Ouro Preto is the first UNESCO site in Brazil! Founded at the end of the 17th century as the focal point of the gold rush. During that time, expeditions were in search of minerals in the interior of Brazil, successfully so the state got its name Minas Gerais (general of mines). In 1693 gold was found in Ouro Preto and it quickly became a monopoly of the Portuguese crown, and the centre of the greatest gold rush in America to date. If you’d like to learn more of this fascinating history, I suggest heading here.
Ouro Preto was forgotten in time once the gold ran out with many of its habitants leaving town. The lack of new construction preserved its architecture, making it one of the best-preserved colonial towns in Brazil. There is over 13 churches there! Why so many? Under Portuguese rule the people were forced to hand over all their wealth to their colonial masters. The only way to bend the rule was to use the gold to build churches, allowing it to remain in the country. They built church after church, all decorated with gold.
The Igreja de São Francisco de Assis is the most famous for its baroque architecture and decor. The church took 40 years to complete and was designed by one of Brazil’s artist Aleijadinho. Our goal was trying to see it and many others during our trip, which proved to be a difficult task. The cobble stone streets all take shape of its many hills, with endless downs and ups, talk about a work out! I strongly suggest wearing comfortable shoes and taking a bottle of water with you.
In front of Igreja de São Francisco de Assis you will find an outdoor market selling many handcrafts, many museums are in close proximity too. I would highly recommend visiting one of the gold mines, a guided tour in English is available.
Where to stay:
Hotel Solar do Rosario is a beautiful colonial hotel built in 1840. Many of the rooms have a panoramic view of Nossa Senhora do Rosario Church and mountains, making it the best place to end your day! This was what I enjoyed the most during our stay there. Breakfast was fabulous, with so many cakes, pastries, fruits, omelette and even tapioca.
Where to eat:
Bene da Flauta should be on your list of restaurants to have dinner! Perfectly located in close proximity to the famous sight of Igreja de Sao Francisco de Assis. A two story colonial mansion with views of Ouro Preto’s hillside. The tables are lid by candle lights and jazz music adds to the mood, quickly transporting anyone to another era. But for me the food is what made me fall in love with this place. The menu has plenty of “comida mineira,” I suggest trying frango com quiabo and feijao tropeiro!
Villa Koa is a great spot for coffee or lunch. There is a great selection of fresh sandwiches and cakes and they even have artisanal beers.
Pictures below from Bene da Flauta
Hope you will fall in love with Ouro Preto! Check out our video too.