Belo Horizonte (which translates as “Beautiful Horizon” in Portuguese) is the capital city of the state of Minas Gerais, located in the southeastern region of Brazil. Brazilians commonly refer to the city as “Beagá”, the sound of its initials “BH” in Portuguese.
Being an important economic, cultural and political center of Brazil, there was no doubt that Belo Horizonte would be appointed as one of the host cities of the World Cup 2014. The city had already staged matches of the World Cup 1950; it was in Belo Horizonte that England lost the Historic match against the United States team.
The stadium where that match took place no longer exists. Mineirão was built after 1950, and will be entirely overhauled to stage matches in 2014; being one of the largest stadiums in Brazil (as Belo Horizonte is seat of two major Brazilian clubs, Cruzeiro and Atletico Mineiro), chances are that important matches (such as the opening match or semifinal matches) be staged in Mineirão.
Belo Horizonte is the third-largest metropolitan area in the country (the two largest ones are Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro); the population is over 2.4 million, or almost 5.4 million in the official Metropolitan Area.
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, in order to replace Ouro Preto as the capital of Minas Gerais.
The city features a mixture of contemporary and classical buildings, and hosts 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. The city has employed notable programs in urban revitalization and food security, for which is has been awarded international recognition .
The city is built on several hills and completely surrounded by mountains. There are several large parks in the immediate surroundings of Belo Horizonte. The “Parque das Mangabeiras”, located six kilometres south-east from the city centre in the hills of the Serra do Curral, affords a view over the city. The “Mata do Jambeiro” nature reserve extends over 912 hectares (2,250 acres), with vegetation typical of the Atlantic forest.
Recently, the New York Times appointed the city as the Bar Capital of Brazil; Belo Horizonte gained fame across Brazil for its busy nightlife, with many bars and discoes.