After our stay in São Paulo, our journey continued south west to the city of Curitiba. We needed to find a way to get from Rio to the Iguaçu Falls without getting a 24 hour (or probably longer) bus. So our two stops on the way we’re São Paulo and Curitiba. Curitiba was a bit more shabby than São Paulo, but that’s not surprising, but I think it had a bit more character. It’s known as the eco-evolved capital of Brazil, with innovative urban planning, pretty parks, large university population, and unlike other cities in Brazil, has little traffic congestion and is much much more pedestrian friendly. Most visitors to Curitiba are there for business, and then to visit friends or family, only about 25% of visitors to Curitiba are actually there for tourism, and even then most of them are Brazilian. That meant that Curitiba wasn’t particularly touristy, which wasn’t a bad thing, but the things to do and see weren’t exactly obvious.
The first thing we did, which turned out to be my favourite and we went back again, was visit the Jardim Botanico (Botanical Gardens). It’s a lovely green space with a distinctly European feel. This is partly because of the Estufa Principal, a big glass building based on our very own Crystal Palace in London. It’s filled with exotic plants and huge palm trees, and seems to be a cultural symbol of Curitiba (there are pictures of it all over the place, even in our local supermarket). We went back the next day to have a sit and a people-watch, it’s really well used by locals and is a little patch of calm.
We also visited the historic quarter of the city, which is full of charm and cobbled streets lined with small bars and galleries. We were lucky enough to catch the weekly crafts market, which also meant yummy food stalls and street music, but by 2pm it was all dying down, which I thought was a bit strange, and by 2.30 the market was all closed, which was a shame.
Another serendipitous thing about the timing of our weekend was that it coincided with Festa Junina (June Festival), a confusing celebration where children dressed up as Cowboys and danced together with wooden spoons. We stumbled upon it when we were wandering around town and we heard loud music and lots of celebratory noise coming from the end of the street we were on. There was an outside food and beer market, and inside a building that looked like a sports centre were lots of parents cheering on their dancing costumed children (lots of them also had drawn on facial hair and monobrows, which was amusing). We didn’t understand what was going on, but we got a drink and clapped along anyway.
Unfortunately, there weren’t many obvious places to eat in Curitiba apart from bakeries and fast food places, restaurants seemed to be few and far between. However, it did have a Mercado Municipal (like in São Paulo), containing Brazil’s first organic food court, which was a good place to buy ingredients, and had a few cafés inside too.
Overall, Curitiba was a good pitstop and I think a weekend was the perfect amount of time to see lots of the city without getting bored.