FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Belo Horizonte: New Horizons

May 1, 2009
2009 / May 2009

Few cities match their names as well as Brazil’s Belo Horizonte — beautiful horizon. Not only is the city surrounded by a ring of mountains, but its skyline of impressive modernist and post-modern buildings forms an eye-pleasing silhouette of its own.

Just over 200 miles north of Rio de Janeiro, the capital of the state of Minas Gerais is the third-largest population center in Brazil, behind Rio and São Paulo. More than 2.4 million people live in Belo Horizonte itself, with more than 5.5 million residing in the greater metropolitan area.

When Brazil was a Portuguese colony, in the 1700s, the area was settled and populated by immigrants from Portugal and African slaves. Mines and related industries later brought waves of Italian immigrants, and today about a third of the population is of Italian ancestry.

The gold that brought early miners to Minas Gerais has long since played out, but other mineral resources, notably iron, are still mined and processed locally, joining textiles, food processing and electric power as the base of the state’s economy. One of Latin America’s fastest growing industrial regions, Belo Horizonte is Brazil’s second-largest economic center, after São Paulo.

The arrival of Fiat in 1973 and its later expansion kicked off a growth spurt that continues today, with multinational firms including Arcelor and Toshiba. Google’s Latin American headquarters is in Belo Horizonte, and Sumitomo Metals of Japan is currently building a $1.6 billion integrated steelworks on the outskirts of the city, scheduled to open in 2010.

For all its economic importance, Belo Horizonte is a relatively new city, barely a century old. Until the early 20th century, Minas Gerais was governed from the old colonial capital of Ouro Preto, built literally over the gold mines that gave the city its name and its riches. But that town of steep streets, for all its charms (it was recently proclaimed Brazil’s first UNESCO World Heritage site), was not suitable for a modern capital, so Belo Horizonte was carved out of the forest around an early farming settlement.

The new city layout was modeled after Washington, D.C., its street grid intersected by diagonal avenues and dotted with spacious squares and parks. This was at the height of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco eras, so fans of those architecture styles will like the city immediately.

But its architectural riches didn’t end with the 1920s. A young Brazilian architect named Oscar Niemeyer cut his professional teeth here two decades later, leaving the city with several of his most iconic buildings. Continuing waves of new building have lived up to this standard, making the city a textbook of 20th-century architecture. Based on his work in Belo Horizonte, Niemeyer was commissioned to design much of Brasilia, created in the 1950s to serve as the country’s new capital.

Although still not a star on the leisure tourism map, Belo Horizonte has invested in an infastructure that draws business and commercial travelers with more than 3,000 meetings and events each year. American Airlines’ new direct flights from Miami (MIA) are expected to make the city more attractive to U.S. and international visitors.


Lodging

HOTEL LIBERTY PALACE
This 12-story oasis of peace and quiet in the heart of the lively Savassi district has a welcoming English-speaking staff. $$$–$$$$
HOTEL LIBERTY PALACE
Rua Paraiba 1465, Savassi
tel 55 31 2121 0900
www.libertypalace.com.br

OURO MINAS PALACE HOTEL
This conference and meetings center 10 minutes from city center includes rooms designed for women and for guests with allergies. $$$$
OURO MINAS PALACE HOTEL
Av. Cristiano Machado 4001, Ipiranga
tel 55 31 3429 4001
www.ourominas.com.br

PROMENADE BH PLATINUM
Business travelers apprec iate the accommodating manager and generous in-room work space at this 4-star high-rise in the upscale Lourdes neighborhood. $$$
PROMENADE BH PLATINUM
Rua Olegario Maciel 1748, Lourdes
tel 55 31 2125 3800
www.promenade.com.br/bh_platinum


Dining

DONA LUCINHA
Hearty country dishes are firmly rooted in the region, with a jewel-like array of candied fruits and local farmstead cheese.$$$
DONA LUCINHA
Rua Sergipe 11, Savassi
tel 55 31 3261 5930

FOGO DE CHÃO
At this genuine churrascaria, meats are roasted over open wood fires in the style of the gauchos. $$$
FOGO DE CHÃO
Rua Sergipe 5, Savassi
tel 55 31 3227 2730
www.fogodechao.com.br

RESTAURANTE XAPURI
Sit on the terrace of this historic farm and enjoy linguica sausage and pumpkins filled with chicken stew and local cheese. $$$
RESTAURANTE XAPURI
Rua Mandacaru 260, Pampulha
tel 55 31 3496 6198


Diversions

Belo Horizonte claims (and after a stroll down any street in the lively Savassi neighborhood, it’s easy to believe) to be the Bar Capital of Brazil. In the year-round mild weather these venues spill out into the street — not booze joints, but cafés where all ages can mix and meet over a beer, a cup of coffee (they’ve got a lot of that in Brazil), a lime-and-ice-filled capirinha, a snack or a meal. Grandparents smile benevolently at toddlers crawling under the tables, teens giggle and text, lovers see only each other and businesspeople seal deals as the whole city seems to come and go from these public front porches. For travelers, the bars are the best way to quickly engage in the local scene.

To follow the architecture of local-boy-madegood Oscar Niemeyer, begin with his first major works in the park-filled suburb of Pampulha. Here the distinctive curved silhouette of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi reflects in the lake, and high above its waters stands the stunning former casino, now the Pampulha Museum of Art(Avenida Otacílio Negrão de Lima, tel 55 31 3277 7996), with rotating exhibits. Surrounding it, the Burle Max Sculpture Gardens provide a natural setting for sculptures by several artists. Rent bicycles at the park office to explore the Pampulha Ecological Park (Avenida Otacílio Negrão de Lima, tel 55 31 3277 7439) or come for outdoor concerts on weekends.

