At a point during the 18th century, no place in the Americas was as rich as Minas Gerais. The name of the state, which literally means "general mines," gives away that the region experienced a rush for gold and diamonds. The wealth of the time remains imprinted in the city's lavish colonial architecture and magnificent churches, sometimes decorated with pure gold.
The city remains relevant in contemporary times as a center for education and the arts, and is one of Brazil’s most visited tourist destinations. The local population is also reason enough to go there. Mineiros, as they are known, are famous for their hospitality and love of a good chat.
Don't be surprised if someone invites you to have a cup of coffee (or cafezinho) after having just met you. If you accept the invitation, know that your host will offer plenty of delicacies - from the world-famous "pao de queijo" to the local favorite "doce de leite" (dulce de leche). For people from Minas Gerais, a full belly is the beginning of happiness!
Its streets are narrow and crooked and vehicles are not allowed within the limits of the old city. The cobblestone-paved ways will take you to the 23 churches spread out in a spectacular landscape, filled with hills and exuberant nature. Inside these temples, you'll find stunning pieces of craftsmanship and artistry, with wood-carved pieces and even leaves of gold adorning the walls. At the Our Lady do Pilar Church, 400 kilograms of gold were used to decorate the interior.
Ouro Preto is an open-air gallery, with numerous works of art in the baroque style. The master of the city was the late sculptor Antonio Francisco Lisboa, better known as Aleijadinho, one of the most important artists in Brazilian history.
His magnificent work is featured in his own museum, dedicated to preserving and exhibiting objects of sacred art. The city's baroque legacy is so important (and fascinating) that in 1980 it was considered a world heritage site by UNESCO, being the first Brazilian city to achieve such status.
An important piece of history
The city has mansions, fountains, ruins, terraced gardens, and towers that are a reminder of how the city was in the past, a history which is very much alive here. Ouro Preto was home to Tiradentes, an independentist leader that guaranteed his spot in Brazilian history for his desire of a free country.
The Inconfidence Museum (a reference to the name of the movement Tiradentes led) tells this story. The building was a prison during colonial times. Tiradentes also lends his name to the main square, where both tourists and locals mingle and have a good time.
Let yourself be transported back to a Brazil of yore in Ouro Preto, one of the most beautiful cities in Brazil - and in the world.