Curitiba is a city that Brazilians don’t usually think of when they imagine tourist destinations to enjoy. For foreigners, the city is also overshadowed by more famous destinations, such as Rio de Janeiro and the sunny beaches of northeastern Brazil. But the city may be more lively and interesting than one might think. This is the kind of trip you can make during the weekend, and you can keep on traveling anytime you like, even without vacations or holidays in sight. Check out an itinerary for a weekend in Curitiba and have fun!
Curitiba is located in southern Brazil, the capital of the state of Paraná, and is known for its cold climate and cultural attractions, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. The city has much more to offer than one might think. Curitiba has history, culture, delicious green areas and a buzzing nightlife. We were excited to visit the Oscar Niemeyer Museum, the botanical garden, taste the famous “submarino” at Bar do Alemão, and explore a lot of cool places around the city! I realized this was the ideal destination for a weekend or a short holiday. See how you too can explore Curitiba.
In this post you’ll find:
-How to arrive and how to get around in the city
-Where to stay in Curitiba
-Parks in Curitiba
-What to do and where to go at night, and tips of where to eat
-More tips and secrets
Getting there and around
Departing from São Paulo, the capital of Paraná can be reached by either car, bus or plane. I went by bus and found it really easy to go from the bus station to the central region. Marcella has already done this trip by car (a 5-hour ride) to enjoy the weekend in Curitiba, leaving Friday after lunch and returning on Sunday also after lunch. But the easiest way is really just to take a plane (1h flight) and keep an eye on promotions, especially if you’re coming from places farther than São Paulo.
The city is reasonably small and is known for its efficient public transportation, so a car isn’t necessary to get you around. But if you’re going in a group be warned, as the fees for public transport costs more than R$4.00, so it’s often cheaper and more convenient to share a taxi or call an Uber. If you’ve gone by car, you’ll be even more free to come and go around the city.
Where to stay in Curitiba?
Like I said earlier, I was on a budget trip, so I stayed at the Social Hostel, a very cute house with a wide range of activities for the guests. The location was also very convenient, near the Batel neighborhood.
On the other hand, when Marcella went with her husband they stayed at the Ibis Curitiba Batel. The Ibis has a great location, right in front of the Hard Rock Café and close to several very tasty bars and restaurants (and not far from the Social Hostel, either). The rooms had the Ibis standard and quality and were perfect for a long weekend or holiday in Curitiba.
For those seeking more comfort and sophistication, the right call is the Nooma Hotel, a luxury boutique hotel with impeccable decor, beautiful rooms, a spa, and a restaurant.
-We recommended a hostel for those on a tighter budget (Social Hostel), a hotel with great value for money with a good location (Ibis Curitiba Batel), and a luxury hotel in Curitiba (Nomaa Hotel). But, if you still need more options for hotels and hostels in Curitiba, click here.
Must-do tours in Curitiba
There are many attractions in the city, but the main tours can be done in just 48 hours. I took the opportunity and already made the suggestions following a logical order for your visit. In the topic below, I talk exclusively about the city’s parks, so famous that they deserve special attention!
Botanical Garden of Curitiba
How can one go to Curitiba and not visit the Botanical Garden? Simply impossible! So, you can start your tour there. The place is usually very crowded and gathers several species of plants inside and outside its famous greenhouse. It’s open from 6 am to 8 pm during daylight savings time, and from 6 am to 7h30 pm for the rest of the year. Admission is free.
Mercado Municipal de Curitiba
Near the Botanical Garden is the Municipal Market. I don’t usually skip a market when I travel, as I find them super interesting points to know more about the culture of the region. In Curitiba, a great choice for those visiting from outside the state is to buy a few pounds of pine nuts, local to the region. You can also have lunch right there, although the food is nothing different nor special (as it’s the case of the São Paulo market, for instance).
Downtown Curitiba – countless options for you
From the market, it’s easy to go to the city center, and there you can spend at least an entire afternoon. If you held back your hunger in the market, a great place to eat typical foods is the A Caiçara restaurant, which is located in Largo da Ordem and serves the typical barreado, a typical dish of the coast of Paraná that is cooked for roughly 20 hours in a clay pot. The Largo, in turn, is one of the main tourist attractions of the city. Its super charming, colored houses and the numerous restaurants justify passing by. When you’re there, it’s also worth checking out the Curitiba Memorial, with a more modern architecture, which houses some of the city’s history and a few cultural activities. On Sundays, an unmissable fair takes over the whole region of Largo da Ordem.
In the center is also Praça Tiradentes, or Tiradentes Square, ground zero of the city, where the SESC Paço da Liberdade, a network of nationwide cultural centers, is located in a historic building that is an architectural icon. Still downtown, visit the Solar do Barão. The cultural foundation brings together the photography museum, the engraving museum, and the comics library in a historic, red, beautiful mansion. When I went, the comics library, which hosts collections of renowned Brazillian artists, was closed, but the other two spaces already made the visit worth it. It’s open every day, but on weekends and holidays only during the afternoon. Entrance is free.
