If you ever go to Belo Horizonte, one of the places that you must visit is the Mercado Central. Belo Horizonte’s primary market is the best place to buy every typical Brazilian food, and all the fantastic food Minas Gerais is famous for.
But the place is more than just a market. There are bars, restaurants, and everything you might need to have an authentic experience like a local.
Unlike most European markets, Mercado Central is relatively new, almost 90 years old, as of 2015. But this is normal in Belo Horizonte, a city inaugurated in 1897 as Cidade de Minas. Mercado Municipal de Belo Horizonte was created in september 1929 by Belo Horizonte’s mayor Cristiano Machado.
Initially, it wasn’t more than a field with simple tents, and its focus was mainly on food distribution. And you can see how Mercado Central used to look in the picture below.
Everything started to change in the sixties when the city decided to sell the place. Then, the name changed to Mercado Central, and the warehouse where the stores could be found was built. Half a century later, everything is pretty much the same.
What to do in Mercado Central
Today, a visit to Mercado Central combines religion, popular culture, and tradition. There, you can find almost anything. If you are hungry, you can order the fabulous regional cuisine in any restaurant there. If you feel like watching people go by while having a beer, you will have the time of your life at Mercado Central.
At Mercado Central, you can see how superstitious beliefs and religion shape Brazilian culture. Just walk around and see the stores selling candles and herbs, from saints to incense.
From the local handicrafts to flowers, from fruits to toys and clothes. My father always told me that the best way to learn about the culture of a new place is to see where people buy their food, and there is nothing like Mercado Central anywhere else. This is the place to go if you want to see what Belo Horizonte is.
I can say that without any problem because I was born in Belo Horizonte, and I used to call this city my home until 2006 when I moved to São Paulo. Growing up in Belo Horizonte meant I spent most of my Sunday morning walking around the hallways with my family, going through our weekly grocery shopping.
During my teenage years, I started seeing the place differently. My grandmother and grandfather lived a block away from this place, and I used to have lunch with them almost every week there. We shared some beers and stories and kept returning for more. And more.
Everybody in Belo Horizonte remembers this place, which is why there aren’t as many places as local as this one. You know where to start if you are looking for a real Belo Horizonte experience.
This is why Mercado Central is one of my favorite places
This is the place to buy local food from Minas Gerais. From all the different types of cheese to the Brazilian spices. From the local cachaças to the fantastic sweets. If you go there and forget to try a local Fígado com Jiló, you will regret it for the rest of your life. Trust me on this one.
Mercado Central can be found in a vast warehouse in the middle of Belo Horizonte. Take a taxi anywhere in Belo Horizonte and tell the driver to take you to Mercado Central; everybody knows where it is.
Exploring Belo Horizonte: Unveiling the Charms of Mercado Central
Avenida Augusto De Lima, 744