Ouro Preto

Ouro Preto, in the state of Minas Gerais, is one of Brazil's best-preserved colonial towns and a UNESCO world heritage site. Among other historical and colonial cities of Minas Gerais (Tiradentes, São João del Rei, Mariana and Diamantina), Ouro Preto is one of the most popular travel destinations in Brazil.


Ouro Preto, meaning "black gold", was founded in 1698 and quickly became the epicenter of a new gold rush, as the central place where gold was brought to be measured and sold. In 1720 the state capital transferred here from nearby Mariana, and by 1750 Ouro Preto's population had swelled to over 110,000, making it one of the largest cities in the Americas; at the time it had twice as many inhabitants as New York City and five times more than Rio de Janeiro. The city's success inspired the naming of many other cities and neighborhoods, including the founding of the American city of Brazil, Indiana.


Many of Ouro Preto's famous structures bear the mark of Antônio Francisco Lisbôa (1738-1810), one of Brazil's most highly-regarded artists. Known as Aleijadinho, or "little cripple" because of the debilitating disease he had (possibly leprosy), he was a master of high baroque style and imparted uniquely dramatic effects to his work. He was so active as a painter, sculptor, and architect that it is impossible to visit the area without seeing his work. Legend has it that as Aleijadinho's condition worsened, he lost his fingers but continued his work by strapping tools to his stumps, and when he lost the use of his legs he had assistants carry him to work sites. He eventually went blind from the illness.

As a result of the gold trade, the town, then known as Vila Rica, took a significant place in Brazilian history, being the site of the Inconfidência Mineira, the first attempted uprising in the cause of independence from Portuguese colonial rule. The revolt was led by Brazilian cultural hero Tiradentes in 1789 after he realized how much of the region's gold was going straight onto boats bound for Portugal. The revolt failed however, and after Tiradentes was tried and executed, he was dismembered and various body parts were displayed along the road between Ouro Preto and Rio de Janeiro to discourage his followers. His head was placed in what is now known as Praça Tiradentes, at the very center of town.

In 1822, Brazil finally gained its independence, and the following year Ouro Preto was given the title of "Imperial City" by Brazil's first emperor, Dom Pedro I. In 1839, South America's first pharmacy school was established here, and in 1876, Dom Pedro II founded the School of Minas, which was originally focused on mining and metallurgy but which has now become one of the country's premier engineering schools.

By the end of the 19th century, the gold had run out, growth had slowed to a halt. The population plummeted when the capital was moved to the newly founded Belo Horizonte in 1897. Lack of new construction provided for the preservation of the colonial architecture, and Ouro Preto was forgotten in time until Dictator Getúlio Vargas began having some sites restored in the 1950s. Since then it has gradually become more of a tourist destination as one of the best-preserved colonial cities in Brazil. It is particularly noted for its churches, which are special not only for their architecture but also for the carved sculptures by Aleijadinho, one of Brazil's most celebrated artists. Ouro Preto was the first Brazilian location to be declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1980.

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°C) 28.2 28.5 28.5 27.1 25.5 24.5 24.7 25.9 26.8 27.4 27.5 27.3
Nightly lows (°C) 17.6 17.7 16.8 15.0 12.3 10.2 9.8 11.1 13.8 16.0 16.8 17.2
Precipitation (mm) 252.0 184.8 155.5 69.2 27.7 12.3 10.3 11.8 48.7 123.7 202.6 305.8

Source:w:Ouro Preto#Climate


Get in

Ouro Preto

Ouro Preto is about 100 kilometers from Belo Horizonte, 400 km from Rio de Janeiro, and 680 kilometers from São Paulo.

By plane

The nearest convenient airports are those of Belo Horizonte, especially that of Confins. From there, you must get to Ouro Preto by car or bus.

By car

By bus

Buses arrive at the rodoviária on the northwestern edge of town. It is an easy downhill walk into the historic center.

Get around

The streets are steep - keep those Havaianas in your luggage.

On foot

The town's small size and steep hills make walking the most convenient way of getting around the city center. Bring some good shoes and be prepared to huff and puff a bit, as the streets are cobbled and you will spend the day walking up and down steep hills. Travellers with impaired mobility may have a hard time getting around.

By bus

City buses run to neighborhoods outside of the city center, as well as to neighboring towns like Mariana.


Inside the Opera House

Before diving into Ouro Preto´s history, the traveller must be aware that filming or taking picture inside museums and churches is not allowed.

  • Casa Bandeirista da Fazenda São José do Manso - This preserved colonial ranchhouse was the first public building in the state.
  • Museu do Chá (Tea Museum)


Museu da Inconfidência


Matriz de Nossa Senhora da Conceição
Igreja de São Francisco de Assis


Chico Rei

Another of Ouro Preto's legendary characters is known as Chico Rei, or "King Chico". According to local lore, he was an African king captured and forced into slavery. He was brought to Ouro Preto and forced to work in a gold mine which now bears his name. The story goes that he secretly stashed small pieces of gold in his hair and eventually saved up enough to buy not only his freedom but also the mine itself. He then used the profits from the mine to purchase the freedom of all the slaves working the mine. He is also supposed to have used the mine's gold to both fund and decorate the Igreja Santa Efigênia, the church which became the most important for slaves and their descendants.










from the period. TV, phone, and on-site restaurant.


Go next

Maria Fumaça
  • Maria Fumaça - Construction of this railway, a part of the Trem do Vale began in 1883 when the gold was still flowing into the city, but by the time its run to the other terminus in Mariana was completed in 1914, the gold had run dry. Restored in 2006, the steam locomotive now provides a delightful way to take a daytrip to see Mariana's historic sights. Specially-designed panoramic passenger cars allow for beautiful views of the valley.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, August 03, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.