Brazil // Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo //

Arrival, information and orientation

The centre of town is fifteen minutes’ walk southwest from the rodoviária, or you can take a local bus in. Local buses enter the old part of town along Avenida Tancredo Neves, with its small stream and grassy verges to your left. There’s a tourist office (daily 8am–5pm; t 32/3372-738), across from the Catedral, where you can pick up a tourist booklet with a helpful map.

São João is divided into two main districts, each with a colonial area, separated by a small stream – the Córrego do Lenheiro – which runs between the broad Avenida Tancredo Neves, on the north side, and Avenida Hermílio Alves, which turns into Avenida Eduardo Magalhães, to the south. Relatively small and easy to find your way around, the districts are linked by a number of small bridges, including two eighteenth-century stone ones and a late nineteenth-century footbridge made of cast iron.

On the south side, the colonial zone is clustered around the beautiful Igreja de São Francisco de Assis, at the far western end of town. On the other side is the commercial centre, usually bustling with people, cars and the horse-drawn trailers of rural Minas. This commercial zone sprang up in the nineteenth century and shields the colonial area proper, several blocks of cobbled streets that jumble together Baroque churches, elegant mansions and the pastel fronts of humbler houses. For once you have the luxury of wandering around without losing your breath, as São João is largely flat.

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