’s main attractions. Santa Tereza, with its bohemian charm, also offers economical lodging options, ideal for travelers looking to experience the city’s artistic side. Although they are cheaper, these are more ‘dangerous’ areas, and you should be careful not to walk on the street at night or flash your phone or other belongings.
Savassi stands out as the go-to destination for nightlife enthusiasts, with its abundance of bars, clubs, and live music venues. Santa Tereza also has a lively party scene.
Pampulha and Mangabeiras are perfect for visitors seeking tranquility. Mangabeiras, nestled against the backdrop of the Serra do Curral, offers breathtaking views and a serene environment away from the urban hustle. It is more of a residential neighborhood, so you won’t find a lot of things to do around the area.
Activities That Belo Horizonte is Known For | Why Visit Belo Horizonte?
Belo Horizonte, a city brimming with life and culture, is an unmissable destination for a diverse range of tourists. Let’s delve deeper into what makes this city so special.
Activities in Belo Horizonte at a Glance:
- Cultural Richness: Delve into the city’s history, where the echoes of modernist architecture, neoclassical buildings, and iconic landmarks designed by Oscar Niemeyer adorn the streets. Explore the world of Brazilian contemporary art at the Inhotim open-air museum and immerse yourself in the vibrant festivals celebrating Minas Gerais’ cultural heritage.
- Gastronomic Delights: Satisfy your taste buds with traditional Minas Gerais cuisine, featuring mouthwatering dishes like feijão tropeiro and pão de queijo. Mercado Central beckons with its culinary treasures, and don’t miss out on sweet delights like doce de leite and goiabada.
- Nature and Outdoor Activities: Nature enthusiasts will find their haven in the nearby Serra do Cipó National Park, offering hiking, rock climbing, and breathtaking waterfalls. Within the city, Mangabeiras Park provides serene trails and panoramic urban views. Discover local flora and fauna at the Zoo-Botanical Foundation.
- Vibrant Nightlife: Savassi and surrounding areas come alive after dark with a dynamic scene of bars and live music venues. While clubbing may not be the focus, Belo Horizonte’s bustling bars ensure every night is a lively one.
Belo Horizonte, planned at the turn of the 20th century, was one of Brazil’s first modernist cities. This history is carved into its streets and architecture, from the neoclassical buildings in the city center to the modernist landmarks designed by Oscar Niemeyer in Pampulha. The city is also a hotspot for Brazilian contemporary art, showcased in museums like the Inhotim, an open-air museum featuring a unique blend of art and nature. Festivals, such as the Comida di Buteco, celebrate both the culinary and cultural heritage of Minas Gerais, making the city a center for traditional and contemporary Brazilian culture.
Belo Horizonte is a paradise for food lovers and the comfort food city of Brazil. The city is famed for its traditional Minas Gerais cuisine, which includes dishes like feijão tropeiro (a savory mix of beans, sausage, and cassava flour), pão de queijo (cheese bread), and frango ao molho pardo (chicken in a rich brown gravy). The Mercado Central is a gastronomic hub where you can sample these local delicacies. For those with a sweet tooth, doce de leite (a sweet milk-based dessert) and goiabada (guava paste) are must-tries.
Nature and Outdoor Activities
Belo Horizonte’s natural surroundings are a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. The nearby Serra do Cipó National Park is perfect for hiking, rock climbing, and exploring stunning waterfalls. The Mangabeiras Park, located within the city, offers quiet trails and breathtaking views of the urban landscape below. For those interested in wildlife, the Zoo-Botanical Foundation of Belo Horizonte is a great place to observe and learn about local flora and fauna. The city’s many parks and green spaces also offer a peaceful escape for leisurely walks or simply soaking up the sun.
For those who love the nightlife, Savassi and its surrounding areas offer an electrifying experience with various bars and live music venues. Although there isn’t a strong clubbing scene in Belo Horizonte, the city makes up for it with hundreds of bars and music venues that stay full until late at night. No matter the day of the week, you can drive by any buteco and find it completely full!
