Tiradentes is, like Ouro Preto, one of Minas Gerais state's historic gold mining towns. It too has some carefully restored Baroque churches and whitewashed cottages built along steep cobbled streets, which clatter to the hoof-beat and trundling wheels of horse-drawn carriages - which are a popular way for tourists to see the hilly town. Riding the narrow-gauge steam train, which runs from the outskirts of Tiradentes to Sao Joao del Rei, 13 kilometres away, is also popular with visitors and local school children alike.
The town is named after Jose da Silva Xavier, the 18th century martyr of the Inconfidencia Mineria movement whose nickname was Tiradentes - or ‘tooth puller'. Tiradentes is an important figure in Brazil's struggle for independence from Portugal. The Matriz de Santo Antonio is perhaps the best church in Tiradentes, with gilded woodcarvings inside and a cross and sundial outside by the famous Brazilian sculptor, Aleijandinho.