Archaeological sites, ruins, monuments, preserved buildings, historic centers and cities: discover the 15 World Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO in Brazil

In addition to the unparalleled natural beauties, the Brazil is filled with places that are true treasures of humanity.

Among archeological sites, ruins, preserved buildings and places of great cultural and social importance, these places reveal traces of some of the most important periods in our history.

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Currently, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognizes 15 World Cultural Heritage Sites here in Brazil. Including Paraty and Ilha Grande, which were recently listed and included in the prestigious list. So, find out what the Cultural Heritage of Humanity who stay in Brazil and take the opportunity to finally honor these unique places.

Historic center of Ouro Preto (MG)


The Historic Center of Ouro Preto is declared as one of the Cultural Heritage of Humanity in Brazil by UNESCO. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Considered a large open-air museum, the former Vila Rica, currently Ouro Preto, has one of the richest architectural complexes in Brazil. Founded in 1711, the city was the captaincy of Minas Gerais in its most important period, the gold cycle. In addition, it was the first Brazilian site considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, received in 1980. Ouro Preto has several churches with incredible works of art from the baroque phase of Minas Gerais, with pieces by Aleijadinho, as well as museums that rescue part of this rich history.

Historic Center of Olinda (PE)


Historic Center of Olinda is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Photo: Pablo Gonzalez/ FlickrOne of the most charming cities in Brazil, Olinda certainly presents a well-preserved architectural ensemble with colorful houses, gardens, baroque churches, convents, chapels and, as if that weren't enough, the sea as a backdrop making everything even more beautiful. Declared Historical and Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 1982, the city was founded by the Portuguese in the 16th century and its history walked along with the production of sugar.

Ruins of São Miguel das Missões (RS)

The Ruins of São Miguel das Missões stands out as one of the heritage sites in Brazil. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

One of the most important monuments in Brazil, the ruins of São Miguel das Missões are located on the border between Rio Grande do Sul and Argentina. In this way, a legacy left by the Jesuit missions in the region in the 17th century, these buildings served as catechizing poles. Listed by UNESCO in 1983, four of them are on the Argentine side and the São Miguel das Missões is the only one on the Brazilian side.

Historic Center of Salvador (BA)


Photo: Disclosure

Capital of the state of Bahia, Salvador was undoubtedly the first Portuguese colonial headquarters in Brazil. After all, the region was discovered in 1510, after the sinking of a French ship, which carried on board Diogo Álvares, one of those responsible for the colonization of Bahia. The Historic Center of Salvador is located in the Pelourinho neighborhood, which in other words, is marked by colonial architecture. The city was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985 and is historically one of the most important in America.

Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos (MG) 


Photo: Danielodist/ Wikimedia Commons

Located in the city of Congonhas, in Minas Gerais, the Sanctuary of Senhor Bom Jesus de Matosinhos is composed of 12 baroque sculptures sculpted by Antônio Francisco Lisboa, Aleijadinho. The images, which adorn the churchyard of the Bom Jesus dos Matosinhos Sanctuary, certainly date from the second half of the 18th century, and were elected Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 1985. In addition to the sculptures, there is also the Bom Jesus de Congonhas Church and six chapels. which reveal more than 60 wooden sculptures by the incredible Baroque artist.

Brasilia DF) 


Photo: Prandrade/ Wikimedia Commons

Brasilia was built from scratch in the center of Brazil between 1956 and 1960 and, therefore, is considered a great achievement of urban planning not only in Brazil, but in the world. Planned by urban planner Lúcio Costa and architect Oscar Niemeyer, the city features residential and administrative buildings designed in perfect symmetry that aligns with the city's overall design. Often surprisingly compared to the shape of a bird in flight. Listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987, the federal capital is considered a center of innovation and creativity from an architectural point of view.

Serra da Capivara National Park (PI)


Photo: Claudia Regina/ Wikimedia Commons

One of the most incredible places in Brazil, the Serra da Capivara National Park, in Piauí, is home to thousands of archaeological sites with cave paintings that are over 25,000 years old. Open for visitation since 1979, the site concentrates vestiges of prehistoric man in Brazil and was inscribed by UNESCO in the list of World Heritage Sites in 1991. In fact, due to its archaeological and historical importance. That is, there are more than 300 points of interest, in addition to bones and ancient objects, which show the customs of the first people to occupy the continent.

