Ouro Preto: Step Into a Time Warp at Brazil's First World Heritage Site
(Photo: Rafael Estrella/Flickr)
Last week during our World Cup tour, we toured one of the places Brazilians like to go on vacation: Ouro Preto, an adorable old mining town largely preserved since its heyday in the 17th to 19th centuries. Now designated a UNESCO World Heritage site (Brazil’s first), the town is full of old Baroque churches, touristy shops, and tile-roofed houses that blanket all but the very steepest of hillsides.
Tucked into the mountains about 300 miles north of Rio de Janeiro, Ouro Preto (“black gold”) was the capital of Minas Gerais state until the environs were deemed too hilly and the capital moved to Belo Horizonte in 1897.
(Photo: Tony Galvez/Flickr)
It’s easy to see the highlights in a day, although you could also easily spend a week looking into Ouro Preto’s churches, wandering through parks, and perusing impressive museum collections.
At this elevation, temperatures are a bit cooler and the light is clean and beautiful. This makes it a welcome break from larger cities. But the biggest reason to go is the churches, more than 20 in all.
Turrets rising above the city’s red-tiled roofs guided us to gorgeous edifices dating back to the early 1700s, when Brazil was still a Portuguese colony and this area was the center of a major gold rush. By about 1750, the city had 100,000 people, more than New York City.
A relatively quick circuit of the town’s cobbled streets took us to the churches of São Francisco de Paula, de São José, do Rosário, do Pilar and do Carmo before we hit the main square and São Francisco de Assis.
A festive view of the São Francisco de Assis Church (Photo: Grito Rock/Flickr)