Who Would Enjoy Belo Horizonte?
- Culture Buffs: With its rich historical roots and arts scene, the city is a treasure trove for those interested in Brazilian culture and history.
- Food Lovers: The diverse culinary landscape offers an authentic taste of Brazilian flavors, making it a must-visit for gastronomy enthusiasts.
- Nature and Outdoor Enthusiasts: The city’s proximity to mountains and parks makes it ideal for those who love hiking, climbing, and nature exploration.
- Nightlife Seekers: Belo Horizonte’s lively bars offer a dynamic nightlife experience. Also, this is where the best beer in Brazil is produced, and you can find dozens of venues offering craft beer straight from the keg.
Who Might Not Enjoy As Much?
- Beach Lovers: As a landlocked city, Belo Horizonte lacks beachfront attractions, which might disappoint beach-goers.
- Seekers of Quiet, Rural Settings: The city’s bustling urban vibe might be overwhelming for those seeking a quiet countryside escape.
Belo Horizonte Itinerary Plans
Whether you’re a history buff, a food enthusiast, or a nightlife lover, Belo Horizonte has an itinerary tailored just for you. Whenever I have friends visiting the city, I first ask them to tell me what they like to do. Do you prefer to eat and then couch surf for the rest of the afternoon, or do you want to go hiking in some close-by mountain? It all depends on the answer.
The History and Culture Nerd’s Itinerary
- Areas to Explore: Centro, Pampulha, Savassi (these are the areas with the most concentration of historic architecture, museums, and general cultural activities)
- Visit the Pampulha Modern Ensemble (UNESCO World Heritage site).
- Explore the Museu Histórico Abílio Barreto for a deep dive into local history.
- Stroll through the Praça da Liberdade for a blend of historical and contemporary architecture.
- Visit the Mercado Central to get a taste of Brazilian gastronomic culture.
- Check out if there are any expositions in Palacio das Artes.
- Cost: Moderate (museum entries and transportation)
- Stay: Centro or Savassi for easy access to cultural sites
- Highlights: Inhotim Open-Air Museum (a bit outside the city but worth the trip — I took a Porto Rican friend there this year and she absolutely loved it)
The Foodie’s Itinerary
- Areas to Explore: Mercado Central, Lourdes, Savassi, Santa Tereza
- Sample traditional Minas Gerais cuisine at Mercado Central and Mercado Novo.
- Dine in upscale restaurants in Lourdes.
- Enjoy the local bar and street food scene in Santa Tereza and Savassi, and sit at a buteco for a casual dinner and some drinks.
- Cost: Varies (street food is budget-friendly, Lourdes is more upscale)
- Stay: Stay in or near Lourdes for a mix of high-end and local experiences
- Highlights: Cheese bread and feijão tropeiro tasting tour. Don’t miss out on Minas cheese and doce de leite. Ask locals where they recommend you go for an authentic experience, and they will be more than happy to talk to you.
The Nightlife Enthusiast’s Itinerary
- Areas to Explore: Savassi, Santa Tereza
- Experience the vibrant bars and in Savassi.
- Enjoy live music and a relaxed vibe in Santa Tereza.
- Go to Mercado Novo on a Thursday night, and arrive early so you get in fast. The place closes at midnight, and plan to stay until the end.
- Cost: Moderate to High (depending on the choice of bars/clubs)
- Stay: Savassi for a stay close to the heart of the nightlife
- Highlights: Bar hopping and live pagode shows
The Nature Lover’s Itinerary
- Areas to Explore: Serra do Cipó, Pampulha, Mangabeiras Park
- Hiking and exploring waterfalls in Serra do Cipó.
- Leisurely walks or jogging around Pampulha Lake.
- Enjoy panoramic views of the city from Mangabeiras Park.
- Cost: Low to Moderate (mainly transportation and park entries)
- Stay: Near Pampulha or in the city center for easy access to nature spots
- Highlights: Rock climbing and trekking in Serra do Cipó
The Shopaholic’s Itinerary
- Areas to Explore: Savassi, Lourdes, Belvedere
- Boutique and luxury shopping in Lourdes and Belvedere.
