Best Places to See Colonial Brazil

After being conquered by the Portuguese, cities with beautiful colonial architecture were settled along the country's coast as well as in the interior, where gold, coffee, and sugar cane became huge industries. These cities remain places where you can get a feeling for historic Brazil and see UNESCO World Heritage sites and Baroque churches.

01 of 05


Convent of San Francisco in Olinda Brazil
Valdiney Pimenta / Wikimedia Commons

Olinda is situated on a hill above the coastal city of Recife in northeast Brazil is one of the best places in Brazil to see colonial architecture. This small city was founded in the 16th century by the Portuguese and later flourished with the sugar cane industry. Most of the city's historic buildings that you see now date from the 18th century.

Olinda's historic center has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the center's colonial architecture, gardens, and twenty Baroque churches. Besides being a place to see colonial architecture, Olinda is known for its location near the sea and the coast's beaches. Every August, Olinda hosts a folklore festival that celebrates the folklore traditions of the culturally rich northeast Brazil.

Continue to 2 of 5 below.
02 of 05

Parati, Rio de Janeiro

Paraty colonial Brazil
"Parati-Street3" by Fulviusbsas - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

Parati (pronounced pah-rah-CHEE), sometimes spelled Paraty, has great beauty and charm and therefore is one of the most tourist-oriented places to visit in Brazil. It is one of the most visited places along this beautiful stretch of coast called the Rio-Santos way. Its history dates to the 1700s when Parati was an important port for the gold rush that occurred west of here in Minas Gerais.

Parati's charm comes from the small cobblestone streets lined with simple colonial style houses, seaside churches, and its location between the Atlantic Ocean and the mountains that line the coast of Brazil. The historic center of town is closed to traffic, making a pleasant place for visitors to stroll that evokes the city's past.

Parati hosts several festivals throughout the year, including FLIP, a well-known festival of international literature held annually in July; the Festival da Pinga, which celebrates the national alcohol made from sugar cane, in August; and the Festival de Nossa Senhora dos Remedios in early September.

Continue to 3 of 5 below.
03 of 05

Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais

Ouro Preto Brazil
Jenna Francisco

Ouro Preto (pronounced OH-ru PRAY-tu) is the most important historic town of the state of Minas Gerais. While it may seem that colonial towns should be found on the coast, which was settled first, the inland state of Minas Gerais was a center of colonial Brazil.  This hilly, rural state, west of Rio and north of Sao Paulo, was founded because of the gold and gems found here. The wealth that resulted from the mining industry made Minas Gerais the center of colonial Brazil in the 18th century.

The entire town of Ouro Preto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its winding cobblestone streets comprise an outdoor museum of colonial architecture of the finest kind in Brazil. The ornate detail found on the exteriors, from the balconies to the light fixtures, make this town one of the most beautiful towns in the country, but the history and number of grand churches make it also one of the most interesting places to visit.

Continue to 4 of 5 below.
04 of 05

Salvador, Bahia

"Capela do N. Senhor do Bonfim (5132571897)" by Leandro Neumann Ciuffo - Capela do N. Senhor do BonfimUploaded by russavia. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
Leandro Neumann Ciuffo

Salvador is one of Brazil's best known cities and tourist destinations. As one of colonial Brazil's finest former capitals, Salvador has a large, well-preserved historic center. This area, called Pelourinho, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its ornate Baroque churches, cobblestone squares and streets, and colorful colonial architecture. In addition to the city's architecture and history, Salvador offers visitors a close-up view of the importance of music in Brazilian culture. 

Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05

Iguape, São Paulo

Photo credit:
manufaturadeideias on Flickr

Iguape is a small city of about 30,000 inhabitants on the coast of the state of São Paulo. Its name comes from the indigenous Tupi language. Iguape was founded by the Portuguese in 1538. Its location on the coast meant that it was important to the region's transportation of gold. The city has a pleasant main square with colonial architecture and a large Baroque church and also is worth visiting for its location on the water.

Was this page helpful?