Still in the region, the famous Flower Street, Rua XV de Novembro, offers a nice little stroll in the middle of the afternoon.
Finally, head to the nationally famous Rua 24h, or 24h Street. It’s interesting to pass by, but I must say that the place is no longer the same. Due to the financial crisis Brazil has been facing the last few years, the stores are no longer open night and day and many have closed down. Still, once in Curitiba, it doesn’t hurt to stop by.
Ópera de Arame
Leaving the city center, another landmark is the Wire Opera House. The hyper innovative building houses a theater and a coffee shop, and catches your eye when you arrive at it. It’s worth checking the programming and trying to go to an event/show. Then the experience must be totally different!
If you’re visiting the Wire Opera House, don’t do as I did and arrive late in the afternoon. That’s because at 6 pm another attraction that is quickly becoming famous and is right next door closes, the Paulo Leminski Quarry. It might be more interesting to go early and them visit both.
Museu Oscar Niemeyer (MON) or Eye Museum
Last but not least, the Oscar Niemeyer Museum (MON), aka the Eye Museum. The impressive building designed by the famous Brazilian architect houses permanent and temporary exhibitions of paintings and sculptures, and deserves a little of your time. It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm, and tickets cost R$20.
Don’t be too late, because you often need to stand in line for a while before you enter. Also take some time to chill in the park around the museum, as it’s a nice place to relax. The museum also has a great coffee shop, but it’s worth looking at dining options in the area, like the new Pork’s Gastrobar in front of the museum.
The relaxing parks of Curitiba
Curitiba is very famous for its green areas. Indeed, the city is covered with parks and there’s no shortage of options for those who want to practice some outdoor sports, have a picnic or just take a break from the busy life. My tip for a short trip is to choose one of these options and spend a good chunk of time there.
The biggest and most famous is Barigui Park, but because of this, it’s usually very crowded and on beautiful days can end up chockfull with tourists and locals, which is a bit of a problem if your idea is to have a relaxing time.
Tingui Park and Tanguá Park
The Tingui and Tanguá parks are smaller but still well known. In Tingui Park is located the Ukrainian Memorial, which usually attracts the tourists. Park Tanguá is a little further from the city center but offers beautiful views of the city, and even a waterfall that falls into a lake. It’s a good idea to combine the Tanguá Park tour with the Wire Opera House.
The one I and my friends chose was the Unilivre (Universidade Livre do Meio Ambiente), which translates to Free Environment University and is also known as Bosque Zaninelli.
We made this choice because we wanted to get away from a more traditional itinerary and this seemed like the most curious option, and it was well worth it! Unilivre is somehow a park, but it also houses a school, as its name says. There, management and sustainability are studied in a “building” that was built in a way that is completely in harmony with the surrounding nature and simply enchanting.
The visitor takes a mini-trail to reach the center of the park and comes across a breathtaking landscape. It’s as if we are in the center of a canyon, surrounded by nature on all sides. Climbing a series of ramps you reach the top of the university, where the view is even more amazing. It’s a place unlike anything I’ve ever seen, with few tourists and the same chill vibe of parks in general.
What to do in Curitiba at night? And where to eat?
If you arrive on a Friday, it might be a good idea to do something a little more relaxing and go to the trendy Batel neighborhood. There you’ll find the Hard Rock Café and a series of bars and hamburger hops that are packed on the weekends.
Marcella recommends the cool Janela Bar around there, or the more refined and acclaimed Manu restaurant. And although it’s already spread throughout Brazil, the Madero restaurant chain is originally from Curitiba and can be a good choice in the city for a hamburger.
I went for a burger too, but somewhere else, in the simple and easy-going Whatafuck (was delicious). Then I continued the night at the bar next door, Roots, which sells potato chips and beer.
On Saturday, if you’re feeling up to it, go to the Largo da Ordem region. You can start the night with a warm-up at the super traditional Bar do Alemão. There, the must is to order a “submarino”, a dose of steinhäger served in a mug, which in turn is placed inside the beer mug. Then you can stretch the night to any of the region’s many night clubs. I went to Paradis and highly recommend it.
More Tips and Secrets of Curitiba
A great way to enjoy Curitiba is by taking a coffee break. I, who don’t even drink coffee, always like to include this little stop in my travels and enjoyed to my heart’s content the cakes and hot chocolates of the city.
One of my favorites was Livraria Arte & Letra. A bookstore, publisher, and coffee shop in the Batel region. It has a super charming terrace and having a coffee surrounded by books is always a delightful experience. I also highlight Café Cathedral. A bit closer to the center, it has really good prices, a nice atmosphere, and some simple and delicious lunch options.
If you’re more of a brunch person, the tip is Prestinaria – A Casa dos Pães, which is packed on Sundays and offers a well-served brunch at a fixed price (the almond croissant was simply heavenly).
It seems like a lot to do in a weekend, but it’s super possible to plan ahead and get to know all these places, one of the parks and some great restaurants and bars in Curitiba – and all in just 48 hours! Take a trip there and come and tell me what you think. Oh, and you know it: if you have any tips, leave them here in the comments below!
This post is also available in: Portuguese (Brazil)