- Explore trendy shops and local designer stores in Savassi.
- Cost: High (for luxury shopping)
- Stay: Lourdes or Savassi for proximity to shopping areas
- Highlights: DiamondMall and Patio Savassi shopping centers have plenty of national stores, a large cinema, and delicious dining options.
Food In Belo Horizonte – How To Find Amazing Food
Belo Horizonte offers some of the best food in Brazil. Known for its comfort food and warm, grammar-style cooking, the city is where you’ll find some of the most heart-warming dishes in the entire country.
Belo Horizonte’s food scene at a glance:
- Local Cuisine: Hearty Minas Gerais dishes with beans, pork, and cheese.
- Street Food: Vibrant street food culture with pastel, coxinha, and espetinhos.
- International Flavors: Diverse dining options, including Italian, Japanese, and Portuguese.
- Price Range: Budget-friendly street food, mid-range restaurants, and upscale dining.
- Everyday Eating: Self-service restaurants offer home-cooked-style meals.
- Must-Try: Pão de Queijo (cheese bread) is a must-eat snack.
- Finding Good Spots: Crowded restaurants and online resources for recommendations.
- Eating Times: Breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner options.
- Business Hours: Most restaurants open at noon; bakeries and cafes open early.
Different Styles of Food
Traditional Minas Gerais Cuisine is characterized by its hearty, rustic nature, often using beans, pork, and local cheeses. It’s a reflection of the state’s agricultural roots. In Belo Horizonte, you can also find plenty of street food, a vibrant part of the city’s food culture. There’s nothing like eating a pastel or an espetinho before going to a soccer match at the stadium or munching on some açaí after jogging under the sun.
Due to its cosmopolitan nature, the city also offers a wide range of international cuisines, including fine Italian pasta, exquisite Japanese sushi, and traditional Portuguese dishes. Mid-range and upscale dining venues often fuse traditional Brazilian ingredients with contemporary culinary techniques, offering a sophisticated dining experience.
- Street Food: Budget-friendly, with snacks and small meals ranging from R$ 5 – R$ 15. It’s ideal for travelers looking to sample local flavors without spending much.
- Mid-Range Restaurants: A meal typically costs between R$ 30 – R$ 70 per person, offering a balance between quality and affordability.
- Upscale Dining: Starting at R$ 70 per person, these restaurants often feature chef-driven menus and exceptional service, ideal for special occasions.
Common Everyday Foods
In Belo Horizonte, many restaurants offer self-service food by the kilo. These places usually offer salads, rice, beans, cassava flour, different types of protein, pasta, and other sides that are always tasty. This is one of the most traditional everyday eating habits, and you can find many people on their lunch break savoring large plates of food. Most Brazilians usually eat at home, and this is the closest you’ll find of a home-cooked meal.
Pão de Queijo is a must, and you haven’t visited Belo Horizonte if you haven’t tasted it. Cheese bread, made from cassava flour and cheese, is a beloved snack throughout the day and a staple food of the city. Go to A Pão de Queijaria for an introduction to pão de queijo, and they will happily tell you more about the snack. Many people from Belo Horizonte, including myself, eat it daily, and it is a perfect breakfast snack, alongside a coffee.
Identifying Good Restaurants
If a restaurant is full, it is probably pretty good — that’s rule number one. A steady stream of locals is usually a good sign, and many restaurants have powerful patronage that makes them survive for years on end. Websites and apps can also offer valuable insights; check pages like Google Maps and Tripadvisor. Don’t forget to look at the venue’s Instagram (which usually makes sense for more upscale places since traditional restaurants don’t care too much about social media). Family-run spots usually provide authentic dishes that are always flavorful, and you can find this information online as well.
Here are a few street-food dishes you need to try in Belo Horizonte:
- Pastel: A crispy, deep-fried pastry filled with various ingredients like cheese or ground beef. Go to Rei do Pastel or Pastelaria Marilia de Dirceu for some of the best pastel in the city.