Historic Center of São Luís (MA)


Photo: Disclosure / IPHAN

São Luís is undeniably the only city in Brazil founded by the French and has more than 3,000 historic buildings, such as mansions and townhouses covered with Portuguese tiles, spread throughout its historic center. With many particularities, such as linear lines in the streets, with geometric designs, the city also preserves traditions and cultures such as Bumba-Meu-Boi, and won the title of Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 1997.

Historic Center of Diamantina (MG)


Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Elvécio Fernandes

Diamantina, then known as Arraial do Tijuco, was born amidst the rocky mountains full of diamonds in the region in the 17th century. Although its buildings are not as imposing as in other historical cities in Minas Gerais, the simplicity of its architectural style, full of beautiful baroque examples, granted it the title of UNESCO Heritage in 1999. In addition to its historical and cultural heritage, the city sheltered notorious residents. Among them, the former president of the Republic, Juscelino Kubitschek, and the freed slave Chica da Silva.

Historic Center of Goiás (GO)


Historic Center of Goiás was recognized as one of the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Photo: Disclosure / IPHAN

Goiás keeps much of the living history of the occupation and colonization of Central Brazil in the 18th and 19th centuries. When pioneers arrived in the state and founded the village known as Arraial de Santana, which became the first capital of the state. In this way, the architectural ensemble formed by charming houses, churches and buildings in European style was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001, considered unique in the world for its state of conservation.

San Francisco Square (SE)

Photo: Disclosure / IPHAN

The small city of São Cristóvão, in the interior of Sergipe, is the fourth oldest in Brazil and the first capital of the state. In fact, Praça de São Francisco, which received the title as one of the Cultural Heritage of Humanity in Brazil by UNESCO in 2010, is a monumental set surrounded by buildings that represent the period in which the crowns of Portugal and Spain were united, between 1580 and 1640. Among the most important buildings in its surroundings are the Church and Convent of São Francisco, the Church of Nossa Senhora das Vitórias, the Church of the Rosário dos Homens Pretos, among others.

Rio landscapes (RJ)

Rio's landscapes have been recognized as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Photo: Pixabay

The incredible and exceptional urban scenery that contrasts with nature make Rio de Janeiro a unique city in the world. The landscapes formed between the sea and the mountains, such as the Tijuca National Park, the Botanical Garden, Corcovado, Copacabana Beach, Aterro do Flamengo and Guanabara Bay received the title of Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2012. All these elements together compose, according to UNESCO, in addition to beautiful settings, an atmosphere recognized for artistic inspiration for musicians, landscape designers and urban planners.

Pampulha (MG)

Photo: Sérgio Mourão/ Wikimedia Commons

One of the most visited postcards in Belo Horizonte, the Pampulha neighborhood was built around an artificial lagoon. There are the most beautiful architectural ensembles of Belo Horizonte, three of them signed by the architect Oscar Niemeyer. The Church of São Francisco de Assis, for example, is adorned with panels by the incredible Cândido Portinari. UNESCO declared the architectural ensemble a World Heritage Site in 2016 for representing the perfect union of contemporary projects with nature.

Valongo Pier (RJ)

Photo: Disclosure / IPHAN

Cais do Valongo functioned as a port of entry for African slaves in Brazil. It is estimated that more than 900,000 Africans arrived in the country through it, considered the only record of these events in Brazil. The site, which is in the port region of Rio de Janeiro, was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2017 as a record that represents memories of survival and struggle.

Paraty and Ilha Grande (RJ)

Photo: Disclosure / IPHAN

Finally, for the first time, Brazil had a mixed, historical and cultural site, recognized by UNESCO. Declared as World Heritage Sites in 2019, Paraty and Ilha Grande are in a region that still preserves 85% of its vegetation cover. Being the second largest forest remnant in the Atlantic Forest biome. In addition to the natural beauties, Paraty has one of the most incredible colonial architectural complexes in Brazil.

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