For travellers in search of the good life in Brazil, the city of Curitiba is the natural choice. Over the last few decades, it has transformed itself from a provincial capital into one of the most important economic centres in the country.
Today, Curitiba has almost 2 million inhabitants and is considered a model Brazilian city, especially for its outstanding public transportation and creative solutions to urban challenges such as waste management. Though there is still a lot of work to be done, Curitibanos are known for their creative problem-solving skills and entrepreneurial spirit. This might be a by-product of the diverse groups of immigrants who have settled in the city and laboured to make themselves vital citizens.
Curitiba is also a gateway to the entire Paraná region. Within 115 kilometres of the city, you will find the Atlantic Rainforest, mountains, beaches, remote islands, countryside, former immigrant settlements, stone formations and a cultural melting pot of influences second to none in Brazil.
Local Tips from a Curitibana
In such a large and growing city, finding your way to special experiences can be a challenge. Locals are always proud to share the city’s highlights, but to make your time more enjoyable, here are seven things to think about so you can enjoy the local side of Curitiba. It’s the best way to make Curitiba your lovely home away from home in southern Brazil.
* Slow down – The best way to see Curitiba is by slowing down. Simply stroll in the city, taste the local food and spend some hours in a park – just like locals do. Travellers who are into yoga may want to check out the free classes at Barigüi Park on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 5:50pm.
* Shop at open markets – Travellers in town on a Sunday should check out the famous open market, the Feira de Artesanato, on the Largo da Ordem in the Old Town. On other days, there is the Rua da Cidadania at Rui Barbosa Square, a smaller but no less satisfying market inside a red-and-yellow building in the middle of the square.
* Enjoy the green spaces – For a glimpse of local life, visit the city’s parks during the day, as everyone comes out to enjoy these gorgeous green spaces. Free entry and outdoor performances attract many local families, especially on Sundays, when public bus rides cost less than half the regular fare.
* Go where the locals go – Still rarely visited by travellers is the new neighbourhood of Batel Soho. Situated by Espanha Square, the area is especially great to explore on Saturdays, when a cultural program features morning activities for kids and afternoon music and open-air yoga classes. The bars around the square are often crowded with people of all ages enjoying get-togethers in this trendy location.
* Enjoy some free theatre – On the last Sunday of every month there are special, free presentations at Guaíra Theatre. Symphony orchestras, ballets, concerts and theatrical performances for children generally begin at 6pm, but families tend to get in line by 4pm to make sure they get seats.
* Eat the local specialties – The locals love to eat local favourites served in the open markets. Among other specialities, you will find pierogis. Originally a Polish recipe, the dish has been adapted to Brazilian taste: it’s a potato filled with cheese and smothered in sauce. Also quite popular are pastels, fried pancakes filled with carne (meat), queijo (cheese) and many other delicious combinations.
* Kick back in a café – A good tip is to head to the entrance of the Pope Woods, where Kawiarnia Krakowiak is a simple café with an abundance of tasty Polish pastries and cakes! Another cool place for a quality coffee at reasonable prices is Café do Paço inside the beautifully restored Art Nouveau building of Paço da Liberdade, Curitiba’s former city hall. There are usually free music shows and the place has an intense cultural program with local writers and short movies.