Ouro Preto, the real pearl of Minas Gerais

Ouro Preto

Ouro Preto

Many of the mayor Brazilian cities do have their colonial side with colorful buildings, mosaics and traditional architecture, however I would say that you haven’t seen colonial Brazil before you have seen Ouro Preto. Ouro Preto is different, it’s unique, it’s a must see destination which will surprise you. What makes Ouro Preto so special then? Ouro Preto is not just a colonial old town with beautiful historic churches, Ouro Preto is an another Brazil that you will not find by visiting the well-known cities or beach destinations. After having seen a large number of less conserved cities in Brazil, what mostly impressed me with Ouro Preto was the consciousness of conservation. Without taking into account the entrance, even today the streets of Ouro Preto are made of stones and the new construction has to follow stricktly the tradional architecture. Here you will not see any modern high rising buildings netx to a lovely colonial house, no Ouro Preto is still like decades ago. Basically in the heart of city there is only one modern building. It happens to a hotel, designed by famous Brazilian architecture Oscar Niemayer. A little detail that can easily be forgiven. So once you walk in the narrow streets of Ouro Preto you can enjoy the atmospheare without running into any signs of modern construction. This fact gives Ouro Preto its’ special charm and attracts tourist both at national and at international levels.

Streets of Ouro Preto

Streets of Ouro Preto

Ouro Preto enjoys an easy access from Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais. The distance from the city is only about 100 km and a little bit more if you depart from the international airport of Belo Horizonte. The simplest way to reach this lovely town is to hire a private transfer unless you are not into renting a car and driving by yourself, which in fact is an interesting option as it allows you to discover the nearby cities such as Mariana as well. Once you arrive to Ouro Preto the best way to move around is on foot, but pay attention on the shoes you are wearing. Forget the high heals and any slippery shoes, as walking in the city means going up and down and up again. Also, make sure you get accommodated in the heart of the city which allows quick and easy access to all the attractions at any time of the day.

Igreja São Francisco de Assis

Igreja São Francisco de Assis

Praça de Tiradentes, the main square of Ouro Preto is a starting point for your adventures in this colonial town. Visit the Museum of Betrayal (Museo de Inconfidência) to learn a lot about the history of the region. On the other end of the square stands the Museum of Mineralogy with varied collection of minerals from quartz to diamonds. Ouro Preto has 13 traditonal churches dating from baroque and rokokoo eras. All of them are worth visited but if your time and interest is limited include at least the three most important ones into your schedule. They are city’s oldest church Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Pilar with almost 1000 pounds of gold and nearly 900 pounds of silver, Igreja de São Francisco de Assis which is a unique rokokoo church known as a masterpiece of Aleijadinho one of the most highly-regarded Brazilian artists.  The museum and the grave of this famous painter, scupltor and architect are located at the church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, also worth visiting. Aleijadinho suffered leprosy and the legend says that after having lost his fingers he c0ntinued working by strapping tools to his stumps. Beside of his talent this is one of the facts that makes his art extremely interesting and definitely worth admiring. When planning your trip to Ouro Preto remember that most of the churches and museums stay closed on Mondays.

Matriz Nossa Senhora da Conceição

Matriz Nossa Senhora da Conceição

Ouro Preto means black gold, name that was given to the city due to the minerals (including gold) found from the region. Today, as a tourist, you can visit the mines which during the gold rush were the working place of hundreds and thousands of slaves. Narrow alleyways inside of the mine tell a cruel history of unhuman working conditions of the slaves, who made all the hard work not only in Ouro Preto but many other parts of Brazil during the slavery.  Once you have visited the principal sights, wander around the pictoresque streets of Ouro Preto, take pictures and enjoy the unique atmospheare of this charming city. In case you are visiting Ouro Preto during the summer time visit the waterfalls of the region for a refreshing bath.

Colonial Ouro Preto

Colonial Ouro Preto

When the night falls, Ouro Preto invites you to enjoy fine dining with live music. Jazz and Brasilian popular music (MPB) are the two principal rhythms heard in many restaurants. The offer of cultural events in Ouro Preto is pretty good and one of the most popular events is the festival of Jazz organized every year in September. However even outside of special dates you will always find a cozy place to enjoy a cup of coffee, a class of wine or a delicious meal while you listen to live music. On your next trip to Brazil, don’t miss Ouro Preto, it’s pure magic and easy to fall in love with.

