Belo Horizonte, capital city of Minas Gerais, is a fascinating tourist destination. It is one of the host cities to World Cup Brazil 2014 and matches are set to take place there starting June 14. But not everything is football in Belo Horizonte. Visitors are bound to find the city's sights extremely alluring, starting with the buildings designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer, up to the wooden barrels filled with with the national spirit, Cachaça. Other noteworthy sites are the Zoo, filled with the local fauna, and the Praça da Estaçao (Station Square). The city features some 13 museums and artisan fairs that take place regularly, where crafts, antiques and typical regional dishes are sold.
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Palácio das Artes
One of the city's main tourist attractions, the Palácio das Artes is based on a design by Oscar Niemayer. Construction began in 1945 and, after a long halt, was finished and inaugurated in 1971. The building offers room to almost every artistic discipline imaginable. There are three galleries where, in addition to having paintings hung up for display, book readings and other cultural events are usually held. It also houses two theatres and a concert hall, a library and a café.
Praça da Estaçao
Praça da Estaçao ("Station Square") was built on 1920 and is one of the city's central features. It is surrounded by buildings in the French neoclassical style, among which the University of Minas Gerais, built in 1889, clearly stands out. In June the square turns into the venue for the Festival de Quardilhas, a traditional festival filled with colour, music and dance, where people can compete in different games, usually for cash prizes. During the three days that this festival lasts, parades, regional food, drink and music flow freely.
Praça Sete de Setembro
Sete de Setembro ("Seventh of September") is one of Belo Horizonte's most emblematic sites. Constructed around the 1820s, the city's first modern cafés, restaurants, pubs and bookshops were built around it. An obelisk, affectionately called a"Pirulito" ("Lollipop"), was erected on the square to commemorate the first hundred years of Brazilian Independence. The Café Pérola is among the oldest and most preferred by locals, who usually meet there to chat over a cup of coffee. Among other cultural events, Sete de Setembro is the venue for the annual Artificial Flower Fair.
Cachaça is one of Brazil's traditional alcoholic beverages. This spirit is distilled from sugar cane, and sometimes aged in wooden barrels. Belo Horizonte lies in the heart of the region where cachaça is produced and offers a cachaça-tour through some of the most popular distilleries in the city. Visitors can take this opportunity to taste some micro-distilled cachaças along with some typically local dishes. One of the better known distilleries is the Clube Mineiro Da Cachaça, which has more than 1,200 varieties of the beverage on sale and the tour ends at its cellar where several wooden barrels with thousands of litres of ageing cachaça are stored.