Ouro Preto is a Brazilian city in the state of Minas Gerais, founded during the eighteenth-century gold rush. Its official name is “Black Gold”, formerly Vila Rica, “Rich Tow”; and was once a major gold mining center for the Portuguese empire. An important tourism destination in Brazil, Ouro Preto has been included in the New 7 Wonders Cities list and hosts dozens of historical monuments and buildings preserved from its 18th-century colonial past. The city was the stage of some historical moments, such as the Inconfidência Mineira Revolution.
It is a land full of history and folklore told by its people through legends, stories, and songs. It was once a major gold mining center for the Portuguese empire between the late 18th century and early 19th century. This is why it has been one of Brazil’s first colonial cities. Furthermore, Ouro Preto still maintains many historical monuments from this golden age which makes it an attractive tourist destination domestically as well as internationally. In fact, the entire region has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980.
The city’s architecture is very diverse due to its long history and changes throughout Brazilian history. The most popular style seen in the city is 18th-century colonial architecture. This style is characterized by its heavy use of Baroque elements, like curves and scrolls.
It is also marked by the influence of Brazilian Baroque, which was brought to Brazil during Portuguese rule and greatly developed in its territory. Examples include the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi and São Francisco church, both paid by gold and diamonds mined in the city.
How to Explore Ouro Preto
One way to explore this city is by taking a walk along its old streets where you’ll find a mix of baroque churches, palaces, and mansions decorated with colorful tiles. These buildings are not only interesting to admire but you’ll also find many shops where you can buy some souvenirs to remember your visit. Therefore, make sure to wear comfortable shoes since you’ll be walking on rubble and cobblestones most of the time.
The churches of Ouro Preto are certainly worth a visit if you ask any local citizen because they preserve invaluable paintings, sculptures, and furniture that were brought into the city during its golden age.
It is important to take notice of some special features while exploring this old quarter like “azulejos” (a sort of Portuguese tiles) which are commonly used in churches; red bricks with white lines resembling Moorish influences; wells conserved inside private homes or public squares; or even the golden-colored metal that was used to build these monuments.
Going back to the city’s religious tradition, we can’t forget about its many churches such as Nossa Senhora do Carmo (Our Lady of Mount Carmel) – just off Tiradentes Plaza, next to the Inconfidência Museum, Nossa Senhora do Rosário (Our Lady of the Rosary), among many others.
The city of Ouro Preto also has many museums that are worth a visit such as Museu da Inconfidência – In the former municipal palace on Tiradentes Plaza, traces the Inconfidencia independence movement, Casa Dos Contos – Historical museum, etc.
Also, the city has a number of former gold mines for visitors to see. The Chico Rei Mine, near the Nossa Senhora da Conceição sanctuary, is one of the most well-known. The Passagem Mine, located in Mariana Town, near Ouro Preto, is another notorious mining location. Portugal granted the United Kingdom sole usage of this mine for 100 years to pay off state obligations in the early 19th century. It is the largest remaining mine for visitation in the world and has about 30 kilometers of tunnels with crystal-clear aquifers below.
More info: Historic Town of Ouro Preto
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Some of the most popular tourist destinations of Ouro Preto: