In the southeast of Brazil, there is a big state called Minas Gerais, which means “general mines.” No doubt this name brings its main characteristic: the abundance of minerals. So, we cannot talk about Minas Gerais without talking about its mining activity and its centenary history, which leads us to a city called Ouro Preto. But what is it that makes it so unique?
Ouro Preto can be translated as “black gold,” and it was one of the cities where Portugal extracted most of their gold during the colonization. Around three thousand tons of gold were obtained from the region of Ouro Preto and transported along a path called “Estrada Real,” translated as “royal road,” until the ports of Rio de Janeiro.
So, what should you expect when visiting Ouro Preto? To see a historical city where every little detail brings back the memories of a prosperous place. Nowadays, the town still fascinates a lot of people with its pleasant weather, its baroque architecture and its beautiful sights!
As Minas Gerais is popularly known as “Serra das Alterosas,” which means there are a lot of mountains, Ouro Preto is surrounded by a mountain range called Serra do Espinhaço, and it is very near to one of its tops, Pico do Itacolomi. Some adventurers climb its 1.772 m height to enjoy the view while others prefer to enjoy the city... Either way, do not forget to bring comfortable shoes!
The best place to start a stroll is from Praça Tiradentes, the main square in the city, where you will see the Museu da Inconfidência (a museum dedicated to the separatist movement that culminated with the assassination of one of its leaders, Tiradentes) and the Museu de Ciência e Técnica da Escola de Minas, a museum where once was the old Faculty of Mining Engineering. As the history of Ouro Preto is deeply marked by the exploration of gold, visiting this museum is an excellent opportunity to learn about mineral resources and their importance to the local economy and culture. The tickets to the first one cost R$10 (2.5€), while the second one is free. Both museums are open from Tuesday to Sunday.
From Praça Tiradentes you can walk to almost any place in the historical center. I recommend you visit a few churches; their baroque architecture becomes even more unique when you see how shining their inside is. The majority of them are decorated with pure gold, which means most of the time, you will not be allowed to take pictures, but no doubt you will have long-lasting memories!
Apart from churches, like Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo and Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos, you cannot miss visiting the Basílica de Nossa Senhora do Pilar. It is considered the second richest church in Brazil, since it is filled with 450 kilos of gold! The baroque style is very expressive, with different colors, textures, and expressions in each sculpture. The tickets also cost R$10 (2.5€), so it is not much, and it is totally worth the visit.
There are a lot more places to visit and programs that attract tourists, like the Mostra de Cinema de Ouro Preto. It takes place in June when it is winter in the southern hemisphere and gathers filmmakers from all over the country. It is undoubtedly the best time to visit the city!
To finish off your visit to Ouro Preto, make sure to stop in the local boutiques and restaurants, so you can see how welcoming people can be and taste our “pão de queijo”. It is a snack made of cheese that is the best of my state; it is almost like you could hear it saying "thanks for visiting Minas Gerais." I am sure it will fascinate you!
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