- Coxinha: A tear-shaped fried snack filled with shredded chicken. Boca do Forno is a coffee shop with multiple units around the city, and their coxinha is to die for. The best and most traditional flavor is the frango com catupiry (shredded chicken with creamy cheese dressing).
- Espetinhos: Brazilian-style skewered meats, often seasoned with traditional spices. You can find espetinhos in a bunch of venues like butecos, but my personal favorite is Tudo no Espeto, where I order the beef and onion skewer.
- Feijão Tropeiro: A symbol of Minas Gerais cuisine, combining beans with sausage and cassava flour. You can find the dish in many traditional restaurants, but Dorival has one of the best tropeiros in the city.
- Frango ao Molho Pardo: A traditional dish where chicken is cooked in its own blood, creating a rich, flavorful gravy.
- Pão de Queijo: No visit is complete without trying these addictive cheese breads. Pão de queijo can be found in literally any coffee shop in the city, but I recommend you go to A Pão de Queijaria, a place in Savassi that specializes in pão de queijos with many different fillings.
Unique Dishes for Adventurous Eaters
- Dobradinha: A flavorful stew made from cow’s stomach, beans, and various spices. I am not a particular fan of this dish, but I know a lot of people whoo love it, and it is worth the try.
- Jiló com Fígado: Combining liver with jiló, a local, slightly bitter vegetable, for a unique taste experience.
Eating Times and Recommendations
Typical foods include pão de queijo, scrambled eggs, yogurt, tropical fruits like papaya and mango, freshly brewed coffee, and french bread with butter. Brazilians don’t usually eat meat for breakfast, and we tend to stick to tropical and lighter options. Tapiocas are also a popular breakfast choice, and you can add different fillings to it. I usually get my tapioca with cheese and scrambled eggs, or with tomato, cheese and basil (tastes like pizza).
The brunch scene has become popular in Beaga in the past couple of years, and you will find many venues that serve more international dishes.
Generally, breakfast is affordable, ranging from R$ 10 to R$ 20, but brunch can end up costing you around R$ 70.
Lunch (12:00 – 14:00)
A typical lunch may include rice and beans, vegetables, meat or chicken, and a salad. Going to one of those self-service places is great for tasting traditional Brazilian lunch food. You can also find many restaurants serving ‘prato executivo’, meals served exclusively during lunch, usually for a cheaper. Lunch is moderately priced, usually between R$ 15 and R$ 40.
Afternoon Snack (15:00 – 17:00)
We take our afternoon snack very seriously, and this is when another pão de queijo makes its way into your stomach. Snacks like coffee, bolo de fubá, and more pão de queijo are popular. Snacks are budget-friendly, generally costing R$ 5 to R$ 15, and you can find them in any coffee shop around the city.
Dinner (19:00 – 22:00)
Dinner might include lighter meals like soups, stews, grilled meats, or even pizza. In Belo Horizonte, lunch is the most important meal of the day, and many of us prefer to snack at night instead of having an actual dinner. In my house, we usually make an omelet, soup, or order in at night. Pizza and pasta are also common meals in many households. The prices vary, but is generally between R$ 20 and R$ 60.
Business Hours for Food Shops
Most restaurants open around noon and close by 20:00 or 22:00. They usually do not close in the afternoon, but it depends on the type of venue you’re visiting. Bakeries and cafes open in the morning, from around 6 AM to 9 AM. They usually stay open all day long, closing at around 7 PM or 8 PM.
Culture, Language & The People of Belo Horizonte
Belo Horizonte has a distinct cultural identity shaped by its history, people, and customs. People from other parts of Brazil say that the people from Beaga are some of the most welcoming in the whole country, so we’re off to a good start.
Culture and Customs
- Warm and Welcoming: The people of Belo Horizonte, known as ‘mineiros’, are known for their warm hospitality. They often go out of their way to make visitors feel welcome.
- Social and Family-Oriented: Social gatherings and family are central to the mineiro lifestyle. It’s common to see large family groups dining out or enjoying parks together on weekends.
