Things to Do in Curitiba
The Botanical Garden of Curitiba (Jardim Botânico de Curitiba), in the middle of the city, provides a tranquil respite for locals and visitors alike. Designed in the style of French royal gardens, the park’s crown jewel is the 4,844-square-foot (450-square-meter) art nouveau, metal and glass greenhouse that sits against the Curitiba skyline.
One of Curitiba’s most recognizable landmarks is the Oscar Niemeyer Museum (Museu Oscar Niemeyer), built by and for the famous architect. It highlights his modern designs that are prominent in many of his buildings around Brazil. The museum’s rotating exhibits showcase both national and international artists from the 20th and 21st centuries.
Santos Andrade Square (Praça Santos Andrade) is considered one of Curitiba’s great cultural sites, as it is home to two of the most important attractions in the city: both Brazil’s first university (UFRP) and the Guaira Theatre, an iconic performance house. Often serving as a meeting place for political rallies and demonstrations, the square also hosts local actors who perform near the fountain in the summer and use the surrounding centuries‐old pine trees as props.
Visitors will find that the square is quite large and rarely crowded, even in summer. Many locals spend time relaxing on the wooden benches with a book or just enjoying the scenery. On weekends, stalls sprout up around the square with local artisans selling their crafts. Contrasting with the neo‐classical architecture of the Federal University of Parana (URFP), the square’s Guaira Theatre is a modern construction and serves as the home of Parana’s Symphony Orchestra, Classic Dance School, Puppet Theatre and Curitiba’s Ballet Company.
The Wire Opera House (Ópera de Arame) is one of Curitiba’s most recognizable buildings and an excellent example of modern architecture. Built entirely of glass and steel pipes, the theater is nestled in a lush green space surrounded by a lake. It can seat up to 2,400 spectators and hosts performances ranging from classical to popular.
In the middle of bustling Curitiba sits the expansive, green Tanguá Park (Parque Tanguá). It is built around two rock quarries joined by a 150-foot (46-meter) tunnel as well as lakes and an artificial waterfall. Stroll around the park on foot, pedal around the quarries by bike, or simply relax and catch a beautiful sunset over the city.
Located in the middle of Curitiba’s Historic District, Garibaldi Square (Praça Garibaldi) is a must-see for travelers. In addition to the grand Garibaldi Palace (Palacio Garibaldi), three churches, a fountain and a flower clock, the streets surrounding the square are lined with art galleries, antique stores and lively bars.
Perhaps the most imposing building in the square, Garibaldi Palace’s construction began in 1887 and took 17 years to complete. It was originally created as a meeting space for Italian immigrants living in Curitiba. Although still the headquarters of the Garibaldi Society, the space now is used for weddings and events. The square also has one of the few flower clocks in the world that, according to officials, always shows the correct time. A gift from the city’s jewelers, the clock is 26 feet (eight meters) long with fiberglass hour and minute hands and is greatly admired. The clock is said to be off by 30 seconds each year at most and runs on battery-powered quartz.
The area also houses the Baroque-style Igreja do Rosario dos Pretos, constructed by a brotherhood of former African slaves in the 18th century before being demolished in 1931 and replaced. The church is simple, with two large stained-glass windows and painted Portuguese tiles embedded in the pillars. Original tiles can still be found along the outer walls today.
Arguably the most important square in Curitiba, Tiradentes Square (Praça Tiradentes) is home to many of the city’s well-known sites, including the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica Minor of Our Lady of Light. Among the trees and statues in the square, visitors can walk over a glass-protected piece of the square’s original pavement, constructed in the first half of the 19th century. Thanks to the special lighting within the glass flooring, the spot is especially beautiful come nightfall.
The Cross of Christ and a historic monolith can also be found in the center of Praca Tiradentes. The former was a symbol of the Military Order of the Christ, instituted by King Denis of Portugal in the 14th century, and represented the legal power of Portugal over the land and the settlement of Curitiba in 1693. According to legend the spot also marks the place where Indigenous Chief Tindiquera of the Tingui Tribe once chose to settle his people.
Located in the foothills of the Serra do Mar mountains—and within easy day tripping distance of Curitiba—Aguas Claras Water Park is one of the region’s largest water parks. The family-friendly destination has an attraction for travelers of all ages; highlights include high-speed water slides, wave pools, a boating lake, and a zipline course.
Surrounded by the bustling city of Curitiba and set deep in Zaninelli Park sits Free University of the Environment (UNILIVRE), a higher learning institution that offers courses related to the environment and a sustainable world. The school is often visited and admired on walking tours.
