(Updated February 2019)
While studying Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro, I thought it might be a good idea to take a trip to Belo Horizonte at the weekend; mostly because I wanted to see Inhotim, a botanic garden full of contemporary art.
|Young Belo Horizontians drumming with vigor.|
Turns out, Inhotim was the only spot worth the travel. But so worth it!
Still let me tell you a bit about Belo Horizonte, although I would never recommend to actually plan a trip there. If you happen to pass through, make sure you don’t miss going to see Inhotim – but we get to that later.
Going to Belo Horizonte by bus from Rio de Janeiro takes about six hours which I find a bit too long for a weekend trip. I was lucky to get really cheap tickets for about 70 US$ round trip – I booked about six weeks ahead.
|Going to Belo Horizonte, the views of Minas Gerais from way up high was the most alluring sight of the day.|
Like many other Brazilian cities, Belo Horizonte has two airports, one close to the city and about 30 km / 19 mi north. Hence, here comes my first advice: Don’t take the bus that goes to the bus terminal. I thought it would be a good idea since ‘bus terminal’ sounds centrally located. Well, it is, but it is also located in a very bad area. Plus the bus that goes there is the cheap bus for the poorer crowd and it stops at every corner and it takes forever to finally arrive at this shady area.
It’s far better to take the airport shuttle – that costs next to nothing more – and go to Connection Airport Terminal at Av. Álvares Cabral 387, that’s a bit less depressing and dangerous.
|A young street vendor selling flip flops on a sidewalk in Belo Horizonte.|
Belo Horizonte’s artery is the Avenida Afonso Pena where you find many stores and restaurants. It’s central point is the Praça Sete de Setembro, honoring the centenary of Brazil’s independence. While the square is just an obelisk marking the city’s zero point.
Igreja São José
One bloc down south you’ll see to your right the unusually colored Igreja São José, St. Joseph’s Chruch, founded in 1904 and finished in 1912. At the next bloc to your left already begins the quite nice Parque Municipal Américo Renné Giannetti, the central park.
There are a couple of interesting exhibitions, especially regarding the history of the miners: Belo Horizonte is the capital of the federal state of Minas Gerais, translated as general mines. As a matter of fact, in Minas Gerais – a territory as large as France – you can find a large variety of different mines and extraction fields.
Avenida João Pinheiro 342
Phone: + 55 – 31 – 32 69 11 03
The museum is open from Tuesday to Friday from 10 a. m. to 7 p. m., weekends from noon and Thursday from noon to 9 p. m.
Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil
Another nice place worth visiting is the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, a cultural center financed by the oldest and largest Brazilian Bank. They run cultural centers in various Brazilian cities, and in Belo Horizonte the elegant building alone is worth a visit.
|Of course you feel welcome at this grand hall.
(Photo: Vagner Costa/CCBB)
Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil Belo Horizonte
Praça da Liberdade 450
Phone: + 55 – 31 – 34 31 94 00
The center is open from Wednesday to Monday from 10 a. m. to 10 p. m.
Feira de Arte e Artesanato da Avenida Afonso Pena
What I’ve liked best in Belo Horizonte was the Feira de Arte e Artesanato da Avenida Afonso Pena, an arts and crafts fair that takes place every Sunday from 8 a. m. to 1 p. m. on the Avenida Afonso Pena between Rua da Bahia and Rua dos Guajajaras. It’s not touristy at all, you can buy literally everything you might need in your house – and the best part are the food stands selling really good Brazilian street food.
|The market on Avenida Afonso Pena is one of very few treats Belo Horizonte holds for its visitors.|
So yes, there are certainly some things to do, but I’ve found the city extremely run down and depressing. The number of obviously deranged, intoxicated people squatting and camping in the streets was overwhelming. I didn’t feel comfortable at all.
I spent one night and took the bus to Brumadinho the next morning.
I don’t know how many buses are actually going from Belo Horizonte to Brumadinho since it’s really not that far. Since I had to make sure to catch my plane the next day, I made reservation online and went with Saritur.
It’s also possible to book a day tour from Belo Horizonte straight to Inhotim and back in one day, but I wasn’t so crazy about getting back the same day…
As I learned from my friendly, hippie-ish landlord, ‘bruma’ is the coal dust – and that’s where the town of Brumadinho got his name from – must be something like ‘Little Coaldust’…
Brumadinho, a friendly little town – about an hour by bus from Belo Horizonte.
I didn’t get to see much of the town itself since I was rushing more or less straight to Inhotim, but what I saw looked tranquil and nice and if I ever come back, I will skip Belo Horizonte and go straight to this cute little place.
