Belo Horizonte
  • Município de Belo Horizonte
  • Municipality of Belo Horizonte
From the top, clockwise: Aerial view of Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square) and Downtown; Niemeyer Building; Belo Horizonte skyline; view of Afonso Pena Avenue; aerial view of Lagoa da Pampulha; Rui Barbosa Square; Our Lady of Good Voyage Cathedral.
Flag of Belo Horizonte
Coat of arms of Belo Horizonte
Coat of arms
  • BH (pronounced "beagá")
  • The Garden City
  • Belô
Belo Horizonte is located in Brazil
Belo Horizonte
Belo Horizonte
Belo Horizonte is located in South America
Belo Horizonte
Belo Horizonte
Coordinates: 19°55′S 43°56′W / 19.917°S 43.933°W / -19.917; -43.933Coordinates: 19°55′S 43°56′W / 19.917°S 43.933°W / -19.917; -43.933
Country Brazil
State Minas Gerais
FoundedDecember 12, 1897
 • MayorAlexandre Kalil (PSD)
 • Metropolis330.9 km2 (127.8 sq mi)
 • Urban
282.3 km2 (109.0 sq mi)
 • Metro
9,459.1 km2 (3,652.2 sq mi)
Elevation760 m (2,490 ft)
 (2020 [1])
 • Metropolis2,721,564
 • Rank6th
 • Metro
12,778,091 (3rd)
Time zoneUTC−3 (BRT)
Postal code
30000-001 a 31999-999
Area code+55 31

Belo Horizonte (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈbɛlu oɾiˈzõtʃi], locally [ˌbɛloɾiˈzõtʃi] (About this soundlisten);[a] "Beautiful Horizon") is the sixth-largest city in Brazil, with a population around 2.7 million and with a metropolitan area of 6 million people.[2] It is the 13th-largest city in South America and the 18th-largest in the Americas. The metropolis is anchor to the Belo Horizonte metropolitan area, ranked as the third-most populous metropolitan area in Brazil and the 17th-most populous in the Americas. Belo Horizonte is the capital of the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil's second-most populous state. It is the first planned modern city in Brazil.

The region was first settled in the early 18th century, but the city as it is known today was planned and constructed in the 1890s, to replace Ouro Preto as the capital of Minas Gerais. The city features a mixture of contemporary and classical buildings, and is home to several modern Brazilian architectural icons, most notably the Pampulha Complex. In planning the city, Aarão Reis and Francisco Bicalho sought inspiration in the urban planning of Washington, D.C.[3] The city has employed notable programs in urban revitalization and food security, for which it has been awarded international accolades.

The city is built on several hills, and is completely surrounded by mountains.[4] There are several large parks in the immediate surroundings of Belo Horizonte. The Mangabeiras Park (Parque das Mangabeiras), 6 km (4 mi) southeast of the city centre in the hills of Curral Ridge (Serra do Curral), has a broad view of the city. It has an area of 2.35 km2 (580 acres), of which 0.9 km2 (220 acres) is covered by the native forest. The Jambeiro Woods (Mata do Jambeiro) nature reserve extends over 912 hectares (2,250 acres), with vegetation typical of the Atlantic Forest. More than 100 species of birds inhabit the reserve, as well as 10 species of mammals.

Belo Horizonte was one of the host cities of the 1950 and the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Additionally, the city shared as host of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and the football tournament during the 2016 Summer Olympics.


Belo Horizonte plan in 1895

The metropolis was once a small village, founded by João Leite da Silva Ortiz, a bandeirante explorer from São Paulo. The explorer settled in the region in 1701, leaving a gold rush expedition. He then established a farm called "Curral d'el Rey", archaic Portuguese for the "King's Corral", which in modern Portuguese would be spelled Curral do Rei. The farm's wealth and success encouraged people from surrounding places to move into the region, and Curral del Rey became a village surrounded by farms.[5]

Another important factor contributing to the growth of the village was people immigrating from the São Francisco River region, who had to pass through Curral d'el Rey to reach southern parts of Brazil. Travelers usually visited a small wooden chapel, where they prayed for a safe trip, so the chapel was named Capela da Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem, which means "Chapel of Our Lady of the Good Journey." After the construction of Belo Horizonte, the old baroque chapel was replaced by a neo-gothic church that became the city's cathedral.[6]

Founding of the city in 1897

The previous capital of Minas Gerais, Ouro Preto (meaning "black gold", due to dark rocks with gold inside found on the region), originally called "Vila Rica" ("wealthy village"), was a symbol of both the monarchic Brazilian Empire and the period when most of Brazilian income was due to mining. That never pleased the members of the Inconfidência Mineira, republican intellectuals who conspired against the Portuguese dominion of Brazil. In 1889, Brazil became a republic, and it was agreed that a new state capital, in tune with a modern and prosperous Minas Gerais, had to be established.[7]

