There’s Prehistoric Art, Aleijadinho, Niemeyer... See the list of Unesco world heritage sites in Brazil

23.10.2017 – 3:55 pm

Last month, Unesco made the headlines around the world after Donald Trump officially announced the United States’ withdrawal from the institution and immediately followed by Israel. The two countries accuse the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization of adopting anti-Israel policies over the last years. The United Nations most important arm for preserving cultural heritage and entities has a lot to lose without the support from these two countries. Despite the impact of this crisis, the institution remains one of the biggest cultural symbols of the world.

SP-Arte looked into the role played by Unesco in Brazil and discovered the complete list of our world heritage sites chosen by the entity. From north to south of the country, 14 places have been deemed world heritage sites by the institution. For the Brazilians, who are not in this fight of giants shaking the structures of Unesco, it is always nice to revisit this list and be proud of the country’s cultural diversity and wealth and, especially, to protect its national heritage.

See the complete list:


  • Historic town of Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais 

Ouro Preto was the first city in Brazil to be named a national heritage site by Unesco, in 1980. Walk up its hills and balance yourself on the cobblestone streets to travel in time and return to Colonial Brazil days when the gold from mines fed the kingdom of Portugal. The city is beautiful, thriving with youngsters, bars and the traditional mineiro fare.


  • Historic center of Olinda, Pernambuco

Founded in 1535, Olinda was once headquarters of the Colony and, during its richest period, its wealth paralleled with the biggest cities of Portugal. In the next century, Holland and Portugal fought for the town’s control. To stroll along its hilly streets at the tune of a good frevo block is one of the more pleasurable things to do.


  • Ruins of São Miguel, Rio Grande do Sul

The Ruins of the Jesuits Missions in São Miguel are located in the heart of the Pampas and the typical vegetation of the Gaucho plains. These impressive ruins are reminders of five Jesuit missions during the 17th and 18th centuries when the territory was still inhabited by Guarani Indians.


  • Historic center of Salvador, Bahia

Brazil’s first capital, Salvador was built based on a mixture of European, African and Native American cultures. To walk up the Pelourinho and appreciate its very colorful houses makes you travel back in time. Besides the architecture, the local population’s strong cultural identification with its African heritage makes Salvador a city that’s different from anything you’ve ever experienced.


  • Sanctuary of Senhor Bom Jesus de Matosinhos, Congonhas do Campo, Minas Gerais

This sanctuary located south of Belo Horizonte (MG) dates back to the second half of the 18th century. It comprises a church entirely decorated in magnificent Rococo style, but it’s the outside that made the site famous. Here you will find the 12 prophets and six chapels with sculptures by Aleijadinho.


  • Pilot plan of Brasília, Distrito Federal

Designed in 1956 by Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa, Brasília is still one of the country’s greatest architectural milestones. Seen from above or driving along its wide avenues, Brasília has unique symmetry and uniformity in its design.


  • Serra da Capivara National Park, São Raimundo Nonato, Piauí

In addition to its environmental richness and impressive rock formations, the park is a historical and cultural sanctuary that comprises 400 archaeological sites with rock carvings and paintings that date back 43,000 years.


  • Historic center of São Luis, Maranhão

The French were the first to found the city and then came the Dutch and invaded it. But it was the Portuguese who had the highest influence on the colorful houses, stairways and tiled walls that give the historic center of São Luis its unmistakable identity.


  • Historic center of the town of Diamantina, Minas Gerais

Built on the rocky hills of Minas Gerais, the city of Diamantina is where explorers moved to look for diamonds in mines. Founded in the beginning of the 17th century, the city maintains most of its heritage intact, as seen in its facades, sidewalks and churches.


  • Historic center of the city of Goiás, Goiás

Goiás witnessed central Brazil’s colonization during the 18th and 19th centuries. The architecture is modest, but the harmony between public and private architecture provides a very special charm, leaving the city with that quaint inner-state feeling.


  • São Francisco Square, São Cristóvão, Sergipe.

The quadrilateral open space is surrounded by the city’s most important constructions at the time of its founding, such as the São Francisco Church and Convent, the Santa Casa de Misericórdia Church, the Provincial Palace and a series of constructions of different historical periods, with samples from the 18th and 19th century.


  • Rio de Janeiro, the mountain and the sea

The beauty is such that the entire landscape comprising the rocks, mountains, sea and buildings were deemed a world heritage site by Unesco. The flora and trails of Tijuca National Forest, the unique shape of Guanabara Bay, Sugarloaf Mountain, the exuberance of the Botanical Gardens and the blue ocean are just some of the elements that made Rio’s landscape a world heritage site.


  • Pampulha Modern Ensemble, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais

Designed by Oscar Niemeyer and landscaping by Roberto Burle Marx, the ensemble is composed of buildings, reflecting water of an artificial lake and its waterfront. The reinforced concrete chapel by Niemeyer is one of the masterpieces of the ensemble and became the biggest symbol of the Minas Gerais capital.


  • Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site, Rio de Janeiro

In 2011, during excavation work to revitalize Rio de Janeiro’s port zone, two anchorages were discovered one on top of the other and, together with them, a large amount of shells and objects of worship from the Congo, Angola and Mozambique. These are the only vestiges found to this date on the arrival of African slaves in America.