Belo Horizonte City Guide

By Thomas Oakey Ian Trower/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis
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Vital statistics

MSN takes a closer look at the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte, one of the six host cities at the 2013 Confederations Cup and 2014 World Cup in Brazil See Gallery

Vital statistics: Belo Horizonte

Founded: 1701
State: Minas Gerais
Region: Southeast
Population: 2,475,440
Size: 330.9 km2

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The eastern Brazil city of Belo Horizonte began life in 1701, when an explorer from São Paulo named João Leite da Silva Ortiz settled in the area to build his farm - named Curral d'el Rey, or the Kings Coral - and began to attract farmers and migrants to the area.

Its growth only really began to accelerate at the end of the 19th century, though. In 1897, Curral d'el Rey was selected to be the new state capital of Minas Gerais, replacing Ouro Prêto (Prêto had become regarded as a symbol of old colonialism).The town – renamed Belo Horizonte in 1906 – began to expand northwards following an intense population increase and the growth of commercial and service industries in the area. Its development thereafter was guided first by urbanist engineer and planner Aarão Reis – whose work was heavily influenced by the designs of both Washington D.C and Paris -  and then by a young Oscar Niemeyer, who’d go on to become Brazil’s most famous architect.

The development of Horizonte in the 20th century gave the city its characteristic wide avenues and busy landscapes, which remain a feature to this day.

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Belo Horizonte today

As well as its architectural significance and its wonderful parks, Belo Horizonte is also known in modern day Brazil as a strategic centre for the country’s economy and commerce – Google have a headquarters there – and as a centre for state politics. The image above shows the Juscelino Kubitschek Auditorium, a building named after the former Brazilian president and designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer. The curved structure forms part of the Tancredo Neves Administrative City, the government headquarters for the state of Minas Gerais, built in 2010.

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Pampulha District

The most famous stretch of Belo Horizonte is the Pampulha District. Part of Oscar Niemeyer’s architectural experiment, the district brought the city casinos, parks, squares and lakes.

The most recognisable feature of Pampulha is, however, the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi (known locally as Igreja da Pampulha). Despite early opposition over its appearance, the structure - reminiscent of an aircraft hangar – went on to become the first listed modern monument in Brazil and is a must see for all tourists.

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Parque Municipal

Visitors should also make their way along to the Parque Municipal, the city’s main park located right at the heart of Belo Horizonte. A grand space brimming with tropical vegetation and lakes, Parque Municipal provides the perfect central escape from the urban sprawl.

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Serra do Curral

To catch Belo Horizonte at its best, tourists and locals alike will often head to Serra do Curral, the ridge of hills to the south east of the city.

Part of the Espinhaço Mountains, the hills stretch up to 1,538 metres tall at their peak - the highest point of Belo Horizonte - and offer the most sublime view of the city, as pictured above.  

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Belo Horizonte experiences a tropical climate – with yearly temperatures ranging between 18-23 °C (64-73 °F).

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Geography and surrounding area

The boundaries of modern day Belo Horizonte reach out to cover an area that encompasses 34 cities - including the likes ofContagem,Betim and Ibirité  - making it the third biggest metropolitan territory in the country.

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Football in Belo Horizonte

Belo Horizonte homes two of Brazilian football’s biggest club sides: rivals Clube Atlético Mineiro and Cruzeiro Esporte Clube.

Known as the Galo (the Rooster), Mineiro have won Brazil’s top division once, while Cruzeiro – nicknamed the Raposa (the Fox) – have two domestic titles to their name, as well as four Copa do Brasils. Internationally, they’ve also won South America’s premier cup competition, the Copa Libertadores, twice. The image above shows Cruzeiro players holding aloft the Copa Libertadores trophy in 1997, after they beat Sporting Cristal of Peru 1-0 in the final.

Both sides play some of their fixtures at Estádio Governador Magalhães Pinto, better known as Mineirão, a stadium that will host both Confederations Cup and World Cup games.

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Did you know?

Did you know?

The name Belo Horizonte is Portuguese for beautiful horizon, though the city is famously known as Beagá; a name given because of the sound of its initials BH when pronounced in Portuguese.