In the late 19th century, as the Brazilian Republic was coming into its own, mineiros (residents of Minas Gerais state) began planning a new capital to replace hard-to-reach Ouro Preto, which, as a symbol of colonialism, had fallen out of favor. Belo Horizonte sprang up as an art nouveau city, influenced by the spirit of Ordem e Progresso (Order and Progress), the new slogan on the Brazilian flag.

In the 1940s, Belo expanded northward. Then-mayor Juscelino Kubitschek commissioned young architectural-school graduate Oscar Niemeyer to design the brand-new Pampulha district. These two men are largely responsible for the city’s wide avenues, large lakes, parks and jutting skyline.

More than 100 years after its founding, Belo Horizonte still has the young, contagious energy of a community reinventing itself. The city has undergone a major facelift in recent years, with several new museums opening in Praça da Liberdade and a slew of government agencies moving 20km north to the Cidade Administrativa, a futuristic complex designed by the centenarian Niemeyer shortly before his death in 2012.

Beagá's role as a host city for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics prompted a whole new round of infrastructure improvements, including modern high-speed bus lines, an expansion of Confins international airport, and massive remodeling of the city's venerable football stadium, Mineirão.