From the southern town of Paraty to the northern city of Olinda: colonial architecture and cobblestone streets can be found all over Brazil. But nowhere is the concentration so high than in the inland state of Minas Gerais. Minas Gerais has long been known for its wealth of minerals and its mining activities, which, together with the goldrush, created huge wealth in the 18th century. The result is a mix of beautifully decorated churches, colonial houses and a peek into the country’s rich history. These are, in my opinion, the most beautiful colonial towns of Brazil:
Let’s start small, shall we? Tiradentes is the cute-as-a-button type of village. From the main square, the two main cobbled streets lead you towards Tiradentes’ most beautiful town houses and churches. I was there on a Monday morning when the place was pretty much deserted. It was perfect for a quiet stroll, occasionally stopping at one of the few little cafés. During the weekend the place is supposed to be very busy with people browsing through the many art galleries, so you might want to choose a different day.
Tiradentes is situated in the Serra de São Jose, with the mountains offering a beautiful backdrop against the colourful houses of the city centre.
The jewel of the region. The place with the biggest number of churches, most of them exuberantly decorated by Aleijadinho. It’s a lot bigger than Tiradentes, but still very manageable, although you might want to get into shape before strolling its steep streets! You can easily spend a few days here, checking out the churches’ interior or learning about the history of the region at the “Museu da Inconfidência”. Don’t forget to check out some of the colonial houses. The Casa dos Contos and/or the Casa de Tomas Antonio Gonzaga are perfect examples of the rich decoration of the 18th century.
Only 30 minutes away by bus from Ouro Preto lies the quiet little village of Mariana. Just like Tiradentes, life takes place around the two main streets, connecting the main squares at each end. The Praça da Sé is home to the namesake cathedral and is a great place for people watching. A few minutes further you stumble upon Praça Gomes Freire with its cooling fountain and welcoming shade. But THE reason for visiting is the Praça Minas Gerais, where you’ll find the two main churches and the pelourinho (the name for the post where slaves were sold/whipped) . The best view of the square is from the grassy field to the right of the “Câmara Municipal”.
Don’t rush through Mariana, instead give yourself over to its relaxed pace!
The Pelourinho of Salvador da Bahia
The Pelourinho is not really a town as such, but if you think “colonial” in Brazil, you really can’t leave the Pelourinho out. The most famous neighbourhood of Salvador da Bahia is home to colonial architecture, capoeira schools and is the place where Africa meets Brazil. It has numerous, beautifully decorated, churches, wide-open squares and steep cobble-stoned streets. But don’t spend all your time there, venture beyond the Pelourinho to discover other aspects of this intriguing city too!
Have you been to any of these colonial towns of Brazil ?
What’s the most beautiful colonial town you ever visited? In which country?