The stunning colonial town of Ouro Preto in the highlands of Brazil is renowned for its well preserved colonial architecture and art. This old gold mining town is now a World Heritage site with outstanding baroque architecture, offering interesting museums, old churches and lovely views. Ouro Preto is also a lively university town that has been home to many famous Brazilian artists.
Old mining center of Ouro Preto, or Vila Rica do Ouro Preto, as the long name of the town goes, is located in the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil. The town is nestled in scenic Serra do Espinhaço Mountains and is one of the best preserved historic towns in Brazil. Founded in the late 1600s, Ouro Preto became the center of a gold rush in the 1700s, and although major gold deposits have already ran out a long time ago, the town still hosts important mining industry. Ouro Preto was also the former capital city of Minas Gerais and the starting point of the first rebellion of Brazilians against the colonial rule of Portugal. Today, Ouro Preto is one of the most popular travel destinations in Brazil, attracting visitors with its charming colonial architecture.
Sights and activities in Ouro Preto: colonial architecture, art, mines & museums
Ouro Preto is best known for its outstanding colonial architecture that has been carefully preserved here unlike in many other parts of Brazil. The old city center is located around the Praça Tiradentes square, and most museums, hotels, shops and restaurants are situated there. The main attractions in Ouro Preto include the impressive historical museums of Museu da Inconfidência and Casa dos Contos, and the museum of mineralogy within the school of mines. The many historical churches of Ouro Preto from the 18th century that are decorated with gold include Igreja da Nossa Senhora do Carmo on the central square and the rococo style Igreja de São Francisco de Assis.
Colonial churches in Ouro Preto include beautiful sculptures and murals by the local artists Aleijadinho and Manuel da Costa Ataíde. In colonial times, the town even developed an own distinctive art style of baroque, called barroco mineiro, represented by many artists such as Aleijandinho, Mestre Athayde and Lobo de Mesquita family. Ouro Preto also hosts several annual festivals. Since mining is an important part of the town’s history, there are several mines that you can visit in Ouro Preto. These include Mina da Passagem, the world’s largest mine open to public, Mina do Chico Rei in the city center, and Mina Velha, the oldest mine in Ouro Preto. Besides visiting mines and historic & cultural sights, you can also admire the scenery from the town’s lookout point or visit the nearby waterfalls or the other nearby colonial mining towns of Tiradentes, Mariana and Diamantina.
Ouro Preto travel information and practical tips
Ouro Preto enjoys a tropical climate with relatively constant temperatures throughout the year.
The occasional rainfall is concentrated in the summer season between October and March. As Ouro Preto is located in an elevation of over 1,100 m above sea level, the winter months from May to September can have relatively cold temperatures at night, especially in June and July.
How to get there. As the town does not have an airport,travelling to Ouro Preto is done by road. There are regular buses to Ouro Preto from the state capital Belo Horizonte 100 km away that hosts the nearest large airport. Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are also possible gateways to Ouro Preto, but the distances to these cities are already quite big.
Local transportation. Walking is the most convenient way to get around in Ouro Preto. Taxis are also available, and car rental in Ouro Preto is possible for visits in the surrounding region. Cars can also be rented in Belo Horizonte.
Accommodation in Ouro Preto is available in all price ranges, as there is a large number of local lodges and hotels in Ouro Preto. Numerous restaurants in Ouro Preto serve both Brazilian and international dishes. Bars are available for nightlife. English is not commonly spoken in Ouro Preto, so learning a few phrases of Portuguese will certainly be helpful.
Safety & restrictions. As Ouro Preto is a small town, it is also a rather safe destination compared to the big cities of Brazil. However, some petty crime exists also here, so take care of your belongings and do not venture out of the town center by yourself in areas you do not know. Note that filming or taking photographs is not allowed inside the museums and churches in Ouro Preto.