I managed to get a room at a guesthouse within walking distance to Inhotim, so that was a plus. The hostel is cute and the hosts get out of their way to make you feel welcome, but unfortunately I must say that it’s not very comfortable: There is only one bathroom for up to eight people, the walls and doors are paper thin so when people are talking or watching TV in the communal area, it’s like you are sitting right next to them. This would be fine and dandy for a hostel-price, but not for the 120 R$ (36 US$) they charged. The night before I paid less in Belo Horizonte for an executive room with all the hotel standards (private bathroom, A/C, TV, fridge etc.).
|One of the venue’s best views: Groups of different palm trees and one of Inhotim’s most famous outdoor sculpture, “Invenção da cor, Penetrável Magic Square # 5, De Luxe” by Hélio Oiticica|
Anyway, I wasn’t there to hang out at the hostel, I was there so Inhotim could kill me softly with its beauty. And it did, my gosh, how it did!
It all started in the mid 1980 when Bernardo de Mello Paz, one of the few people who could actually say ‘yes’ if rhetorically asked whether he owns a mine, began to establish on his huge piece of land outside of Brumadinho an exquisite botanic garden containing rare and precious species of plants, beautifully arranged on hills and around ponds.
|The gardens alone are worth the trip to Inhotim.|
This man has a very good taste. In plants, but also in art. Therefore he arranged his art collection, one of the most significant collections of contemporary art in the world, on these premises.
|“Deleite” by Brazilian sculptor Tunga was one of the first pieces in Bernardo de Mello Paz’ collection.|
There are about 500 works by Brazilian and international artists from about 30 different countries on display; in the gardens and in special galleries.
|In 2009, international super star of dots, Yayoi Kusama, contributed her work ‘Narcissus Garden’ that was nominated for the First Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize, granted by the Illinois Institute of Technology.|
There are huge sculptures and installations that would never fit in a gallery.
|Where else could Chris Burdon show his “Beam Drop Inhotim”, made of some not exactly delicate steel beams? At Inhotim, there’s enough space even for the largest sculptures.
When the dark clouds approached, the installation looked even more dramatic.
There are huge sculptures and installations that do fit in a gallery as long as they can fill the whole room undisturbed.
|Another one of Tunga’s quirky installations: “True Rouge”. At Inhotim, they reserved an entire gallery building for this sculpture.|
There are sculptures and installations that form a nice, almost symbiotic togetherness.
At Inhotim, there is room for all of this. Since there is space, lots and lots of space.
Yes, you have to do a lot of walking, but if you get too tired, there are lovely young people driving you around in little carts.
Anyway, Inhotim is good to you: there are sockets to recharge your phone or your camera, there is free WiFi. There are many clean bathrooms and many water faucets so that visitors do not necessarily have to buy overpriced drinks; which aren’t overpriced at all, anyway.
There are two restaurants, on more upscale (whereby you get an excellent buffet for about 20 US$ which you’d never get at this price in Europe or in the US) and one more a cafeteria. In addition there are snack bars and ice cream parlors. And lots of shady spots to relax for a while – some equipped with wooden deck chairs or cute lounge chairs, others with extraordinary seats carved in raw wood.
|A huge bench made of a humongous tree trunk in front of a…humongous tree trunk.|
I’ve been to Louisiana north of Copenhagen – and it was really nice.
I’ve been to Huntington Garden and Library at San Marino in the outskirts of Los Angeles – and it was really very nice.
But none of these places can compare to Inhotim.
Rua B, 20
Phone: + 55 – 31 – 35 71 97 00
Open Tuesday to Friday from 9.30 a. m. to 4.30 p. m., weekends and holidays till 5.30 p. m.
Entrance fee is 44 R$ (13 US$), use of the carts an additional 30 R$ (9 US$) (highly recommended) Charter of a private cart for up to 5 people 500 R$ (150 US$) per day or 200 R$ (60 US$) per hour.
Important: You cannot visit the premises without proof of yellow fever vaccination!
Update: Since Summer 2018, you do not need to have proof of yellow fever vaccination to visit Inhotim. However, to save yourself from disappointment, you might want to check their website or inquire directly regarding the status quo short before visiting.
Wanna know how I perceived Belo Horizonte, Brumadinho, and Inhotim the day I got there? Check out this lesson of my Class of Brazil series:
Do you want to read about all the other cool places I’ve visited in Brazil?
Then go to the main post and take your pick!
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