In 1893, due to the climatic and topographic conditions, Curral Del Rey was selected by Minas Gerais governor Afonso Pena among other cities as the location for the new economic and cultural center of the state, under the new name of Cidade de Minas, or City of Minas.[citation needed]

Aarão Reis, an urbanist from Pará, was then chosen to design the second planned city of Brazil (the first one is Teresina). Cidade de Minas was inaugurated in 1897, with many unfinished buildings as the Brazilian government set a deadline for its completion. The local government encouraged growth through subsidies. It offered free lots and funding for building houses. An interesting feature of Reis' downtown street plan for Belo Horizonte was the inclusion of a symmetrical array of perpendicular and diagonal streets named after Brazilian states and Brazilian indigenous tribes.[8]

Belo Horizonte, 1970s, National Archives of Brazil

In 1906, the name was changed to Belo Horizonte. At that time, the city was experiencing a considerable industrial expansion that increased its commercial and service sectors. From its very beginning, the city's original plan prohibited workers from living inside the urban area, which was defined by Avenida do Contorno (a long avenue that goes around the city's central areas), reserved for government workers (hence the name of the trendy neighbourhood "Funcionários"), and bringing about an accelerated occupation outside the city's area well provided with infrastructure since its very beginning. Obviously, the city's original planners did not count on its ongoing population growth, which proved especially intense in the last 20 years of the 20th century.

In the 1940s, a young Oscar Niemeyer designed the Pampulha Neighbourhood to great acclaim, a commission he got thanks to then-mayor and soon-to-be-president Juscelino Kubitschek. These two men are largely responsible for the wide avenues, large lakes, parks, and jutting skylines that characterize the city today.[9] A 1949 American government film favorably reviewed the planning and building of the city.[10]

Belo Horizonte is fast becoming a regional center of commerce. The Latin American research and development center of Google, situated in Belo Horizonte, was responsible for the management and operation of the former social networking website Orkut. It continues to be a trendsetter in the arts, particularly where music, literature, architecture, and the avant garde are concerned.[11]


Surrounding cities and metropolitan area

Belo Horizonte from ISS at night

The term "Grande BH" ("Greater Belo Horizonte") denotes any of various definitions for the metropolitan area of Belo Horizonte. The legally defined Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte consists of 34 municipalities in total, and a population of around five million inhabitants (as of 2007, according to IBGE).[12][13]

The intense process of urbanization that is taking place in the metropolitan region has made some of the political boundaries between municipalities in the region obsolete.

The city is now composed of a relatively contiguous urban area, centred on Belo Horizonte, which extends out into municipalities such as Contagem, Betim, Nova Lima, Raposos, Ribeirão das Neves, Ibirité, Santa Luzia and Sabará, among others.

The municipality is bounded to the north by Vespasiano, to the north east by Santa Luzia, by Sabará to the east, by Nova Lima to the southeast, Brumadinho to the south and Ribeirão das Neves, Contagem and Ibirité to the west.

Geology and geomorphology

Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square) and Downtown Belo Horizonte

Belo Horizonte lies on a region of contact between different geological series of the Proterozoic. The geology largely comprises crystalline rocks, which give rise to the varied morphology of the landscape. It is located in a large geological unit known as the craton of San Francisco, referring to extensive crustal nucleus of central-eastern Brazil, tectonically stable at the end of the Paleoproterozoic and bordering areas that suffered the regeneration at the Neoproterozoic.

The archean rocks members of Belo Horizonte complex and supracrustal sequences of the Paleoproterozoic is predominant. The area of Belo Horizonte complex includes the geomorphological unit called Depression of Belo Horizonte, which represents about 70% of the municipality area and has its greatest expression in the northern Ribeirão Arrudas (Rues Stream) pipeline. The metasedimentary rocks has its area of occurrence on the south of Ribeirão Arrudas pipeline, constituting about 30% of the area of Belo Horizonte. The characteristics of this area are lithological diversities and rugged topography, which has its maximum expression in the Serra do Curral (Corral Ridge), the southern boundary of the municipality.

Its soil comprises a succession of layers of rocks of varied composition, represented by itabirite, dolomite, quartzite, phyllites and schists different from the general direction northwest–southeast and dip to the southeast. The hills of Belo Horizonte are part of the Espinhaço Mountains and belong to the larger Itacolomi mountain chain. The highest point in the municipality is in the Serra do Curral, reaching 1,538 metres (5,046 ft).


