Ouro Preto, the former capital of Minas Gerais, is living history.
At first glance, it might seem like you took a wrong turn in rural Portugal, but trust me, Ouro Preto is inherently Brazilian to its core. Here are some suggestions that will show you why:
HOW TO GET THERE
The region’s capital, Belo Horizonte, is located 100 km outside of Ouro Preto. To get there, rent a car in Belo Horizonte or take a bus from the central station, Rodoviário, with the Passaro Verde bus company. The second closest major city, Rio de Janeiro, is located 475km from Ouro Preto, so if you are feeling brave, you could also rent a car or take a bus from there.
Enjoy your stay at Hotel Solar do Rosário. Its charming ambience makes you feel as if you were living in the 1800s, but with all of your modern necessities. Their breakfast alone will make you feel like royalty, so don’t expect a sparse and simple buffet. Solar do Rosário goes all out with warm pão de queijo (cheese bread), specialty pastries from Minas Gerais, and a variety of tropical fruit juices. The hotel’s location is also very central and right next to the Igreja do Rosário which is famous for its round shape and because it was the only church during the colonial era that allowed the entrance of African slaves.
See where Brazilian architecture first started at the Igrejas (Churches) of Ouro Preto. The Church of São Francisco de Assis is a UNESCO world heritage sight containing the sculptures of the infamous Aleijadinho. Son of a Portuguese architect and an African slave, Aleijadinho’s identity was not uncommon for his time. His sculptures in São Francisco de Assis displayed his mixed identity and are said to be where Brazilian art first started. When visiting, try to imagine Aleijadinho’s position within the Portuguese Catholic church. While he was greatly admired for his work, he was never allowed to attend mass in the churches he had created because of his race.
After learning more about Brazilian colonial history through Aleijadinho’s churches, be sure to also learn about the region’s natural history at the Museu de Ciencia e Tecnica da Escola de Minas/UFOP.There are thousands of minerals from around the world on display. From aquamarine to hematite, at this museum, there is a precious stone for anyone!
The Minas Gerais region is famous for its Brazilian cuisine which contrasts warm home cooked meals with a tropical environment. At Casa do Ouvidor you can enjoy a classic and chic Minas meal in an old mansion overlooking the bustling cobblestone streets below. The house specialties (Especialidades Casa) like feijão tropeiro, tutu à mineira, and frango com quiabo (chicken with okra) will exceed your expectations of Brazilian cuisine. Just know that you can only get these specific dishes during lunchtime. Brazilians usually eat a big lunch as their main meal and then a smaller dinner late at night. A Minas lunch at Casa do Ouvidor will leave you feeling very full and ready for the long day ahead.
If you are looking for the perfect souvenir to take home, visit the Feira De Pedra Sabão Do Largo De Coimbra right in front of the Church of São Francisco de Assis. This fair is filled with handmade crafts specific to the Minas region such as precious stones, cooking pots, and religious objects. If you aren’t able to find what you would like there, the cobblestone (paralelepípedo) streets of Ouro Preto are filled with other shopping options. The sweets of Minas Gerais are also another great option for souvenirs which can easily be found at Chocolates Ouro Preto along with some brigadeiros, a Brazilian delicacy.
Ouro Preto’s picturesque cobblestone streets speak for themselves about the rich, brutal, and fascinating history of Brazil and how its legacy in Minas Gerais continues to seep through modern day life.