- Food-Centric Culture: Much of the social life revolves around food, whether it’s a family BBQ or meeting friends at a café.
- Relaxed Pace: Despite being a large city, Belo Horizonte tends to have a more relaxed pace compared to other major Brazilian cities like Rio or São Paulo.
Etiquette and Behavior
- Greeting: A friendly “oi” (hi) and a handshake are common greetings. Among friends, cheek kisses are customary (one on each cheek).
- Rudeness vs. Friendliness: Directness is often appreciated, but maintaining politeness and a friendly tone is important. Loud and boisterous behavior in public places, especially in restaurants or on public transport, can be seen as rude.
- Respect for Elders: Respect for the elderly is important, and offering seats on public transport to older people is a common courtesy.
- Casual Dress: The dress code is generally casual, but smart casual is preferred for dining in upscale restaurants.
- Portuguese Dominance: The primary language is Portuguese. Unlike some tourist-centric cities, English is not widely spoken, especially among the older population.
- Learning Basic Portuguese: Knowing basic phrases in Portuguese can significantly enhance your experience and interaction with locals.
- English in Tourist Areas: In tourist areas, hotels, and upscale restaurants, you are more likely to find English-speaking staff.
Cultural Differences Within Brazil
- Compared to Rio: While Rio is famous for its carnival and beach culture, Belo Horizonte offers a more subdued yet rich cultural experience. It’s known for its culinary scene, cultural landmarks, and the relaxed demeanor of its people.
- Carnival in Belo Horizonte: The city does celebrate Carnival, but it’s more about street parties and local gatherings rather than the grandeur of Rio’s Carnival.
Tips for a Respectful Visit
- Learn Basic Portuguese: Phrases like “Bom dia” (Good morning), “Por favor” (Please), and “Obrigado/a” (Thank you) are useful.
- Understand Local Customs: Be open and respectful to local customs and traditions.
- Social Etiquette: Be courteous in social interactions, and respect personal space.
Transport in Belo Horizonte
Navigating Belo Horizonte is relatively straightforward, with a range of transport options available to suit different preferences and budgets. Here’s a breakdown of the main modes of transportation in the city.
Taxis in Belo Horizonte charge a starting fare of around R$ 4.50 (approximately $0.85 USD), with an additional charge per kilometer. A typical city ride might cost around R$ 20-30 (about $4-6 USD). Taxis are widely available, especially in tourist areas, major hotels, and airports. They generally reliable and safe, with most drivers knowledgeable about the city. You can hail a taxi on the street, find them at taxi stands, or use phone apps to book.
Ubers and Other Ride-Hailing Services
Usually cheaper than taxis, with the fare depending on the distance and time of day. A typical short ride might cost around R$ 10-15 (about $2-3 USD). Uber and other ride-hailing services like 99 are widely available and popular in Belo Horizonte. These services are considered reliable and safe, offering the convenience of cashless transactions.
Bus fares are around R$ 4.50 (about $0.85 USD) per ride. Buses cover most areas of the city and are frequent during peak hours. They are generally reliable but can be crowded during rush hours. Safety is generally good, though it’s wise to be cautious with personal belongings. Buses can be boarded at designated stops. It’s helpful to have a map or app to navigate routes.
Walking is a great way to explore neighborhoods like Pampulha or Savassi, where attractions are close to each other. It is generally safe in tourist-friendly areas during the day, but it’s advisable to be cautious at night and avoid less populated areas.
- Metro: there is only one metro line in Belo Horizonte, connecting the periphery around the city. Because of that, it is not an effective transportation method.
- Bikes: some areas around the city offer bike lanes, but they are not very well-kept. You can rent city bikes in a few neighborhoods like Savassi and Belvedere, and they are good for a quick ride around the neighborhood, but not effective as a mode of transportation per se.
When navigating Belo Horizonte, it’s always a good idea to have some knowledge of Portuguese or a translation app at hand, as English is not widely spoken in all areas, especially when using public transportation.
