Highlights and main attractions of Ouro Preto

The wealthiest, most excellently preserved and grandest of all the gold towns in the Minas Gerais region, Ouro Preto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site full of charming 18th Century buildings, churches, cobbled streets and plazas that makes it one of the true colonial highlights that Brazil has to offer. 

The town is situated 513 kilometres north of Rio de Janeiro, with a population of over 70,000 and an area of about 1,245 square kilometres. Praca Tiradentes is the main square from which all roads diverge, and where many of the most important buildings are found, such as a statue of Tiradentes, the leader of the Inconfidentes movement, as well as the Escola de Minas (Mining School) which is based in the Palacio de Governadores, the most imposing building of the square.

Meaning ‘black gold’, the town was named so after the gold rush that defined it as a key centre of the gold trade, where this precious element was bought and sold.

Where is Ouro Preto?

Exploring the town

The undulating skyline of the steep town is peaked with church spires and there is no shortage of challenging hills, best explored on foot to appreciate the twists and turns of its winding streets and the countless spectacular views that seem to change wherever you are located. Whitewashed buildings with colourful borders give it a colonial edge that few other towns can match and there are no less than 23 churches and chapels to explore, some with gilt interiors that proudly reflect its history as an important gold mining centre. The city is also renowned for its many bridges and fountains which give it an even more majestic look and feel, with the mountainous background completing the picturesque setting.

Ouro Preto has other villages nearby such as Mariana and Tiradentes, which whilst smaller, also exude character and charm. Mariana just 30 minutes away, is a much smaller and flatter colonial town whose origins actually precede that of neighbouring Ouro Preto. Still a working mining centre as well as a tourist-friendly town, it gives you a different perspective to life in Minas Gerais. Make sure you visit the Praça Gomes Freire, whose palm-filled gardens are perfect for relaxing in, as well as the two historical churches that sit side-by-side in Praça Minas Gerais.

The Reserva da Ibitipoca in the Minas Gerais region is an example of a stunning boutique hideaway within a nature reserve of 3,000 hectares, from which horse riding tours, waterfalls and treks can be enjoyed.

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