Churches, centenary townhouses, museums and even a charming Maria Fumaça preserved since the 18th century, preserve the history of one of the most important colonial cities in the state of Minas Gerais.

São João del Rei It is one of the largest, most important and oldest cities in the 18th century, the city was born in 1702 on the banks of the river das Mortes by the hands of pioneers from São Paulo. At the moment, São João del Rei it has several shops, busy traffic and is known for being a vibrant university city due to the expressive presence of teaching centers and student dormitories that attract young people from all over the country and also from abroad.

To the delight of locals and tourists, the city keeps alive a centuries-old tradition: the peal of church bells. This custom made it the “city of bells” and the “land where bells speak”. Religious touches are performed by bell ringers who pass their art on from generation to generation. The Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional (IPHAN) granted the bell ringer and the bell chords the title of Brazilian Intangible Heritage.

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Religiosity is a striking feature and is present in the beautiful churches, witnesses of a rich past. The matrix of São Francisco de Assis (1774) is designed and decorated by Aleijadinho, one of the greatest Baroque artists in the country. The Basilica Nossa Senhora do Pilar is listed by IPHAN and is the only one in the city with golden carved altars.

The Historic Center displays fountains, stone bridges and beautiful colonial houses. The Tancredo Neves Memorial, created to honor the Brazilian lawyer and politician born in the city, stands out. São João del Rei It also celebrates its religious tradition through sacred baroque musical activity and ceremonies such as the Festa do Divino and Semana Santa, in which tourists and citizens decorate the streets with delicate decorative rugs made with sand, sawdust and petals.

Things to do in Sao Joao del Rei

Tancredo Neves Memorial. Photo: Pedro Vilela/MTur

Church of Saint Francis of Assisi

Listed by IPHAN (Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional), the church is one of the most beautiful and important in São João Del Rei. The church with baroque characteristics stands out for the amount of details and its privileged location in the old center of the city. On Sundays, the 9:15 am Mass is accompanied by a majestic orchestra followed by an impressive choir.

Serra do Lenheiro

The huge rock formation is more than 1.6 billion years old, on the trail that gives access to the site you can see up close cave paintings dating back more than 6 thousand years! Serra do Lenheiro was the main source of extraction of firewood and precious stones that served in the construction of several churches of São João del Rei.

Maria Smoke

Inaugurated in 1881 by D.Pedro II, it is the oldest in the country and the only locomotive of the time that remains in operation. The route runs for 12 kilometers starting from São João Del Rei, passing through Serra da Mantiqueira with final destination the city of Tiradentes.

tin stores

São João del Rei is known as the city of tin, standing out for being the only place in Brazil that produces handicrafts with metal.

Railway Museum

Located inside the São João Del Rei railway station, the Railway Museum was inaugurated on the centenary of the Estrada de Ferro Oeste de Minas. Those who visit the place discover the history of the railway with a rich collection of antique objects, such as clocks, telephones, tools that helped build the railway and even a luxury wagon that was used by personalities who made history, such as the emperor. D. Pedro II.

Rosary Bridge

Built in 1800 under the direction of master Francisco de Lima Cerqueira, Ponte do Rosário is part of the main postcards of the municipality. This was the third stone bridge built in the city and connected Direita and Prata streets, where the local elite at the time lived. Another curiosity that can be observed are the banks where slaves were traded.

Other tourist attractions in São João Del Rei

  • Silver Street
  • Cathedral Basilica of N.Sra do Pilar
  • Carmo Cemetery
  • Tancredo Neves Memorial
  • Manor of the Baroness of Itaverava
  • Municipal Theater
  • Regional Museum of São João del-Rei
  • Rua das Casas Tortas
  • Museum of Sacred Art
  • Municipal Market of Sao Joao del Rei

How to get to Sao Joao del Rei

Our Lady of Pilar Cathedral. Photo: Pedro Vilela/MTur

By airplane

access to São João del Rei by plane it can be done at Pampulha Airport, in Belo Horizonte, 185 km from the city.

By car

Starting from Belo Horizonte, by BR-040 (in the direction of Rio de Janeiro to the municipality of Joaquim Murtinho) to then enter the access to BR-383.

Of Rio de Janeiro BR-040, towards Belo Horizonte, until reaching Barbacena, then taking the access to BR-265.

Leaving Sao Paulo it is necessary to take the BR-381 to Lavras, to then access the BR-265 and follow the path to São João Del Rei.

By bus

From Belo Horizonte bus station, buses leave for São João del Rei by the company Viação Sandra. Click here to check times and prices.

Best time to visit Sao Joao del Rei

Historic center. Photo: Pedro Vilela/MTur

Those who visit the city during the summer have the possibility to enjoy more outdoor tours, such as waterfalls, trails and viewpoints near the city. São João Del Rei is also known for its lively Carnival. The destination can be visited all year round, but if you are looking to explore historical attractions more calmly, it is advisable to avoid major holidays, such as Holy Week and Easter.

During the winter, the city presents the incredible winter cultural festival, bringing together numerous artists from different strands, such as musicians, artisans, poets and actors.

where to stay in São João del Rei

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Booking offers more than 50 options for accommodation in Sao Joao del ReiSee all available hotels on Booking.com here.

São João del Rei has great accommodation options on Airbnb. The platform that offers house, apartment and room rentals can be much cheaper than hotels. And if you haven't registered yet, you can use this discount code.

Read too:

» Tourism in Belo Horizonte: what to see and do
» Tourism in Ouro Preto, best places to visit in the city
» Inhotim, the largest open-air museum in the world
» 6 reasons to visit Capitólio in Minas Gerais

Dica extra para reservar hotéis

Para encontrar inúmeras opções de acomodação e reservar hotéis e pousadas com os melhores preços, utilizamos o Booking.com - disponível em milhares de destinos.

Passagens aéreas mais baratas

Para economizar com voos, consultamos primeiro as passagens aéreas na MaxMilhas, - quase sempre encontramos os melhores preços tanto no Brasil quanto no exterior. As passagens podem ser emitidas mesmo para quem não tem milhas aéreas.

Outras dicas úteis

Encontre informações úteis sobre os best destinations do mundo, com guias de viagens especializados sobre diferentes places to visit in Brazil e no exterior. São milhares de travel tips com sugestões de onde ir na sua viagem, recomendação de hotels, notícias atualizadas e muito mais.

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