Budgeting for Belo Horizonte
When planning a trip to Belo Horizonte, it’s important to budget according to your travel style and preferences. Here’s a general guide on how much you should expect to spend per day, depending on whether you’re a budget backpacker, a mid-range traveler, or seeking luxury.
For a budget backpacker in Belo Horizonte, expect to pay:
- Daily Budget: Around R$ 75-150 (approximately $15-30 USD).
- Accommodation: Budget backpackers should look for hostels or budget hotels, predominantly found in areas like Centro and Santa Tereza. Prices for a dorm bed in a hostel typically range from R$ 30-60 (about $6-12 USD) per night.
- Food: Street food and local markets, such as Mercado Central, offer affordable eating options. Expect to spend around R$ 20-40 ($4-8 USD) per day on food.
- Transportation: Using public buses and walking are the most cost-effective ways to get around. Allocate around R$ 15-30 ($3-6 USD) per day for transportation.
- Activities: Many of Belo Horizonte’s cultural attractions, like parks and certain museums, have free entry.
For a mid-range traveler in Belo Horizonte, expect to pay:
- Daily Budget: Approximately R$ 250-500 (around $50-100 USD).
- Accommodation: Mid-range hotels or Airbnb rentals are widely available in areas like Savassi and Lourdes. Prices for a private room or a mid-range hotel start around R$ 150-300 ($30-60 USD) per night.
- Food: Dining in casual to mid-range restaurants will cost about R$ 50-100 ($10-20 USD) per meal.
- Transportation: Mix of public transport and occasional rides from Uber or taxis. Budget around R$ 40-80 ($8-16 USD) per day.
- Activities: Paid activities, like visiting Inhotim or enjoying a night out in Savassi, should be factored into the budget.
For a luxurious traveler in Belo Horizonte, expect to pay:
- Daily Budget: R$ 500+ ($100+ USD) per day.
- Accommodation: Upscale hotels and luxury apartments are available, especially in Lourdes and Belvedere, with prices starting at R$ 300+ ($60+ USD) per night.
- Food: High-end dining experiences in Belo Horizonte can vary greatly in price, but budgeting around R$ 200+ ($40+ USD) per meal will allow for some culinary splurges.
- Transportation: Private car hires or frequent Uber rides. Allocate R$ 100+ ($20+ USD) per day.
- Activities: Exclusive experiences, such as guided tours, spa services, or private excursions, will add to the overall budget.
Is Belo Horizonte Safe?
Belo Horizonte is generally safe for tourists, but like any large city, it has areas that are safer and others that require more caution. Common sense and standard travel safety precautions are advisable.
Safety in Different Areas
Neighborhoods like Savassi, Belvedere, Lourdes, and Pampulha are known for their higher safety levels. These areas are well-populated and frequented by tourists, so you will have an easy time around them. However, remember to always be cautious, and avoid walking by yourself at night, specially if you’re a woman. Whenever I’m at a bar and want to go home, I either call an Uber or have one of my guy friends walk me home.
Parts of the city center (Centro) and certain outskirts can be less safe, especially at night. It’s advised to avoid poorly lit or deserted streets after dark. Even with friends, I never walk around the street in these areas, and it is important to not flash your phone or other valuable belongings. Certain peripheral neighborhoods and favelas (slums) should be avoided, particularly for those unfamiliar with the city. I never venture around them, as I know it can be dagerous.
- Overcharging in Taxis: Some taxi drivers may try to overcharge tourists. Insist on using the meter or agree on a fare in advance.
- Distraction Theft: Be wary of any unusual commotion or distractions, as they can sometimes be tactics for pickpocketing.
- Spiked Drinks: In bars or clubs, never leave your drink unattended to avoid the risk of it being spiked.
- Fake Goods: Be cautious when buying from street vendors, as some may sell counterfeit or low-quality goods.
