A colonial town in Minas Gerais, Ouro Preto is known for its baroque facades, intricately-designed churches, and winding, cobbled streets. Its incredible architecture turned Ouro Preto into Brazil’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its picturesque streets are filled with hidden gems and attractions to explore. Here are some of the top, must-visit attractions in Ouro Preto, Brazil.
Art Museum, History Museum
Opened in 1987, the Museu Casa Guignard pays tribute to Alberto da Veiga Guignard, one of Brazil’s best painters and designers from the 20th century. The museum guides visitors through a timeline starting from Guignard’s birth until his death with a display that celebrates both his artistic masterpieces and his personal life. There are three rooms in the museum with permanent exhibitions and his paintings capture his passion and love for Brazil’s landscapes, especially Ouro Preto.
Basílica Nossa Senhora do Pilar
One of the best-known churches in Ouro Preto, the Basílica Nossa Senhora do Pilar is a Catholic church in the historical center of the city. Its construction started at the end of the 17th century and today remains in pristine condition, with a gold-plated interior and intricately carved religious figures inside. In order to protect the delicate artistic carvings inside – some which are centuries old – photos are prohibited of the church’s interior.
Museu da Farmácia
As part of the School of Pharmacy which is integrated into the Federal University of Ouro Preto, the Museum of Pharmacy is dedicated to the studies and professional practice of pharmacy and medicine between the 19th and 20th centuries in Ouro Preto. The displays include a preserved archive of notes (some local, some from Europe), equipment, and different types of medicine and drugs dating back to the 18th-century.
Itacolomi State Park
Just on the outskirts of Ouro Preto is Itacolomi, a state park made up of mountainous landscapes and with natural attractions such as a picturesque waterfall and a lake that is safe to swim in. The park is popular among hikers who can enjoy the dozens of different paths in the park, including the trek up the Itacolomi peak – one of the highest points in the region – which provides wide views over Minas Gerais. The park also has a visitor center and a restaurant, although if you go hiking, it’s still advisable to take water and snacks with you.
Mine du Veloso
The Mine du Veloso is a former gold mine with 400 meters (1,312 feet) of underground chamber supported by pillars. A guide takes visitors through the mine, describing the history of Brazil’s search for gold and the various techniques employed by the enslaved Africans that worked there, as well as discussing the day-to-day life and customs of the miners. The tour is available in Portuguese and English.
Church of Saint Francis of Assisi
Designed by Aleijadinho – one of Brazil’s greatest baroque artists and sculptors – and constructed in 1768, the perfectly preserved Church of Francis of Assis is one of Ouro Preto’s most famous architectural landmarks. The inside of the church is richly decorated with golden woodwork and intricate religious figures (also carved by Aleijadinho), and the wooden ceiling displays the art of Manuel da Costa Ataide:, a giant, hand-painted mural that took nine years to paint and is considered Ataide’s best masterpieces.
Museu do Oratório
Art Museum, History Museum
The Museu do Oratório – the Oratory Museum – has a large collection of oratories, religious figurines, intricate altars, and shrines that date back between the 17th and 20th centuries. The museum is set inside the Casa do Noviciado, a three-storey reformed mansion, where the baroque architect and artist Aleijadinho temporarily lived while working on the nearby Igreja Nossa Senhora do Carmo church.
Teatro Municipal de Ouro Preto
Constructed in 1769 by João de Souza Lisboa and opened just a year later, the Municipal Theater of Ouro Preto is one of the oldest in the Americas and supposedly the first in Brazil to allow women on the stage. The modest facade of the theater contrasts with the elegance on the inside with the balconies, the stage, and the seating preserving their colonial past. The theater has regular shows including operas and orchestras.
Casa dos Contos
The Casa dos Contos museum is set inside an 18th-century building that was once a treasury house occasionally used as a temporary prison for those involved in the Inconfidência revolution. Nowadays, the former mansion has been repurposed into a museum that guides visitors through the history of gold and money in Brazil. The museum also decorates rooms to show how they may have looked centuries ago, while in the basement there is a moving exhibition containing various slavery items.
Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora da Conceição
Located between two main squares, Praça Barão de Queluz and Praça Antonio Dias, the Matriz de Nossa Senhora da Conceição church is regarded as one of the country’s finest examples of architecture from the Barroco period. It was initially built at the end of the 17th century although a lot of the church’s design was completed at the beginning of the 18th century by Manuel Francisco Lisboa, Aleijadinho’s father. Both of their bodies are entombed there.
Museu da Inconfidência
Set inside an old municipal headquarters and Ouro Preto‘s former jail, in a building that dates back between 1784 and 1854, the Museu da Inconfidência is a Brazilian history museum and a homage to those that died during an attempted revolution in 1789. It was an unsuccessful movement that fought for Brazilian independence from Portugal and is known as the Inconfidência Mineira. The museum guides visitors through this history with main attractions including the tomb of Tiradentes (the man behind the revolution who was later hung in the gallows for his participation) and various manuscripts related to the revolt.
Art Museum, History Museum
Set inside the Matriz Nossa Senhora da Conceição church, the museum pays tribute to the architect Aleijadinho. The display features Aleijadinho’s and other 18th-century artists’ masterpieces, including religious figurines and finely-detailed crucifixes. The exhibition is spread across a further two churches, Igreja São Francisco de Assis and the Igreja Nossa Senhora das Mercês, and it’s possible to walk between the three.
Located in the center of Ouro Preto, Praça Tiradentes is the city’s main square and is named in honor of Tiradentes, a leader of an unsuccessful revolution for independence known as the Inconfidencia Mineira. The square is edged by well-preserved buildings from over 250 years ago, and the history of the area can be discovered in the Inconfidência Museum at the end of the square. There are also several boutique shops and cafes for a pleasant afternoon shopping trip and a regional lunch.
Minas de Passagem
Just outside Ouro Preto is the Minas de Passagem gold mine, which opened in 1719 and is nowadays the largest gold mine accessible to the public in the world. The tour of the mine takes visitors down the mine on an old cable car which shows the structure of the mines and explains their history and explores a part of the 30km (18.6 miles) of tunnels that make up the mine. There is also a clear, blue lake that you can swim or dive in. From Ouro Preto, you can either drive or take a train to the Minas de Passagem, and it’s doable to make it a day trip from the city and return the same evening.
Igreja de Nossa Senhora das Mercês e Perdões church
Located on top of a small hill with steps leading up to the main entrance, the Nossa Senhora das Mercês e Perdões church was completed in 1772 before being rebuilt in the mid-19th century. It’s distinguishable by its colonial yellow and white exterior and the interior is modestly decorated with an ornate altar and religious figurines.