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Top 5 Colonial Pockets of Brazil
In Brazil, colonial gems are found scattered throughout the country. Full of fascinating history, beautifully preserved architecture and cobbled stone streets, they leave culture-hungry travellers awe-inspired. For those wanting to see the best of colonial Brazil, the Latin America team have listed the top five places for you to keep in mind when planning your trip to Brazil.
The former first capital of Brazil, Salvador is a melting pot of energy and beauty – it is well worth a visit. Whilst the modern day city has lost its economic and political importance, it is still one of the most historically important cities and considered the hub of the country’s ethnic diversity. Traces of its diverse blend of European, African and Amerindian cultures are evident throughout the city, in form of its local cuisine, architecture and its performing arts. The vibrant neighbourhood of Ciadade Alta is an excellent way to absorb and appreciate some of the arts and culture of Salvador. The centrepiece of this barrio is the Pelourinho Church, which is surrounded by cobbled streets and a collection of old brightly coloured colonial buildings from the 17th century and golden churches. Here you will find arguably the greatest display of Afro-Brazilian culture. Day or night, there is always something going on, whether it’s a Capoeira display, samba dancers or musicians performing.
Olinda is one of Brazil’s best-preserved colonial cities, just north of Recife. It is brimming with colonial charm, with cobbled streets, beautiful Baroque churches and fountains and colourful old houses. There is also an air of bohemia spread throughout the town, and music fills the streets, making the atmosphere of Olinda very vibrant. The choice of restaurants and bars in the historic centre are of a high standard and the ambience here is fantastic. For history lovers, Olinda will be a place of interest given its bloody past. The former capital of Pernambuco was burnt with all its Catholic churches by the Dutch in 1631. What followed from the Dutch invasion was a feud, Guerra dos Mascates (war of the peddlers) – an important historical battle in Brazil for the native movement. There are beaches nearby which are also well worth a visit.
Historically significant for being the centre of gold mining, the colonial town of Ouro Preto is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the incredible baroque architecture which is prevalent all around the town. It is a labyrinth of winding cobbled streets – some of which are too narrow for cars to travel through – and as such, the town is best explored on foot. It can be a tiring walk due to some steep slopes, but rest assured it is worth it when you see the incredible views across the hills and the 23 churches which are scattered throughout the town. The architecture you will pass is outstanding – an exhibition of some of Aleijadinho’s finest works and mineiro art.
Tiradentes is a small colonial town set in the heart of Minas Gerais. It is the perfect blend of natural beauty and impressive colonial architecture – mountainous topography scattered with wild flora, immersed between charming, picturesque buildings. You can easily while away a day wandering around the abundance of quaint trinket and antique shops. The star of the town is the impressive gold-filled church of Igreja Matriz de Santo Antônio – this can be found nearby the main square, Largo das Forras. The walk up to the church is also stunning, slightly inclined and lined with colonial houses.
Paraty is a small UNESCO Heritage Listed town in the Costa Verde, the stretch of coastline which links Rio de Janeiro and San Paulo. The town is rich in culture and history and is full of charming cobbled streets and old buildings painted in pastel colours. Paraty also has miles of amazing, secluded beaches, surrounded by endless forests. It is one of the best areas for scuba diving and snorkelling. There are also lots of hiking opportunities such as the Golden Trail, which leads to some incredible beaches.
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