Goiás Velho  grew in a hurly-burly manner reflected in the crookedness of its cobblestones and the haphazard meandering of its streets. If this lack of urban planning wreaks havoc on today’s traffic, it also adds considerably to the town’s charms and makes wandering a pleasure. For a fine panoramic view of the ensemble, climb up to the threshold of the Igreja de Santa Bárbara. This adobe and soapstone church is one of the more modest of Goiás Velho’s seven colonial churches.
The most impressive is the Igreja de São Francisco de Paula (Praça Zaqueu Alves de Castro, 9:30–11 a.m. and 1–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9:30 a.m.–noon Sat.–Sun.). Dating back to 1760, it features some lovely murals depicting the life of São Francisco.
Another church, the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Boa Morte, now houses the Museu de Arte Sacra da Boa Morte (Rua Luiz do Couto, tel. 62/3371-1207, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Fri., 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Sat., 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Sun., R$2). The expressive cedar sculptures carved by Jose Joaquim de Veiga Valle are the pride of its small collection. Veiga Valle was a local baroque artist whose talent earned him comparisons to the legendary Mineiro sculptor Aleijadinho.
Among the town’s most interesting secular buildings is the Palácio Conde d’Arcos (Praça Dr. Tasso de Camargo 1, tel. 62/3371-1200, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Sat., 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Sun., R$2), seat of the state government before the capital moved to Goiânia in 1937. Currently, the building functions as a cultural center, with a permanent exhibit of furniture dating back to the 18th century.
More impressive is the former city hall/municipal jail, which now houses the Museu das Bandeiras (Praça Brasil Ramos Caiado, tel. 62/3371-1087, 9–11 a.m. and 1–5 p.m. Tues.–Sat., 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Sun., R$2). This museum traces the history of the region’s gold rush via artifacts ranging from slave chains and mining implements to the fancy Portuguese porcelain with which the town’s nouveau riche flaunted their wealth.
For many Brazilians, Goiás Velho ’s most popular—and moving—attraction is the Casa de Cora Coralina (Rua Dom Cândido Penso 20, tel. 62/3371-1990, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Sat., 9 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Sun., R$3). One of Goiás’s—and Brazil ’s—most beloved poets, Cora Coralina (1889–1985) grew up in the same house in which her mother and grandmother had been raised. Although she had to drop out of school in her early adolescence, Cora loved to read and began composing her first poems at 14. At 22, she left Goiás for São Paulo  and only returned following the death of her husband. By then she was 66. To survive, she made and sold crystallized fruits, but she never stopped writing. At the age of 75, Cora published her first book of poetry—minute observations of Goiás and the rhythms of its daily life—and completed two more books before she died at the age of 95. Built in the 1770s, along the banks of the Rio Vermelho , her house is one of the oldest in town. In the bedroom, kitchen, and room where Cora wrote, her possessions are arranged exactly as she left them.
Also of interest is the Espaço Cultural Goiandira do Couto (Rua Joaquim Bonifácio 19, tel. 62/3371-1303, www.goiandiradocouto.com.br , 9 a.m.–noon and 1–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Sun., R$2). An original character, Goiandira do Couto is a local artist who paints portraits of the town using colored sands from the surrounding Serra Dourada. To date, she has discovered 550 different tonalities.