Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in South Brazil
Iguaçu Falls (Cataratas do Iguaçu), the largest waterfalls system in the world, are truly awe-inspiring to behold. Though Argentina boasts better trails around the falls, Brazil is blessed with the best views of this natural marvel’s 275 separate cascades, which span the border between the two countries. Take in full-frontal views of Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo), San Martin Island, and more from the short-but-sweet catwalks that wind their way around the Brazilian side of Iguaçu Falls.
One of Florianopolis’ coolest towns is located just over the hill from the downtown area. Conceicao Lagoon (Lagoa da Conceição) is the Island of Magic’s hip district, and boasts a collection of trendy bars and restaurants nestled around the large lagoon. The area is also known for its jungle trekking, sand dunes, and many nearby beaches.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A cultural park and interactive museum, Parque Epopéia Italiana follows the story of Lázaro and Rosa—an Italian couple that immigrated to Brazil in the early 20th century—through audio-visual displays that offer insight into the difficulties faced by Brazil’s early immigrants.
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.
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.
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.
More Things to Do in South Brazil
Set near the convergence of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, Itaipu Dam (Barragem de Itaipu) is considered one of the World’s Seven Modern Wonders, clocking in at 4.5-miles (7.2-kilometers) long and 65 stories high. With a maximum flow up to 40 times more powerful than nearby Iguassu (Iguaçu) Falls, the dam’s hydroelectric power plant produces roughly 20 percent of Brazil’s electricity.
Iguacu Falls are famously shared between three nations: Brazil, Argentina, and tiny Paraguay (which doesn't actually claim any part of the falls, only the rivers. Though the actual border lies unmarked at the deepest part of the confluence of the Iguazu and Parana rivers, all three nations have erected monuments overlooking the spot.
This historic city on the Cost of Brazil’s Parana state is home to fewer than 20,000 people. Still, its charming old world streets, hillside views and traditional restaurants make it a destination for travelers in search of a true taste of Brazil.
Intrepid travelers can make the epic climb to the top of Marumbi Peak, where picturesque landscapes stretch as far as the eye can see. Historic monuments like the Matriz de Nossa Senhora do Porto Church, Casa Rocha Pombo and the Estrada do Central offer visitors the opportunity to venture back into the past. And after exploring the town, travelers can tuck into a plate of traditional barreado—a slow-cooked meat stew made famous by this town.
Hollywood Dream Cars museum, in Gramado, Brazil, offers visitors the chance to step back in time. This unique and quirky attraction explores the golden age of both the automobile and the movie industry by showcasing vintage cars in a setting that evokes the glamour of the first half of the 20th century.
A fantastical land of animatronic dinosaurs, indigenous villages, and magical forests await you at Florybal Magic Park Land (Parque Terra Magica Florybal). A fun family day out, especially for those with younger kids, the theme park offers amusement rides, play areas, a 7D cinema, and live shows.
With its thrilling zip-lines, cable cars and amusement rides soaring over the coast of Camboriú, Unipraias Park Camboriú (Parque Unipraias Camboriú) is one of Brazil’s most celebrated amusement parks and a prime destination for visitors to the southeast. Part adventure park, part wildlife reserve, the 6-hectare park is best known for its spectacular hilltop location looking out over the beaches of the Atlantic coast and surrounded by thick forest.
Along with 500m of walking trails, the park is split into four adventure areas: Bondinho, Fantastic Forest, Zip-rider and Yoohooo! Head to the Bondinho for a 3.2km, 30-minute cable
car ride over the Atlantic rainforest; meet with fairies, goblins and elves in the Fantastic Forest; ride the 240m high zip-line or zoom down the Yoohooo! mountain sled at speeds of up to 60 km/h.
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.
Santa Claus might be far from his traditional home in the North Pole, but there’s no shortage of Christmas spirit in the Brazilian mountain resort of Gramado. Fashioned like a Bavarian village with half-timbered chalets and (artificial) snow-covered streets, Santa's Village (Aldeia do Papai Noel) is the only one of its kind in South America.
Escape the tropical sunshine of northern Brazil and plunge into the icy climate of Captain Frosty World (Parque Tematico Mundo Gelado)—an ice museum and bar where everything is sculpted from ice. Here, temperatures plummet as low as -4ºF (-20ºC) in order to prevent ice sculptures of world-famous landmarks from melting.
With 8 themed zones, over 100 attractions and entertainment for all ages, Beto Carrero World is the ultimate destination for thrill seekers, set in a suitably scenic location surrounded by Atlantic Rain Forest. Most notably, with over 14,000,000 square meters to explore, it’s the biggest theme park in the Southern Hemisphere and the 5th biggest in the world.
Highlights of Beto Carrero include the Disney-inspired castle of Castelo das Nações, a zoo with over 700 animals, a 25-meter-high Ferris wheel and a series of high-speed rollercoasters and free-falls rides. That’s not all: there’s also a visitor train, cable railway, pony rides and a selection of restaurants, cafés and shops, plus daily shows including ‘Magadascar’, ‘Fast and Furious’ and ‘Monga’.
With panoramic views of the lush Quilombo Valley, Kingdom of Chocolate (O Reino do Chocolate) is a must-visit for travelers looking to indulge their sweet tooth. The museum and chocolate factory, which traces the history of cocoa and the chocolate-manufacturing process, offers visitors the chance to enjoy chocolate samples and hot chocolate.
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.
What do you do when you’re in rural Argentina? Feast on churrasco and enjoy a lively dance show, of course. Just across the Brazilian border in Foz do Iguaçu, the Rafain Churrascaria dinner show gives a flamboyant introduction to Central and South American music, dress, and dance, alongside an all-you-can-eat churrasco buffet.
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