Belo Horizonte, called "Belo" locally, lies 220 mi/350 km northwest of Rio de Janeiro in the center of the country's most important mining area. Although you can see most of its attractions in a day, the city is pleasant and has a terrifically varied nightlife.
Among Belo Horizonte's highlights are the Museu de Artes e Oficios, the neighborhood of Savassi, the Central Market and the 1943 Igreja de Sao Francisco (designed by Oscar Niemeyer, the primary architect of Brasilia, with paintings by Modernist artist Portinari), located in the leafy suburb of Pampulha. If you're in Belo on a Sunday morning, visit the arts-and-crafts fair in Municipal Park. And don't overlook the park itself, which has an incredible 2,000 species of trees. Belo is also known for its many restaurants and bars serving tasty, hearty Mineiro cuisine.
A visit to the colonial towns of Sabara (15 mi/24 km away) and Congonhas (45 mi/70 km away) can be made as day trips, or as preludes to the nearby baroque jewel of Ouro Preto. Although Congonhas itself is ugly, its Basilica de Bom Jesus, a UNESCO World Heritage site, contains the Twelve Prophets, created by sculptor Aleijadinho, one of the world's most magnficent examples of baroque art.
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