For travelers that look to Brazil for a tropical destination made of beaches, parties, and really (really) hot weather, there’s no shortage of options to choose from. But Brazil is a continental country (actually only a minor part of it is seaside!) and the types of vacations and attractions it can bring to tourists are practically endless.
In the state of Paraná, its capital, Curitiba, offers anyone who is interested a varied itinerary of fun attractions, interesting architecture, beautiful parks, enthralling museums, and many cultural activities, festivals, and fairs for all tastes and pockets - for visitors that don’t mind a little cloudy, rainy weather, that is.
In Curitiba, take the bus everywhere
Curitiba has a pretty accessible public transport system, an intricate bus map that was designed like a subway system above ground. It was a groundbreaking urban plan in the 70s and served as an example to many other cities in the world.
Today, it’s simple and easy to reach anywhere in town by bus, the tubular bus stops called, well, Bus Tubes always amusing to visitors.
The parks are a way of life
More than the beautiful natural heavens in the middle of the city, the parks in Curitiba are an intrinsic part of life in the city, always full of locals and visitors alike - especially if the sun is out.
Stroll through the wide, picnic-perfect stretches of grass surrounding the lake of the Barigui Park (and if you're lucky, catch a capybara or two), take a breather in the urban oasis of the Passeio Público, or visit the lovely waterfall outlook monument in Tanguá Park. Visitors can also participate in a fairytale adventure in the woods and folk museum of Bosque do Papa and first-timers especially cannot miss the post-card of Curitiba, the Botanical Garden!
In the Botanical Garden, what awaits visitors includes a sensory garden, a maze of flowers and green bushes, sport quads for tennis, basketball, football, and race tracks, and the famous art deco greenhouse of national fame.
For a more dramatic taste in the midst of nature, the Wire Opera House in the Pedreiras Park is an unforgettable place, a globe theater that is entirely made of glass and wire above an artificial lake, it falls somewhere between a theater and a greenhouse.
Spot the Araucárias
The name 'Curitiba' comes from the Tupi phrase kurit yba, roughly meaning "a lot of pinhão/pine seeds". This expression comes from the abundant amount of Araucárias, a pompom-shaped, pinhão (pine seeds that are a staple food in the winter months) producing pine tree that is native to the south of South America, and the symbol of Curitiba.
The historical center
Curitiba’s historical downtown includes the Centro and São Francisco boroughs, where a casual stroll is practically a touristic tour. Starting at Largo da Ordem, a colonial center dating back to the 18th Century, its cobblestone streets house historical buildings and monuments, like the Ordem Church, the glass and wire architectural caracol that is the Town Memorial, and the Museu Paranaense, the state’s art and history museum.
Bars, diners, stores, and bookstores line the Largo, framed by the gigantic painted murals: Curitiba has murals dotted throughout its extension, spots of color, many of them by the famous artist, Curitiba native Poty Lazzarotto.
Continue walking through to the Santos Andrade square, where the state’s main theater, the modernist, curved roofed Teatro Guaíra frames the plaza on one end, while on the other stands the neoclassical historical building of the Federal University of Paraná - the oldest university in Brazil.
Right behind the University stretches the XV of November street, a wide pedestrian street lined with flower pots and stores on either side, a perfect place to relax, shop or have a bite.
A few blocks down visitors can walk in glass planes, a few meters above the marc zero of the city, restored in its original sidewalk and exhibited below the feet of passersby on Tiradentes Plaza. The plaza looks onto the Curitiba Cathedral, dating back to the 1600s on one side, and the Palace of Liberty a couple of blocks down, a historical building and cultural center - with a wonderful café and a flower market to boot.
Fairs and markets
Curitiba is famous for its delicious fairs and street markets. The two most famous ones are the Feirinha do Largo da Ordem and Feirinha da Osório. The Feirinha do Largo da Ordem, a sprawling street fair that takes up the entire region of Largo da Ordem in the cultural center every Sunday, rain or sunshine. Artisanal goods, antiquities, used books, clothes, and toys are all sold by the dozens, and the food sector has the best empanadas in Brazil.
Feirinha da Osório is actually several different seasonal street markets, selling food and goodies of the season. The Spring Fair in September sells flowery scented candles and colorful dresses, the Christmas fair is lined with artisanal Christmas decorations and special chocolates, the Easter fair has colorful decoration eggs and delicious chocolate ones, and the Winter Fair in June is all decked out in the Festa Junina traditional décor: straw hats, colorful flags, hot air balloons and lots of quentão to warm the cold winter months.
A little further away, near the bus station, the Curitiba Municipal Market is a popular tourist spot. Open Tuesday through Sunday, it has imported and local artisanal sweets, liquor, chocolate, fruits, art, craftwork, and a large and diverse food court, stocked with good food and cozy cafés.
Curitiba has a very active cultural life and has museums, galleries, theaters, and cultural spaces for all tastes and interests, from history to music to art to comics.
The biggest museum in the city is the Oscar Niemeyer contemporary art Museum, also called Museu do Olho ( the Eye Museum) due to its gigantic eye-shaped exhibit center.