Brazil was a colony from 1500, with the arrival of the Portuguese, until 1815, when it was elevated to a kingdom. During this time, several cities were built and the influence of the Portuguese and Europeans can still be seen today. The heritage left is vast and fascinating. Here are some cities usually forgotten by tourists that worth a visit.

Ouro Preto (MG)
“Minas Gerais’ Crown Jewel”

Once an influential gold mining town, Ouro Preto today is the shiniest colonial jewel in the crown of Minas Gerais. The city square is a presentation of Brazil’s first independence movement, with a statue to the movement’s hero, Tiradentes. While here, discover the oldest theater in the Americas, art galleries, museums, restaurants, and vistas of the rolling green countryside. Today, the university attracts a young crowd of students who fill the city with energy.

Congonhas (MG)
“A Fantastic Display of Aleijadinho’s Art”

In a valley framed by majestic mountains is the historical city of Congonhas. Congonhas boasts the essential works of baroque religious art and architecture, mainly Aleijadinho’s Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos. Be in awe of his soapstone carved statues of prophets and nearby wooden figures in the chapels showing “The Passion of the Christ.”

Tiradentes (MG)
“A Laid-back Quiet Baroque Oasis”

Tiradentes is a town known for its baroque architecture and charming atmosphere. Its picturesque setting of surrounding mountains and charming cobblestone streets make Tiradentes a walker’s haven — stroll by boutique shops, restaurants selling local delicacies, and long-standing churches. Tiradentes reputation is proven by the many galleries in town, showcasing an emerging vibrant art scene of painters, some of whom have exposed their work at galleries worldwide.

Inhotim (MG)
“The World’s Largest Open-Air Art Museum”

Where modern architecture, modern landscaping, and modern art come together. Only an hour from Belo Horizonte (capital), the incredible Inhotim Museum’s vast botanical gardens invite visitors to stroll through winding pathways surrounded by lush foliage and butterflies, to see art up-close. From small museums, each boasting a different modern style, full of artwork, video displays, and musical masterpieces to huge sculptures and iron structures on display in the open ground, Inhotim covers a wide range of modern art, sure to captivate any traveler.

Petrópolis (RJ)
“A Summer Villa for the Emperor of Brazil”

Visit the Imperial Summer Palace, to where Emperor Dom Pedro II escaped from Rio during the hottest months of the year. Wander through the bedrooms, dining areas, hallways, and the grounds while getting an up-close look at family portraits, historical documents, and antique carriages.

Paraty (RJ)
“The First Export Port of Brazil”

Paraty, on the coast between Rio and São Paulo, was left to its own devices until the 1970’s when the road from Rio was built to Paraty, at

which time it was decided to leave the historical center untouched. Thus the city still exudes the charm and colonial architecture of the 1700s. In addition to its pristine beaches, Paraty is known for its yearly book fair and film festival and its exuberant Catholic holiday celebrations. While here, indulge in excellent restaurants of celebrated São Paulo chefs and schooner cruises with snorkeling opportunities off the Paraty coast.