A small town in Minas Gerais, Ouro Preto was at the core of the 18th-century dash for unheard of wealth (gold rush) in Brazil. Its riches and flourishing stay in the very much safeguarded Baroque design of the town beautifully. The Historic Town of Ouro Preto (Black Gold) covers the precarious slants of the Vila Rica (Rich Valley), the focal point of a rich gold mining territory. In 1720, this town became the capital of Minas Gerais Province and lasted until 1897.
Along the first winding street and inside the unpredictable design following the shapes of the scene lie squares, wonderful small homes, wellsprings, and chapels which together structure an exceptional homogenous gathering displaying the fine curvilinear type of architecture.
As it’s clear from the name, the mining town of Ouro Preto has a great assortment of different mines. These mines have a deep impression on the background of the city. Surely, it was the main reason for the prosperity and fame of Ouro Preto. Here we are going to check a brief history of this city to get more familiar with it. It helps us to recognize different aspects of this city better.
The Principal Revelation of Gold
It is accepted that a slave made the principal revelation of gold in the region when he went over some surprising dark metal in the riverbed of the stream he was drinking from. The colonizers understood the dark metal was gold. After a simple exploration, they found there is lots of gold all over the area. In fact, the amount of gold was that much, which convinced people to call this city the Gold World of Brazil.
Gold Rush in Brazil
Like many other spots in the world, the gold rush developed progressively in the mineral areas. It ensued, and, in 1711, the Vila Rica de Ouro Preto town was officially established by the Portuguese to start extracting the gold as soon as possible. The population grew every day and reached more than 110000. It was twice the New York population at that time. African workers were the majority of the population who were forced to work in the mines. The city turned into the capital city of Minas Gerais in 1721 and was then known as Ouro Preto—or which means black gold in English.
At the peak of the gold rush era, during the 18th century, Ouro Preto turned into an affluent city. Land prices could stand to pay for the best gardens or palaces from Europe and Brazil. With this money, owners could afford to pay for the best world-known architects to design their houses and buildings in the greatest way. One of Brazil’s well-paid and finest architects and designers was Aleijiadimho, who had a great impression on the urban planning of the new Ouro Preto. He designed many architectural masterpieces in this area.
Aleijiadimho wasn’t the only first-class designer of the city. Locals hired many great architects from Europe and made stunning buildings in this city, including churches, houses, museums, etc. Baroque architecture is the main style of the buildings due to the developed era fashion. We are going to check some of the most famous ones below.
While the city was transforming into a structural miracle, local people were threatening the Portuguese colonizers. During gold mining and extraction, all the gold was hauled to weighing houses, where Portuguese royalty received one-fifth of the wealth. They started to prepare for a revolution against the colonizers when they found the gold taxation too high and became known as the Inconfidência Mineira.
In 1789, the revolution was started by a group of brave miners under the leadership of Tirandentes. They hardly tried to fight against this cruelty, but the Portuguese colonizers were resistant, and nothing special happened. During this protest, Tirandentes and his comrades were hanged.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site
At the writing of this article, there are 21 Brazilian World Heritage Sites in the UNESCO list -7 natural sites and double cultural ones-. In 1980, UNESCO announced that Ouro Preto is officially the first World Heritage Site of Brazil on the list.
The gold mines were depleted in the nineteenth century, and the wellspring of valuable metal evaporated, prompting the decrease in the city’s impact. In the late 1870s, Belo Horizonte became the new capital of Minas. This title still belongs to it today. However, due to the great urban planning and wonderful architecture that remained in the city, UNESCO decided to put this region on the World Heritage Site List.
As a result of the great financial era in this city, there are lots of fantastic buildings and sites to see. You can enjoy the fine architecture whenever you look at a place. There are also many valuable museums that are worth checking out. Each year, Ouro Preto hosts many tourists from all around the world and especially South Africa. Here are some of the top, must-visit attractions in Ouro Preto, Brazil.
Museu Casa Guignard (Guignard House Museum)
As it’s clear from the name, it was the former house of famous Brazilian designer and painter Alberto da Veiga Guignard. This museum was opened in 1987 as a tribute to him and his fine art. The museum guides visitors through a course of events beginning from Guignard’s introduction to the world until his passing with a showcase that celebrates the two of his imaginative masterpieces and his own life. There are three rooms in the gallery with perpetual exposition, and his artworks capture his energy and love for Brazil’s nature, particularly Ouro Preto City.
Museu da Farmácia
This museum, located in the School of Pharmacy of the Federal University of Ouro Preto, documents the past and present professional practices in medicine and pharmacy between the 19th and 20th centuries in Ouro Preto. Among the exhibits are preserved archives of notes (some of which are local, others are from Europe), medical equipment, and various types of medicine and drugs from the 18th century.