A centre for conservation and preservation of animals and plants it has also developed environmental education projects. The Zoo, which encompasses a total area of 1.4 million square meters, is located at the Foundation's headquarters and is regarded as one of the most complete in Latin America. It has a collection of close to 900 animals representing 200 species, from Brazil and other parts of the world, as well as the first public butterfly sanctuary in South America.

Pampulha Ecological Park is administered by the Zoo-Botanical Foundation of Belo Horizonte and was inaugurated on May 21, 2004. It is 30 acres (12 ha) of green area that offers to the population and the tourists a permanent programming of environmental, cultural and patrimonial education.

The city contains the 102 hectares (250 acres) Baleia State Park, created in 1988 but still not implemented as of 2014.[14] It contains part of the 3,941 hectares (9,740 acres) Serra do Rola-Moça State Park, created in 1994.[15]

Panorama of the Lake Pampulha along with its main touristic complex


Storm over the city

Belo Horizonte's latitude at 19'55"South places it in the tropical zone. Yearly temperatures average between 9 and 35 °C (48 and 95 °F). The Köppen climate classification of the region is tropical savanna climate (Aw), milder due to the elevation, with humid/warm summers and dry/mild winters. Belo Horizonte is located about 500 kilometres (310 mi) from the sea.

Even though inter-seasonal differences are not as pronounced as they are in temperate places, there is a contrast between spring and summer, and between fall and winter. The coldest month is generally July, with a lowest recorded temperature of 3.1 °C (38 °F). The hottest month is usually January, with a highest recorded temperature of 38.4 °C (101 °F).

The 852-metre (2,795 ft) elevation[citation needed] of Belo Horizonte helps a little in cooling the city, suppressing high maximum air temperatures experienced in nearby cities at lower altitudes. Belo Horizonte's climate is mild throughout the year. Temperatures vary between 11 and 31 °C (52 and 88 °F), the average being 22 °C (72 °F). Winter is dry and mostly sunny, and summer is rainy.

Climate data for Belo Horizonte (1981–2010, extremes 1949–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 35.4
Average high °C (°F) 28.4
Daily mean °C (°F) 23.4
Average low °C (°F) 19.8
Record low °C (°F) 10.4
Average precipitation mm (inches) 329.1
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 16 11 11 6 3 1 1 2 4 8 14 18 95
Average relative humidity (%) 73.0 70.0 71.4 69.2 67.4 66.2 62.4 57.8 60.4 64.1 70.5 74.0 67.2
Mean monthly sunshine hours 176.0 190.8 194.9 210.7 221.2 229.9 240.5 241.5 202.5 196.5 166.9 153.3 2,424.7
Source 1: Instituto Nacional de Meteorologia[16]
Source 2: Meteo Climat (record highs and lows)[17]


Ethnic groups

Race and ethnicity in Belo Horizonte
Ethnicity Percentage
Pardo (Multiracial)

According to the 2010 IBGE Census, there were 2,258,096 people residing in the city of Belo Horizonte.[18] The census revealed the following numbers: 1,110,034 White people (46.7%), 995,167 Pardo (Multiracial) people (41.9%), 241,155 Black people (10.2%), 25,270 Asian people (1.1%), 3,477 Amerindian people (0.1%).[19]

In 2010, the city had 428,893 opposite-sex couples and 1,090 same-sex couples. The population of Belo Horizonte was 53.1% female and 46.9% male.[19]

The Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte, called Greater Belo Horizonte, is the 3rd most populous of Brazil, after only Greater São Paulo (with 19,672,582 people, first in Brazil and 5th in the world) and Greater Rio de Janeiro (with 14,387,000 people). The city is the 6th most populous of the country.

During the 18th century, Minas Gerais received many Portuguese immigrants, mainly from Northern Portugal as well as many enslaved Africans.[20]

Belo Horizonte has a notable Italian influence; around 30% of the city's population have some Italian origin.[21] The Italian culture is present in the cuisine, dance, and language.[22] People of German, Spanish, and Syrian-Lebanese ancestries also make up sizeable groups.


Religion Percentage Number
Catholic 59.87% 1,422,084
Protestant 25.06% 595,244
No religion 8.02% 190,414
Spiritist 4.07% 96,639

Source: IBGE 2010.[23]

Human development

Savassi is a developed neighbourhood in Belo Horizonte

The human development of Belo Horizonte varies greatly by locality, reflecting the city's spatial social inequality and vast socioeconomic inequalities. There are neighborhoods that had very high human development indexes in 2000 (equal to or greater than the indexes of some Scandinavian countries), but those in the lower range (in line with, for example, North Africa).[24] Carmo/Sion (0.973): greater than Iceland - 0.968; Cruzeiro/Anchieta/Funcionários (0.970): greater than Iceland - 0.968; Grajau/Gutierrez (0.965): greater than Australia - 0.962; Belvedere/Mangabeiras/Comiteco (0.964): greater than Australia – 0.962; Serra/São Lucas (0.953): equal to Japan, Netherlands – 0.953.