Located in what was once an old granite quarry, the area that houses Unilivre has been totally reforested with native vegetation. Strolling along the park’s many paths, visitors will observe various types of native and regional birds that share the area with students.
With a main building that has a 49‐foot‐tall (15‐meter‐tall) wooden tower, the structure’s architecture blends well with the surrounding nature. The huge spiraling stairs that lead to the tower wrap around the entire building and provide views overlooking the natural landscape. There is also an open‐air auditorium on campus and a 24‐foot‐deep (8‐meter‐deep) lake, home to swans, ducks and various types of fish.
Walking through the middle of Curitiba’s historic center, there’s no chance of missing the city’s cathedral, Catedral Basílica Menor Nossa Senhora,which dominates Praça Tiradentes. Built in 1876 in the Neo-Gothic style, the church features several stained-glass windows and paintings by artists such as Italian brothers Carlos and Anacleto Garbaccio within. The structure was designed by a French architect who is said to have been inspired by Barcelona’s Metropolitan Cathedral, another large, Gothic place of worship. Curitiba’s Metropolitan Cathedral sits on the very spot where the city’s first Catholic church was constructed back in 1693.
At the right-side entrance, visitors have a chance to see the chair where Pope John Paul II sat when he visited the city in 1980. Near the altar is a 30-foot (nine-meter) deep well, which is believed by historians to be the only remaining piece of the original structure. The cathedral is most easily spotted on a stroll through the park and is included in many walking and bus tours.
More Things to Do in Curitiba
Once Curitiba’s City Hall, the Palace of Liberty is today a multi-functional cultural center hosting conferences, lectures and exhibitions with its movie theater, sound studio and electronic art lab. Built in the beginning of the 20th century to house the local government, it has an eclectic construction style. After the city’s government was transferred in 1969, the building was used as a museum, and later, restored as the cultural center it is today.
Visitors can wander through the site, passing between the two statues of Hercules holding up the archway to explore the building’s four stories. Wooden art nouveau carvings can be seen throughout the building, and large windows open up out onto the square. On the third floor, elaborate painted ceilings have many visitors looking up. The building is said to have been the first in Curitiba to hold an elevator, brought directly from Europe. The elevator is no longer in operation but has been preserved for people to see.
Inaugurated in 1980, shortly after Pope John Paul II’s visit to Curitiba, the sprawling Pope's Woods (Bosque Joao Paulo II) are made up of 515,000 square feet (48,000 square meters) of native vegetation. The area is home to the outdoor Polish Immigration Memorial, a statue of the pope and a monument honoring famous Polish mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.
Near the memorial are seven original Polish houses, built around 1878 during the start of the Polish colonization of the region and later reassembled here in Pope’s Woods. Visitors can admire the mastery of the builders, who carefully sculpted the pine logs to fit perfectly together. The most prominent house was transformed into a chapel in honor of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, patroness of Poland. In the other houses are furniture and utensils used during the first Polish immigration wave in the late 1870s. Elsewhere in the woods, visitors can also make use of the bicycle trail, playground, theater stage and Portuguese‐style teahouse.
Curitiba’s oldest park, Passeio Publico opened in 1886 with an abundance of natural forest space and many species of small and native vegetation. For a period during the 19th century, it served as Curitiba’s Botanical Gardens, and visitors may still find various species of trees and shrubbery as they stroll the winding trails. The location is considered an ecological sanctuary today, housing a lake with islands, a cave, a suspension bridge and a floating stage. On Saturdays, visitors can also wander an outdoor local organic market or paddle the lake. Bicycles are also available for rent to ride within the park limits.
The city’s zoo is also located here with a fair number of animals, from spiders, reptiles and exotic fish to native birds and small mammals, including the largest group of muriquis (woolly spider monkeys) under captivity today.
Home to the renowned Atlético Paranaense soccer team, Arena da Baixada—also known as Estádio Atlético Paranaense—is located in Curitiba, the state capital of Paraná. The first football match was played here in 1914, making this stadium an important part of Brazil’s world-renowned football legacy.
The Federal University of Paraná (UFPR) is the oldest educational institution in Brazil, dating back to 1912. Mainly made up of a single 17,000-square-meter neo-classical building, the school occupies an entire block of Curitiba’s town center on one end of Praça Santos Andrade. What started out as a private institution in the early 1900s became a federal, tuition-free university in 1950. The university has since incorporated several buildings throughout Curitiba to house its students and classes, while also having units in the cities of Palotina and Matinhos.
The university is one of Curitiba's most photographed buildings come nightfall thanks to its lighting and grand appearance. Visitors are warned, however, that Santos Andrade Square is not the safest area to explore alone on foot at night.