Nestled in the Brazilian countryside is the quiet town of Ouro Preto. Once the bustling center of the Brazilian gold rush, the town is covered with ornate churches and provides travelers the option to visit gold mines. Not to mention the region is known for it’s hearty food served all-you-can-eat buffet style. We had never heard of Ouro Preto before our trip, but are glad we visited! This guide to Ouro Preto will go through the fun things to do, places to eat, where to stay and how to get to the heart of Brazil’s Minas Gerais region!
Ouro Preto Travel Guide
For long term travelers, Ouro Preto makes for a great break from the beach and shows another side of Brazil’s culture. We recommend spending three full days in Ouro Preto but if you’re in a hurry it can be explored fully in two.
Fun Things To Do in Ouro Preto
Visit a Gold Mine
Ouro Preto (which means “Black Gold” in Portuguese) was the center of the Portuguese/Brazilian gold rush in the mid-1700. Due to the discovery, the town became one of the most populated and wealthiest city in all of South America at that time. Fun fact: You can visit some of the gold mines today! In Ouro Preto, there are two popular mines: Chico Rei and Mina de Ouro Santa Rita. Chico Rei only offers tours in Portuguese so that might be a dealbreaker. There are plenty of people in town that will offer to take you to a mine with English tours which is likely Santa Rita.
We visited Chico Rei (thanks Michelle’s Portuguese!) and learned about geology and the horrible conditions under which slaves worked in the mines. We didn’t actually see any gold though… The tour costs 30 Brazilian Reals per person (~$8USD).
In the nearby town of Mariana, you can tour one of the largest gold mines in the world – Mina de Passagem. You descend into the mine via old mining cart! Buses run frequently in between Ouro Preto and Mariana. Per the website, the tour costs $112 Brazilian Reals per person ($28USD per person).
Visit Some Churches
Due to Portuguese rule, most gold extracted out of Ouro Preto’s mines was sent back to Portugal. There was a loophole though. Gold could stay in Ouro Preto if it was used for religious purposes. So guess what, Ouro Preto built some extremely lavish churches. We’re talking all gold, everywhere.
The most ornate churches cost 10 Brazilian Reals per person (~$2.50USD) to enter. We would recommend stopping by Basilica Nossa Senhora do Pilar and the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi (names as they are in GoogleMaps). In our opinion, once you’ve seen two churches you’ve seen them all.
Stop By the Artisan Market
Ouro Preto has one of the most unique markets out of any that place that we visited throughout our trip. And trust us we’ve seen our fair share of markets. There are creative sculptures and shiny jewels everywhere you look! It’s definitely worth stopping by.
Museu da Inconfidencia
For some history about the town and the region, check out the Museu da Inconfidencia just off the main plaza (Praca Tiradentes). The museum is about a failed Brazilian independent revolution in the late 1700s featuring people from Ouro Preto and the Minas Gerais region. Entrance is 10 Brazilian Reals per person (~$2.5USD). Give yourself about 2 hours for the museum.
Inhotim Outdoor Museum
Since you’re in the Minas Gerais region of Brazil, it probably means you’re not a two week or shorter trip. So since you’re in the area and since you have time, you should look into stopping by the Inhotim Museum just outside of the nearby city of Belo Horizonte. Although we did not end up making it over there, as we were on our way to Carnival, the pictures look amazing! Here’s a useful Inhotim travel guide if you’re interested!
Where to Eat in Ouro Preto
You’re in the land of hearty and delicious food so take advantage of those all-you-can-eat buffets! Here are our two favorites:
Without recommendations from locals, we would have never walked through the door. It has a couple red flags: Cheezy English name. Signs out front advertising pizza, burgers and pastas. We almost didn’t walk in. Thankfully, we did and we were happily surprised to find an endless, all-your-can-eat buffet filled with tons of different types of regional Brazilian food. This place ended up being packed with locals and travelers alike and the food was delicious! It was also a steal at 20 Brazilian Reals per person (~$5USD)!
Restaurante Conto de Reis
The best view and the best food in the city can be found at the same place. Restaurante Conto de Reis. Grab a seat by the window and chow down on the all-you-can-eat buffet. Be sure to save a little space to sample their assortment of the interesting sugary and gelatinous sweets from the region. You’ll find less locals here and a higher price tag of 60 Brazilian Reals per person (~$15USD), but it was certainly worth it!
How to Get To Ouro Preto
Ouro Preto is most easily accessed via overnight bus from Rio de Janiero. The bus takes just about 8 hours and costs 114 Brazilian Reals (~$28 USD). It is also a 2-3 hour bus from the largest nearby city of Belo Horizonte.
Where to Stay
We stayed at Trilhas de Minas Hostel. The location was good however the wifi was spotty. They also had a couple dogs and cats basically living in the hostel just in case that’s a dealbreaker for you.
Where to Go Next
Rio de Janeiro
You’re just an overnight bus ride away from Rio de Janeiro. Rio contains some of the most popular tourist attractions in all of South America with the Christ the Redeemer statue and the gondola to the top of Sugarloaf mountain. If you’re going to visit one place in Brazil, it should be Rio. If you are thinking about being in Rio for the Carnival Sambodromo parade, check out our guide!
A couple hours south of Rio de Janiero, you’ll find the colorful, colonial waterfront town of Paraty. Here you’ll find a smooth natural waterslide along with the option to take boat tours to explore nearby islands. Any Brazil itinerary must include a stop at Paraty or nearby Ilha Grande (or why not both?!) to enjoy some quality time on the water. We enjoyed a couple incredible days in Paraty and put together this Paraty Travel Guide based on our experience!
There you have it, our Ouro Preto Things to Do guide! From us to you, happy adventuring!
All costs are current as of February 2020.