Are you planning a trip to Brazil? Chances are you’ve already got destinations like Rio de Janeiro and the Amazon on your travel itinerary. But what about Ouro Preto? While this 17th-century colonial city might not be as famous an attraction as Brazil’s other popular locales, a visit to Ouro Preto (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) in Minas Gerais is an absolute must. Wondering what to do in Ouro Preto and why this Baroque beauty is so extraordinary? We’ve got you covered below.
Ouro Preto (meaning Black Gold) was the center of Brazil’s gold rush. The town’s 23 churches and charming Baroque architecture are a testament to the prosperity that abounded during the gold rush days. Today the small town has managed to retain its old-world charm with barely a hint of development, save for a few well-planned renovations.
One of our favorite things to do in Ouro Preto was to walk with abandon, getting lost along the winding cobblestone roads while taking photos of the many gorgeous churches, passageways, and balconies. However, with heaps of historical sites to visit and a surplus of art from the highly regarded Brazilian artist Aleijadinho all around town, there’s no shortage of things to do in Ouro Preto. Here are our top tips to start exploring this colonial gem in Brazil.
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What To Do In Ouro Preto: Our Top Tips
Start your Ouro Preto sightseeing at Tiradentes Plaza. This is the expansive main square in the city center; some of Ouro Preto’s most impressive churches and must-visit museums surround it. Tiradentes Plaza is particularly magical in the early evening.
Museu of Inconfidencia
On the south side of Tiradentes Plaza lies the Museu of Inconfidencia. Once the old municipal headquarters and jail of Ouro Preto, today the building is a tribute to the Inconfinencia Mineira (a failed uprising and movement for independence against the Portugues in 1789.) The museum is a wealth of information about this movement and home of the tomb of Tiradentes, one of the principal leaders in the rebellion. The museum is open Tuesday – Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm; the cost is R $10.
Nossa Senhora do Pilar
Considered to be one of Brazil’s most opulent churches, the Nossa Senhora do Pilar is dripping in gorgeous details. Expect a 24k gold-plated exterior and exquisite paintings inside, with hundreds of carved angels throughout. Following traditional Baroque architecture, some estimates say it took 400 kg of gold and silver powder to decorate the church.
The Nossa Senhora do Pilar is open from Tuesday – Sunday from 9:00 am to 10:45 am and again from 12:00 pm to 4:45 pm. Masses are held Monday – Friday at 7:00 am, Saturdays at 7:30 am, and Sundays at 7:00 pm. Admission is R $10.
São Francisco de Assis
Topping any list of things to do in Ouro Preto is a visit to the São Francisco de Assis. A masterpiece by beloved Brazilian artist Aleijadinho, the artist designed and decorated the Rococo-style church—including the exquisite soapstone carvings inside. It’s said the baptismal font took him three years alone to make; don’t miss it.
Your ticket to the church includes a visit to the Aleijadinho Museum. São Francisco de Assis is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8:30 am to noon and again from 1:30 pm to 5 pm. Admission costs R $6.
Casa dos Contos
This 18th-century treasury building doubled as a prison. Today, it showcases the history of Brazil’s gold and money. History buffs will enjoy the vast collection of artifacts, though we think the real reason to visit is for the fantastic balcony views over Ouro Preto. Casa dos Contos is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm; Mondays from 2 pm to 6 pm. The cost to enter is free!
Igreja de Santa Efigenia dos Pretos
Nestled on a hilltop overlooking Ouro Preto, it’s a steep climb to arrive at Igreja de Santa Efigenia, but don’t let that put you off. Here you’ll find another work of art by legendary Aleijadinho on the building’s exterior. But what makes this church so interesting is that it was constructed by slaves and is dedicated to an Ethiopian saint. It’s also rumored slaves contributed to the coffers by smuggling gold powder under their fingernails and washing gold flakes from their hair in baptismal fonts. The church is open from Tuesday through Sunday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
Nossa Senhora da Conceicao
At this point, you might be “churched out.” But there’s a reason why Nossa Senhora da Conceicao is a must-include for what to do in Ouro Preto. Dating back to 1727, you’ll find some of the most richly decorated altars of any church in Ouro Preto. This is also the site of Aleijadinho’s grave; there’s an on-site museum dedicated to the artist. The church is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 8:30 am to noon and from 1:30 pm to 5:30 pm. On Sundays, it’s accessible from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm. The price to enter is R $8.
Parque Estadual do Itacolomi
We were only in Ouro Preto for a short time, so, unfortunately, we didn’t have the opportunity to visit the Parque Estadual do Itacolomi. Located just outside Ouro Preto proper, this park is a hiker’s dream. Visit for the many treks of all difficulty levels and the glittering waterfalls.
Where To Stay In Ouro Preto
It’s possible to take a day trip to Ouro Preto from Belo Horizonte, but we recommend staying at least a night in Ouro Preto to best enjoy the idyllic town and ideal mountainous location. There are plenty of cute boutique hotels in Ouro Preto. A few of our favorites are Pousada do Mondego and Hotel Solar do Rosário.
Pousada do Mondego
Set on a colonial building from the XVII Century, this luxury property features a panoramic view of Ouro Preto city.Book Now
Hotel Solar do Rosário
The rooftop also offers a panoramic view of Nossa Senhora do Rosário Church and Ouro Preto´s mountains beyond.Book Now
Hotel Recanto da Serra
Accommodations with an outdoor swimming pool, free private parking, a garden, terrace and a sauna.Book Now
What To Eat In Ouro Preto
It’s worth visiting Ouro Preto for the food and drink alone. Ouro Preto is located in Minas Gerais, a state that adds local flair to Brazilian cuisine. Typical dishes of Ouro Preto have strong African influences and typically use rural, rustic ingredients. A few of our favorite foods to try in Ouro Preto are:
Pão de Queijo: You’ll find these Brazilian cheese balls all around the country, but don’t miss them in Minas Gerais. This region of Brazil is famed for its cheese, making its Pão de Queijo extra scrumptious.
Feijão Tropeiro: This is traditional comida mineira, and typically includes beans, pork, sausage and cassava flour. It’s hearty and filling and absolutely divine.
Goiabada: A typical dessert that is made of guava paste.
Coffee: Minas Gerais is the most essential coffee-producing region in Brazil. There’s no shortage of cozy coffee shops brewing up their regional blends. Even better? It goes excellent with pão de queijo.
Where To Eat In Ouro Preto
Award-winning Casa do Ouvidor is easily one of Ouro Preto’s most outstanding restaurants. Go for elegant takes on typical food from the region. It’s ideal location downhill from Praca Tiradents means it’s a convenient spot for lunch or dinner. Another delicious option is Bené da Flauta. It’s gorgeous location inside a two-story colonial mansion can’t be beat. For something a bit more low-key, try Cafe Geraes.
How To Get To Ouro Preto
The easiest way to arrive at Ouro Preto is from the Central Bus Station in Belo Horizonte. The Pássaro Verde bus departs every hour or so. The bus ride to Ouro Preto takes about 2 1/2 hours each way. Alternatively, there’s an overnight bus from Rio de Janeiro.
If you’ve visited before, what were your favorite things to do in Ouro Preto?