Basílica Nossa Senhora do Pilar Church
The Basilica Nossa Senhora do Pilar church in Ouro Preto has been around for centuries. It is a Catholic church that is located in the center of the city. Constructed at the end of the 17th century, it is now a pristine building that has gold-plated ceilings inside and decorated with intricate carvings. It is prohibited to take pictures of the church’s interior to protect its delicate artistic carvings. Some of these carvings are centuries old.
Itacolomi State Park
Ouro Preto is only a few kilometers from Itacolomi, a state park with a mountainous landscape and natural attractions, including a picturesque waterfall and a lake that’s delightful to swim in. In the park, hikers can explore dozens of different paths, including the Itacolomi peak – one of the highest points in Minas Gerais – which offers sweeping views of the surrounding area.
This park is absolutely popular among hikers of the area. You can also find a visitor center and a restaurant at the park, but if you’re going hiking, you should still bring water and snacks.
Mine du Veloso
An underground chamber supported by pillars runs 400 meters (over 1300 feet) through the Mine du Veloso. A guide will explain how gold mining was conducted in Brazil during the 19th century, as well as the different techniques used by the enslaved Africans in the mine. The guides usually talk about how the miners live their mundane lives and what customs they follow. You can take the tour in Portuguese or English.
House of Tales Museum (Casa dos Contos)
Located in a former Treasury House from the 18th century, the Casa dos Contos museum is an important museum among all in Ouro Preto. Many years ago, it was a temporary prison for those involved in the Inconfidência revolution. Due to the importance of this movement in Ouro Preto, people have a lot of respect for this place as a symbol of resistance.
It is still a mansion today, but it has been transformed into a museum that tells the story of gold, money, and bravery in Brazil. As well as decorating the museum’s rooms for a historical look, a moving exhibition in the basement showcases various items associated with slavery.
Praça Tiradentes Square
Just at the center of Ouro Preto, there is a historical square named in honor of Tiradentes. Praça Tiradentes Square is the main and biggest square of the city. There are well-preserved buildings on the square from over 250 years ago, and an overview of the history of the area can be found in the Inconfidência Museum nearby. You can also find a variety of boutiques and cafés, which are perfect for a relaxing shopping trip or a local lunch.
Best Time to Go
Ouro Preto is one of the best places in Brazil to discover interesting things and has a cultural vacation all year round. The best time to travel depends on your personal preferences.
Most travelers agree that summer travel is most enjoyable from December to February. It is the ideal time of year to take a sightseeing tour or to make excursions in the surrounding areas due to the warm weather. It can, however, rain a lot in these months. Don’t forget a rain jacket when you head to Ouro Preto and Mariana.
There is a different assortment of accommodation places and inns in Ouro Preto, but there is a point. Due to rules and local conditions, Hotel’s facilities are similar. It means you can find free Wi-Fi or 24-hour reception almost everywhere. Here are some of the top-rated hotels in Ouro Preto. Almost all of them are pet forbidden accommodations.
Pousada Do Arcanjo Hotel
In OURO PRETO city, this hotel offers comfortable accommodations. Hotel guests are easily able to reach a variety of attractions on foot since it is only 900 meters from the center of town. Public transportation links are easily accessible from the accommodation too. There are 24 units in Pousada Do Arcanjo Hotel. Construction of this accommodation took place in 2000.
You can take advantage of the 24-hour reception service. There is adequate parking and garage access. Transfers directly to and from the airport are available for travelers. You may have to pay a fee for some services.
Hotel Luxor Ouro Preto
Within 300 meters of the town center, you will find this comfortable hotel with easy access to a variety of interesting places. Several public transportation links are within 20 meters of the hotel, so guests can explore the city easily. Luxor Ouro Preto Pousada has 19 rooms and suites. The hotel also provides Wi-Fi access.
Reception is available 24 hours a day. In addition to units equipped with cots on request, Luxor Ouro Preto Pousada offers units that are perfect for families traveling with children. Pets are not allowed at this hotel. The hotel has a parking garage and parking. Some services may be expensive.
Pousada Minas Gerais
Within 200 meters of the town center, this lovely hotel is conveniently located for easy access to all the attractions in this region. A 50-meter walk will lead guests to several transport options that are available for them to use. Accommodations on the premises include 18 comfortable units. With the Internet connection on site, guests of all types can stay updated. Pousada Minas Gerais provides 24-hour reception. A cot is available on request at Pousada Minas Gerais for those traveling with small children. It is strictly forbidden to bring pets into the building.