Where to Find the Most Beautiful Buildings in Ouro Preto, Brazil

Intricate architecture is one of the main reasons Ouro Preto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Intricate architecture is one of the main reasons Ouro Preto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site | © daialopes / Pixabay
Sarah Brown

From colonial facades to intricate baroque structures, Ouro Preto is an architectural wonder and was named the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Brazil, thanks to its dazzling edifices. You just need to peep around the corner to discover yet another street lined with picture-perfect buildings. Here are Ouro Preto’s most beautiful buildings to keep an eye out for.

1. Museu da Inconfidência


The Museu da Inconfidência (Inconfidence Museum) is set inside a well-preserved former jail built between 1784 and 1854, with pale stone walls and arched windows sitting against a painted white facade. It’s one of Ouro Preto’s best examples of civil colonial architecture. Today, the museum that is housed here pays homage to the people who died during the unsuccessful revolution of 1789 that fought for independence from Portugal.

2. Igreja da Nossa Senhora do Carmo


The Nossa Senhora do Carmo church in Ouro Preto
© Bibiana dos Santos Barbará / WikiCommons

Built in 1766, the Igreja da Nossa Senhora do Carmo is the work of Manuel Francisco Lisboa, the father of Aleijadinho, one of Brazil’s greatest artists and architects. The ample churchyard completely surrounds the rococo-style church and connects the edifice to the famous Praca Tiradentes square. A grand staircase leads to the entrance, which also serves as a viewpoint that captures both the Basilica Nossa Senhora do Pilar and the backdrop of the Ouro Preto mountain range. Aleijadinho designed the lateral altars and the front facade, and the gilding of the other altars was created by Manuel da Costa Ataide, a well-known Brazilian painter. It’s the only church in Minas Gerais that uses original Portuguese tiles in the main chapel.

3. Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora da Conceição


The Igreja Nossa Senhora da Conceição church in Ouro Preto
© Josue Marinho / WikiCommons

The Matriz de Nossa Senhora da Conceição is considered one of the best examples of baroque-period architecture in Brazil. Built at the end of the 17th century, the church was only completed at the beginning of the 18th century, by Manuel Francisco Lisboa. The church is located between two main squares in Ouro Preto, Praça Barão de Queluz and Praça Antonio Dias, and is also the final resting ground of both Manuel Francisco Lisboa and his son, Aleijadinho.

4. Teatro Municipal de Ouro Preto


The Municipal Theater in Ouro Preto
© Oliveco / WikiCommons

Constructed in 1769 by João de Souza Lisboa, the Municipal Theater of Ouro Preto opened just one year later in 1770, and is one of the oldest in the Americas. It was also the first in Brazil to allow women on the stage. While the outside of the theater is somewhat ordinary, the inside is a well-preserved reminder of its colonial past. The theater has regular shows, including operas and orchestras.

5. Church of Saint Francis of Assisi


top attractions Ouro Preto Brazil
© Mariahaversa / WikiCommons

One of the most famous pieces of architecture in Ouro Preto, the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi stands as an extraordinary testament to the talent and artistic flair of Aleijadinho, who designed and built this church in 1768. The inside of the church is just as striking as the outside, with gilded woodwork and intricately carved religious figures, also made by Aleijadinho. The wooden ceiling is breathtaking: a monumental, handpainted mural designed and produced by Manual da Costa Ataide, which is regarded as his defining masterpiece.

6. Basílica Nossa Senhora do Pilar


Located in the historical center of Ouro Preto, the Basílica Nossa Senhora do Pilar is a stunning Catholic church and one of the best known in the city. The church was built at the end of the 17th century and is one of the few that remains in immaculate condition, especially the interior, where visitors can find gold-plated decorations and hand-carved religious figurines.

7. Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosário


The Nossa Senhora do Rosário church in Ouro Preto
© Adam Jones / Flickr

This pretty church stands out from the rest given its unusual facade, as it’s the only church in Ouro Preto with a curved front wall and oval-shaped arches, reflecting the typical style of churches found in northern Europe. The rest of the churches in Ouro Preto are influenced by the design from the colonial period. Nossa Senhora do Rosário church was built in 1709 and later reconstructed in 1785.

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