In 1993, under mayor Patrus Ananias de Souza, the city started a series of innovations based on its citizens having the "right to food". These include, for example, creating farmers' markets in the town to enable direct sales and regularly surveying market prices and posting the results across the city.[25] The city's process of participatory budgeting was linked with these innovations, as a result of which the infant mortality rate was reduced by 50% in a decade.[26][27] There is some evidence that these programs have helped support a higher quality of life for the local farmers partnering with the city and that this may be having positive effects on biodiversity in the Atlantic rainforest around the city.[27][28] The city's development of these policies garnered the first "Future Policy Award" in 2009, awarded by the World Future Council, a group of 50 activists (including Frances Moore Lappé, Vandana Shiva, Wes Jackson, and Youssou N'Dour[29]) concerned with the development and recognition of policies to promote a just and sustainable future.

The city has undertaken an internationally heralded project called Vila Viva ("Living Village" in Portuguese) that promises to "urbanize" the poorest areas (favelas), relocating families from areas with high risk of floods and landslides but keeping them in the same neighborhood, paving main avenues to allow public transportation, police and postal service to have access. All the work is done with 80% of locals, reducing unemployment and increasing family income.[30][31] Former mayor Fernando da Mata Pimentel was nominated for World Mayor in 2005 on the strength of these and other programs.[30]


Afonso Pena Avenue

Belo Horizonte receives large numbers of visitors, as it is in the Brazilian main economic axis, exerting influence even on other states. Multinational and Brazilian companies, such as Google and Oi, maintain offices in the city. The service sector plays a very important role in the economy of Belo Horizonte, being responsible for 85% of the city's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with other industry making up most of the remaining 15%. Belo Horizonte has a developed industrial sector, being traditionally a hub of the Brazilian siderurgical and metallurgical industries, as the state of Minas Gerais has always been very rich in minerals, specifically iron ore.

Belo Horizonte is the distribution and processing centre of a rich agricultural and mining region and the nucleus of a burgeoning industrial complex. Production is centred on steel, steel products, automobiles, and textiles. Gold, manganese, and gemstones mined in the surrounding region are processed in the city.[32] The main industrial district of the city was set during the 1940s in Contagem, a part of greater Belo Horizonte. Multinational companies like FIAT (which opened its plant in Betim in 1974), Arcelor, and Toshiba have subsidiaries in the region, along with textiles like Group Rachelle Textil, Ematex and Cedro Textil, cosmetic, food, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, furnishing and refractory companies. Among the companies headquartered in the city are steel producer Açominas (held by Gerdau, one of the largest multinationals originated in Brazil); Usiminas; Belgo-Mineira (held by Arcelor); Acesita (partially held by Arcelor); mobile communication Vivo; and Telecom Italia Mobile, Dasein executive search, executive coaching company, as well as the NYSE-listed electrical company CEMIG. Leading steel product makers Sumitomo Metals of Japan and Vallourec of France also have plans to construct an integrated steel works on the outskirts of the city.

Headquarters of Usiminas in Pedro Melo Square
Business district of the city

There are also a large number of small enterprises in the technology sector with regional to nationwide success, particularly in the fields of computing and biotechnology. Because of both governmental and private funding in the diversification of its economy, the city has become an international reference in Information Technology and Biotechnology, and is also cited because of the advanced corporate and university research in Biodiesel fuel. The number of jobs in the Information sector has been growing at annual rates above 50%. The Belo Horizonte Metropolitan Area, composed of 33 cities under the capital's direct influence, is home to 16% of the country's biotechnology companies, with annual sales of over R$550 million.[33]

Projects in these fields are likely to expand because of integration between universities, the oil company Petrobras and the Brazilian Government. One of the largest events that ever took place in the city, the Inter-American Development Bank meeting, occurred in 2005 and attracted people from all over the world.

For a long time it was marked by the predominance of its industrial sector, but from the 1990s there has been a constant expansion of the service sector economy, particularly in computer science, biotechnology, business tourism, fashion and the jewelry-making. The city is considered to be a strategic leader in the Brazilian economy. The move towards business tourism transformed the capital into a national hub for this segment of the tourist industry.