"Finally will be sung Villa Rica, your name stays on the memories ..."
Cláudio Manuel da Costa
Ouro Preto, which means ‘Black Gold', is a marvellously preserved historic city in the Brazilian highlands, renowned throughout the country for its art and colonial architecture. Once a gold mining town, Ouro Preto is today a World Heritage Site, fascinating to explore for its magnificent Baroque architecture, museums, quaint Ouro Preto hotels, historic churches and scenic views. It's also an active university town which has nurtured several Brazilian artists. The city is divided into twelve districts, namely Amarantina, Antônio Pereira, Cachoeira do Campo, Engenheiro Correia, Glaura, Lavras Novas, Miguel Burnier, Rodrigo Silvia, Santa Rita, Santo Antônio do Leite, Santo Antônio do Salto and São Bartolomeu. With its rich architectural heritage and beautiful surroundings, Ouro Preto is an extremely popular tourist destination in Brazil.
Historically, this was where the first Brazilian mutiny against Portugal's colonial rule began. Tiradentes, Brazil's cultural hero, led this first rebellion in 1789 when he realized the extent to which the region's gold mines were being exploited and shipped back to Portugal by the colonists. The revolt was a failure; Tiradentes was tried and executed in a particularly barbaric manner, with his dismembered body parts strewn on the road from Ouro Preto to Rio de Janeiro as a warning to his followers. His head was displayed in the town centre, in the square now known as Praça Tiradentes.
In modern times, Ouro Preto has evolved into an extremely popular tourist destination. Its primary attraction is its centuries-old architectural heritage, wonderfully preserved for posterity. The old city centre still exists around Praça Tiradentes; most of its museums, shops, Ouro Preto hotels and restaurants are clustered around this area. You can use our Ouro Preto map to choose your hotel in Ouro Preto based on its location.
In the foothills of the Serra do Espinhaço Mountains, the centre of this old colonial city is the largest and most elevated among all the historical towns of Minas Gerais. The streets of the upper and lower towns are typically narrow and winding and seemingly tangled; in some places vehicles simply cannot negotiate the steep and rough surfaces. While negotiating these precipitous, cobblestone streets can be quite arduous, you'll be rewarded at the end by the fabulous view of 23 churches spread across the hills around.
On top of the list of things to see and do in Ouro Preto are the remarkable historical museums of Museu da Inconfidência and Casa dos Contos. There's also the museum of mineralogy in the Escola de Minas. Igreja da Nossa Senhora do Carmo is one of the eighteenth-century churches decorated with gold, located in the main square. The Igreja de São Francisco de Assis is built in the rococo style. Many of the churches here have striking sculptures and murals by the famed local artists Aleijadinho and Manuel da Costa Ataíde. During colonial rule, Ouro Preto developed its own characteristic style of Baroque decoration, known as Barroco Mineiro, thanks to artists like Mestre Athayde, Aleijadinho and the Lobo de Mesquita family.
You can visit several of the mines that are an intrinsic part of Ouro Preto's history, including Mina da Passagem, (the largest mine in the world open to public viewing), Mina do Chico Rei in the town centre and Mina Velha, Ouro Preto's oldest mine. Apart from looking around the museums, mine-hopping, and taking an Ouro Preto tour, take time out to simply stand at the lookout point and revel in the beautiful view. If time permits, you can also visit the waterfalls nearby or make a trip to other colonial mining cities like Mariana, Tiradentes and Diamantina.
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