In the city center, Edificio Niemeyer rises in sinuous curves above Praça da Liberdade, a pleasant place to stroll among the fountains. Opposite is “Rainha da Sucata” — Queen of Scrap Iron. This is the local nickname for the futuristic building housing the Museum of Mineralogy (Av. Bias Fortes 50, tel 55 31 3271 3414), displaying more than 800 minerals from around the world.

One corner of the extensive Parque Municipal is outlined by the sleek white lines of Niemeyer’s Palácio das Artes (Avenida Afonso Pena, tel 55 31 3277 4161), a civic arts center. Inside is an artisans’ shop filled with high-quality pottery, woodcarving, needle arts and jewelry incorporating native stones. Art galleries, theaters and exhibition space make this complex the city’s main center for fine and performing arts. In the adjacent park are century-old trees, flower gardens and the Orchidarium, a greenhouse full of orchids. Throughout spring and summer the Orchestra of Minas Gerais plays concerts in the park every Sunday morning.

Beyond lies the spacious Praça da Estação, a venue for outdoor concerts and festivals. At one side, the former rail station is now the Arts and Crafts Museum (Pr. Rui Barbosa, tel 55 31 3248 8600), which records the arts and implements of Brazil’s pre-industrial era.

Aficionados of contemporary art and design — or those who want a break from cityscapes — should travel out of town to the remarkable Inhotim (Rua B, Brumadinho, tel 55 31 3227 0001, www.inhotim.org.br), where stunning gardens cover several acres of pond-studded lowland and surrounding hillsides. Interspersed with the flower and landscape gardens are innovative and environment friendly buildings filled with art installations. Sculptures in every medium from fallen trees to vintage Volkswagens dot the park-like grounds.


INFO TO GO

Tancredo Neves/Confins International Airport (CNF) is about 23 miles from Belo Horizonte. Taxi into town costs about $40; the frequent Executive Shuttle about $10. A metro system connects major downtown points. Visit www.braziltour.com.

Introducing

FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

#globility

Insta Feed
Food
Oct 28, 2021

Vegan Dishes from Around the World for World Vegan Day

Celebrate World Vegan Day Nov. 1, with these vegan dishes from around the world.

Experiencing GBTA Convention 2021
Safely and Responsibly

GBTA’s Convention 2021 will bring the business travel industry together for the first time in a long time. Once again, you’ll learn and connect with experts and each other, along with discussions with leading thinkers, entrepreneurs and change makers addressing the issues that matter most.

eFlyer Reviews
Oct 27, 2021

AMERON Zürich Bellerive au Lac Review

The Hotel AMERON Zurich Bellerive au Lac, forged from the collaborative efforts of interior design firm Monoplan AG and other cutting-edge design firms, bills itself as a celebration of the 1920s and ‘30s aesthetic. The story behind it is compelling as the building dates to 1928 and has connections with the early days of Switzerland's movie industry. However, there are several fun Mid-Century Modern and late 20th-century design touches in the public and private areas. Clearly, it's going for the "modern luxury" vibe Millennial and Gen-X business and leisure travelers look for when seeking a quality smaller property with a great location.

eFlyer Deals
Oct 27, 2021

The 1946 Offer from InterContinental New York Barclay

InterContinental New York Barclay is the perfect spot for luxury in the heart of Manhattan. With the 1946 Package, enjoy a two-night stay in the Penthouse Suite, an exclusive InterContinental75 cocktail lesson with a mixologist, 75-minute couples massage with Zeel, a movie screening on the Penthouse Suite terrace with classic films from the year of InterContinental’s birth with a premium 1946 vintage wine to enjoy.

Register Today for the Most Important Gathering of Business Travel Professionals

The Global Business Travel Association’s (GBTA) Convention 2021 will be unlike any other convention before it, as we come together in person for the first time since the business travel industry drastically changed and look forward to rebuilding and reshaping the future. GBTA Convention 2021 will bring all of us together to learn from experts and each other, in-person at Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, Nov. 17–19. The safety of our attendees is our top priority. View health and safety protocols.

eFlyer Deals
Oct 27, 2021

Buy One, Get One 50 Percent Off with Uniworld

On Black Friday, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises is offering a one-of-a-kind chance to score two luxury river cruise sailings by the end of 2021, with the second cruise at 50 percent off.

Class Act 2021
Oct 26, 2021

Travel Brands Revamp Loyalty Programs to Keep Customers Engaged

One of the many fallouts from the turbulent past 1.5 years of pandemic-related travel restrictions and lockdowns has been the rethinking and imminent restructuring of loyalty programs throughout the travel industry, from airline and hotel brands to cruise and rental car companies. Loyalty programs are more than a perk for customers; they can be worth more than the brand itself for the program owners and operators. For example, the world’s largest airline, American Airlines, is valued at roughly $6 billion, whereas its passenger loyalty program, AAdvantage, boasts an estimated worth of $24 billion according to a recent analysis by Financial Times.

Greece: Destination Luxury

Since its prestige for attracting the world elite grew in the 1960s, Greece remains the go-to destination for glittering holidays. Each step of the journey is enrobed in luxury, from culinary traditions with the highest standard of execution and name-brand, high-end shopping to first-rate wellness locales and elite accommodations, like 5-star hotels, private villas and yachts.

Daily
Oct 26, 2021

6 Reasons to Put Ayutthaya, Thailand, on Your Travel List

It’s time to start dreaming of your next trip. Here’s some destination inspiration for you. Take a visual journey through Ayutthaya, Thailand, with us.