Ouro Preto with my Ju Bucket Bag
Ouro Preto is set in a beautiful landscape, and once you stand at the top the hill, you can admire the panorama of the city.
Appreciating the view with my Ju Bucket bag as a backpack
Back in January, before Covid-19, my fiancé suggested a little weekend getaway to the UNESCO-listed city of Ouro Preto. So I grabbed my Ju Bucket bag, and off I went to explore's Brazil's most beautiful colonial city.
A little bit of history
Only one hour and a half away from Belo Horizonte, Ouro Preto - which means black gold - is the former gold mining capital of Brazil. The name "Black Gold"due to a characteristic of the mineral found here at the time: gold was darkened by a layer of iron oxide, giving it a dark hue.It used to be the most inhabited city in the Americas.
At the end of the 18th century, Ouro Preto also played an important role in Brazil's fight for independence. Although the attempt failed, Ouro Preto still has the reputation of a proud and progressive city.
Things to do
Ouro Preto is home of 131 churches, cobblestone streets, hilly narrow passageways, and colonial houses with cute little balconies.
If you don't speak Portuguese, I would advise you to hire English guides at the tourist office.
The square Tiradentes is the heart of Ouro Preto, named after Brazil's revolution leader from the end of the 18th century, whose monument commemorating his actions stands in the middle of the square.
In this square, you can find the Mineralogy Museum also containing the School of Mining and Museu da Inconfidencia on the opposite side of the square.
Museu da Inconfidencia
This museum inside the historical baroque building from the late 18th century reminds its visitors the unsuccessful independence movement (this part of Brazil had been protesting against being Portuguese colony).
Because this area has such rich mines, you can see beautiful examples of all kinds of minerals in this museum, some from the surrounding area and others collected from around the globe. Another plus is that the museum’s entrance offers nice views of the city.
As I said before, there are 131 churches in Ouro Preto, and it would be a challenge visiting them all, so I listed my three favourite must-see churches:
Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosario
Interesting, round-shaped Church of Our Lady of Rosary was built by African slaves, and it was the only place where they could pray in the late 18th century.
Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora do Pilar
It is known for the tremendous amount of gold inside, the second-largest amount inside a Brazilian church.
Igreja de São Francisco de Assis
One of Brazil's most famous artists, Aleijadinho, designed and carved the exterior, including the soapstone sculptures on the front. (Just next to the church is an excellent restaurant, Bené da Flauta.)
Across the street from the church is an outdoor market, which sells local handicrafts, especially items made from soapstone. You can watch people carving soapstone while you browse. The handicrafts are not expensive and make nice gifts that are very typical of this area.
Mina Chico Rei
If you want to see how life had been like centuries ago in Ouro Preto, visit this former gold mine, where you can learn about the history and mining culture.
Mina da Passagem
Owned by the British in 1719, this is the world's largest mine open to the public where you can experience how is it like to go underground. You go down into the mine on a rickety antique cable car.
Photo by Monique Ramone
There is a crystal blue lake that visitors can even swim or cave dive in.
I would definitely recommend adding Ouro Preto to your travel bucket list. You won't regret it!
Me and my Ju Bucket bag