If you ever go to Belo Horizonte, one of the places that you must visit is the Mercado Central. Belo Horizonte’s main market and the best place to buy every typical Brazilian food and, also, 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 a real experience like a local.
Unlike most of the European markets, Mercado Central is quite new with almost 90 years old, as of 2015. But this is something 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. In the beginning, 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 like on the picture below.
Everything started to change in the sixties when the city decided to sell the place. It was then that the name changed to Mercado Central and the warehouse where the stores can be found was built. Half a century later and everything is pretty much the same.
What to do in Mercado Central
Today, a trip to Mercado Central is a mixture of religion, popular culture, and tradition. There, you can find almost anything. If you are hungry, you can order the fabulous regional cuisine in any of the restaurants there. If you feel like watching people go by while having a beer, you are going to have the time of your life at Mercado Central.
At Mercado Central, you can see how superstitious and religion shape the Brazilian culture. Just walk around and you are going to see the stores selling from candles to herbs, from saints to incense.
From the local handcraft 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. If you want to see what is Belo Horizonte, this is the place to go.
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 that 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 in a different way. My grandmother and my grandfather lived a block away from Mercado Central and i used to have lunch with them almost every week there. We shared some beers and some stories and we kept coming back for more. And more.
When Marcela went to Belo Horizonte for the first time, I had to bring her to Mercado Central. Everybody in Belo Horizonte has a memory of this place and this is why there isn’t that many places as local as this one. If you are looking for a real Belo Horizonte experience, you know where to start.
This is why Mercado Central is one of my favourite places
Mercado Central de Belo Horizonte
Mercado Central can be found in a huge warehouse in the middle of Belo Horizonte. Take a taxi anywhere in Belo Horizonte and tell the driver to bring you to Mercado Central, everybody knows where it is. If you need the address, here it is: Avenida Augusto De Lima, 744.
Mercado Central in Belo Horizonte 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 amazing sweets. If you go to Mercado Central and forget to try a local Fígado com Jiló, you will regret it for the rest of your life. Trust me on this one.