Praça Tiradentes

Praça Tiradentes

Brazil Diversity recommends:

  • Hotel Solar do RosarioThe best hotel of Ouro Preto with top service and all the facilities. Solar do Rosario is well located in a peaceful corner of the city, next to the church of Rosario and just about 10 minutes walk from the main square. It offers high quality accommodation with colonial touch of Ouro Preto and all the possible services including meeting facilities, 2 pool (natural and heated one) and a gym. Highly recommended!
  • Pousada do Mondego A quality pousada next to the São Francisco de Assis church and just a block from the main square.
  • Hotel do Teatro – A tiny hotel in a silent street just a step away from the main square. Rooms of Hotel do Teatro are decorated with traditional colonial style and it offers good value for money.
  • Cafe Gerais – Tasty meals, ambient decorated with good taste and high quality live jazz in the evenings. An excellent place to enjoy your dinner together with couple of drinks.
  • Restaurante Acaso 85 Looking for a romantic ambient for special celebration? Then your destination must be Acaso 85, a restaurant that from outside doesn’t impress at all, but hides an extremely romantic ambient, with different spaces, one of them an open air garden with candle light. Highly recommended!
  • Casa do OuvidorA recommended place for lunch or dinner. Taste dishes, good ambient and great value for money. Try especially the tradional meals from the region of Minas Gerais!
  • O Passo – A pizzaria with a lovely terrace, for you to have a drink, light snack or a while while listening to live music in open air.
Igresa Nossa Senhora do Carmo

Igresa Nossa Senhora do Carmo

The African Roots of Salvador, Bahia

Streets of Pelourinho

Streets of Pelourinho

Salvador, the state capital of Bahia, was also the first capital of Brazilian Republic and even today is the city with most african influence. Salvador is also the third biggest city of the country, right after São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and naturally its’ airport is among the busiest of northeastern part of Brazil. In Salvador you can easily feel the african roots of Brazilian culture, hear the rhythms, taste the flavours and feel the power of myths and such african religions as candomble.

If you are looking for culture together with city life, Salvador is probably one of the most interesting brazilian cities to stop by. The main attraction of Salvador is the old town called Pelourinho, located in the upper part of the city, which belongs in the Unesco list of World Heritage sites. It’s dominated by colorful colonial style buildings, beautiful churches and lively streets. Here you will find plenty of charming restaurants, shops of local handcrafts, artists of all kind and “baianas“, the local ladies wearing traditional white dressing and often selling some delicacies. It’s not rare to find people practising capoeira or playing Afro-Brazilian rhythms on the street. It’s here, where samba-reggae was born and became famous thanks to well known Afro-Brazilian band Olodum. Up from the edge of Perlourinho you will also have beautiful view over the Baía de Todos os Santos bay and if you take an elevator down you will find yourself being in front of the Mercado Modelo market, an another excellent place to buy local handcrafts and souvenirs of Bahia.

Mercado Modelo

Mercado Modelo

Salvador has another important historical spots as well, one of the most popular being the church of Bonfim. This church is a pilgrimage destination for the Brazilians, but is worth visiting for anybody who enjoys old architecture and history. To reach Bonfim, you can either take a regular bus leaving in front of Mercado Modelo or alternatively try the touristic Salvador Bahia Bus, which works on “hop on, hop off” basis and in addition to Bonfim takes you to many other interesting parts of the city with fixed daily price. If you choose regular bus, you better be prepared to longer travelling time, due to the number of stops and depending on the type of the bus, air conditioning may not be available either. Just like in Rio de Janeiro, in Salvador organized tours to favela (=slum) can also be found. Part of the tour fee usually goes in the education or in the improvement of the living conditions of the favela inhabitants, so therefore the tours are not only a safe way to visit favela, but also a great way to make this world a better place for everybody.

Church of Bonfim

Church of Bonfim

When choosing your neighborhood in Salvador we would recommend you to stay either in Pelourinho, Barra or Rio Vermelho. In Pelourinho you will find some charming old building that were refurbished to serve as hotels and has turned out to be an excellent place to spend overnight.  Another good options to stay are the neighborhoods of Barra and Rio Vermelho, both just a short drive away from Pelourinho with large variety of accommodation options for all budget and several restaurants and bars for dining as well. The carnival of Rio de Janeiro may be world widely more famous than the carnival of Bahia, but in fact the carnival of Salvador is the world’s biggest street party and attract a countless number of participants to celebrate in the streets of Salvador. Definetely something you should consider about, if you are into carnivals!

Baianas

Baianas

Many tourists travel to Bahia planning to stay at one of the stunning beaches of the state, but once you are in Salvador make sure you stop there at least for two or three nights. Salvador is worth stopping and after having explored Pelourinho, we are sure that you are not regretting at all. We recommed you to combine Salvador with some of the many beach or eco-tourism destination located close by.

In our other blog posts we have already covered destinations that combine perfectly with Salvador, check out our related blog posts:

Our suggested itineraries including Salvador:

Brazil Diversity recommends:

  • Casa do Amarelinho – A small hotel located in refurbished building in the heart of Pelourinho. Excellent level of service with special charm and all the amenities you might be expecting.
  • Catharina Paraguacu – A good tourist class hotel located at Rio Vermelho. Catharina Paraguacu offers you an intimate stay in an old style building surrounded by gardens.
  • Restaurante O Nilo – An excellent restaurant serving arab food in a peaceful corner of Pelourinho. O Nilo has tables both inside and outside, but does not accept credit cards.
Pelourinho

Pelourinho

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