Get To Belo Horizonte (Arriving Here)
Belo Horizonte is well-connected by various modes of transport, making it accessible from different parts of Brazil and beyond. Here’s how you can arrive in the city:
The city is served by two main airports: Tancredo Neves/Confins International Airport (CNF) for international and some domestic flights, and Pampulha – Carlos Drummond de Andrade Airport (PLU) primarily for regional flights. International flight costs vary widely depending on the origin. Domestic flights from major Brazilian cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro can range from R$ 200-600 (approximately $40-120 USD).
Confins is about 40 km from the city center. Regular bus services and taxis connect the airport to the city, with a bus ride costing around R$ 15 (about $3 USD) and a taxi ride about R$ 120-150 (approximately $24-30 USD).
The main terminal, Rodoviária de Belo Horizonte, handles most long-distance bus travel. There are frequent buses from major cities like São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Brasília. I always go to Rio and São Paulo on overnight buses when plane tickets are too expensive. These rides usually cost me about R$ 200 and you travel with a spacioius chair that lays almost entirely horizontal.
For normal buses, prices vary depending on the distance and bus class. A bus ride from São Paulo might cost around R$ 100-150 (about $20-30 USD).
Belo Horizonte can be accessed by several major highways. From Rio de Janeiro, you can take the BR-040; from São Paulo, the BR-381. Costs include fuel, tolls, and potential car rental fees. Fuel costs depend on your starting point and the type of vehicle.
While train services are limited in Brazil, there is a scenic train route from Belo Horizonte to Vitória in the state of Espírito Santo. The train journey is more about the experience than a practical transportation option, and costs vary.
- When arriving in Belo Horizonte, it’s advisable to have some Brazilian Reais (BRL) for immediate expenses like transportation from the airport or bus terminal.
- English is not widely spoken at transportation hubs, so knowing basic Portuguese phrases or having a translation app can be helpful.
- It’s wise to book your transportation to Belo Horizonte in advance, especially during peak travel seasons like Carnival and holidays.
Shopping in Belo Horizonte
Belo Horizonte offers a diverse shopping experience, ranging from modern malls to traditional markets and specialty stores. Here’s a guide to the best areas for shopping in the city:
Malls and Shopping Centers
- BH Shopping: Located in the Belvedere neighborhood, it’s one of the largest and most upscale shopping centers in the city. Ideal for high-end fashion, electronics, and international brands.
- DiamondMall: Situated in Lourdes, this mall is known for luxury shopping, with a variety of premium brands and fine dining options.
- Pátio Savassi: Located in the Savassi district, it’s a popular spot for both shopping and entertainment, offering a mix of national and international brands.
Clothing and Fashion
For shopping for clothes, go to Savassi. This area is a fashion hub, with numerous boutiques and stores offering the latest trends in clothing and accessories. It’s great for both high-street and designer labels. Malls are also great because they offer an array of national and international stores, all close to each other. You can also find movie theaters, nice restaurants, and sometimes even art expositions.
Traditional Markets and Local Crafts
Mercado Central is a must-visit for an authentic Belo Horizonte experience. Here, you can find local crafts, traditional Minas Gerais products, food items, and souvenirs. It’s a bustling market that reflects the local culture and lifestyle. There’s also the Feira Hippie de Belo Horizonte, held every Sunday in Afonso Pena Avenue. This is one of the largest open-air markets in Latin America, offering a wide range of handicrafts, clothing, and local artwork.
Food and Culinary Shopping
Mercado Central and Mercado Novo are markets are not only cultural landmarks but also great places to buy local food products like cheeses, cachaça (Brazilian spirit), and sweets.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Camila is a true adventurer, with a love for hiking, exploration, and also the finer, more luxurious things in life. A tacos al pastor enthusiast, and lover of well-thought-out lodgings, hotels, and the Mediterranean Ocean, she has a passion for exploring the uncovered nooks and crannies of this beautiful blue earth – armed with her orange carry-on backpack. You’ll find Camila writing in detail about all things South America here on WHTC. Anything you need to know from hiking the Inca trail to digital nomad-ing around Latin America to uncovering the great, unknown spots in Brazil (and more) – Camila is here to help carve the path and make traveling easier for all.