Curitiba is the capital and largest city in the Brazilian state of Paraná. It is the 8th largest city in Brazil. Despite this, Curitiba is not a major tourist destination in Brazil. Most people know of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, but they have never heard of Curitiba. Unless, perhaps, they need to fly through Curitiba’s very nice international airport.
Curitiba is a city known for having more green space than any other city in Brazil. Curitiba also is home to some amazing museums, great shopping, and international cuisine. If you find yourself in Curitiba for a few days, check out some of these suggestions! You will be happy you did.
Book a train tour on the Serra Verde Express to Morretes
Ask any Brazilian about what to do while in Curitiba and they will tell you to take the train. The Serra Verde Express train is a slow train. It goes 110 kilometers and runs between Curitiba and Paranaguá with a stop in Morretes. Morretes happened to be our destination.
The Serra Verde Express train was constructed in 1880 to link the coast of the state of Paraná with the farmland of the interior. This train line was imperative to the economic growth of the state of Paraná. It was responsible for bringing crops from the country to the more populated coastal cities. Many European engineers considered this train line impossible to complete due to the condition of the soil, the tropical diseases, and the wildlife in the area. Nevertheless it was completed in five years.
The train now is for tourists. It goes through the endangered Atlantic forest and crosses the mountians of the Serra do Mar. The first hour of the train ride is a little boring as you only see the outskirts of the city, but once you reach the Atlantic forest and mountains wow! You will see stunning landscapes, mountains, valleys, gorges, and canyons. You will also be able to view beautiful foliage including hydrangeas, bamboos, and strap lilies. Kick back, relax, bring your camera, and enjoy! The windows of the train cars open up so you can take photos, video, and enjoy the fresh air. Try and get a seat with a front opening window as it is easier to hang your camera out the window. For the first hour and half of the ride, sit on the right side, and the last part of the ride, sit on the left. That is if there are open seats. This will allow you to see the best views.
Once you reach the town on Morretes you should eat lunch at one of the many restaurants that specialize in Barreado. Barreado is typical to the state of Paraná. It is beef cooked in a clay pot with a sealed lid. They cook the meat 12-18 hours. It is served with Cassava flour, rice, and several side dishes. You mix about 3 spoons of the cassava flour in with the meat then mix and mash it up well. In the past they used to cook this meat stew by placing the pot in a hole in the ground. It is delicious!
After lunch we were left on our own for about an hour and half to explore the small colonial town of Morretes. It takes a little over an hour to explore this town. It is quaint with colored buildings and a river that runs through it. There are a lot of places to sit, eat, relax, and drink a few beers. Also the local artists sell many unique indigenous trinkets. You can buy tasty treats to bring home, including candies, ginger, and, of course, Brazilian fire water, cachaça. This town is wonderful for photography.
After touring Morretes we met up with our tour guide again and filed into a van. He drove us to the seaside town of Antonina. This is a small but nice town with brightly colored colonial architecture. Our tour guide told us that Antonina is famous for a music festival in which musicians will come and play outside each building. The buildings are named after the style of music played at that locale. Also Antonina is known for hosting a rather large Carnival street festival. We stopped for a few minutes and enjoyed the views this town offers. While everyone immediately went up the stairs to take photos of the church we found an interesting run down brick building in front of the bay. This provided us a great opportunity to leave the crowd behind and get some cool photos of the bay!
After visiting Antonina our guide drove us back to Curitiba taking the scenic route through the Atlantic forest. They only take this road during good weather conditions as it is a cobblestone road that winds up, over, and around the mountains. The views were worth the drive!
We booked our trip through our hotel the Radisson. They contract with July Tur tour group. We were impressed with July Tur and the Radisson as it was easy to make arrangements. With that said, just about any hotel in Curitiba can assist you with booking your trip using any number of tour groups. Using a tour group is not necessary but advisable if you do not speak Portuguese well. We both speak passable Portuguese but we wanted the ease of a professional tour and also a bilingual guide so we wouldn’t miss anything in translation. July Tur picked us up at our hotel and dropped us at the train station. They took us to the restaurant when we arrived in Morretes. Then after touring Morretes they took us back to Curitiba by van with a few sight-seeing stops.
If you want to travel more independently and skip the tour group, you can book your train tickets online here, or go to the Rodoviária de Curitiba (main bus terminal).
The train ride takes between 3-4 hours one way. There are several train classes. The Economica Class train provides no service or guide, but is the least expensive option. The Turística Class train provides snacks and drinks but the guide only speaks Portuguese. We took the Executiva Class train which provides snacks and drinks as well as a bilingual guide. This train departs at roughly 08:15a.m. and runs all week and weekends. For this train you pay anywhere between 79-144.50 Reals one way depending on which train car you ride.
There is also a 2 car luxury train that departs at 09:15a.m. but only runs on weekends. Our friends took this train and showed us their pictures. It looks like a lot of fun and perhaps we will try this when Dale’s dad visits us. It is Brazil’s first luxury train. This train has several plush sofas, a full bar and first class catering. This train is more expensive. The cost is approximately 296 Reals one way.
We opted to take the van back with the tour group as the train is slow. While the slow train makes for an amazing experience on the way to Morretes we decided to take a different route home, which is also quicker and takes about an hour and half.
Curitiba Arts and Handicrafts Fair on Sundays
I had an ulterior motive in coming to this fair. I’ve wanted to find some cool art to hang in our home in Brazil for some time and I wanted it to be by a local artist. I also read on trip advisor that this fair is amazing! It just goes on and on and on. There are 100+ vendors. They sell everything from local arts, crafts, tourist souvenirs, antiques, linens, clothing, wood work, food, drinks, you name it. There are also local musicians and street performers. Everyone goes to this fair on Sundays, from families with children, to bikers having a few beers at the local sidewalk pub. If you like to people watch, you will enjoy this market. It is bustling with activity and fun. We talked to a local artist for a while and bought two of her paintings. We also enjoyed the Argentinian empanadas. Delicious!
The arts fair is located in the old historic center of Curitiba on Rua da Ordem. It starts at 09:00a.m. and goes until around 1:00p.m. Wear comfortable shoes; don’t worry about bringing a lot of cash because almost all the vendors have credit card machines. You can park on the street or in a paid parking lot. If you do not have a car, take a taxi. There is a taxi stand across the street from the market and a lot of taxis everywhere.
Botanical Gardens of Curitiba/Jardim Botânico de Curitiba
This is an excellent locale to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle. The botanical garden was constructed in 1991 in the style of French gardens. The green house resembles the Crystal Palace in London. The plants in the garden are plant species local to the Atlantic forest. This garden of course has many beautiful plants and flowers, bamboo, fountains, small lakes and waterfalls as well as statues. It is a wonderful green space with the city skyline in the background. We enjoyed walking around this park and wished we had brought a blanket and picnic basket. There were people spread out, reading, drawing, playing guitar, visiting with family and friends, kissing under trees, enjoying lunch, and walking and jogging. Also next to the botanical garden is an activity park and velodrome. It houses a velodrome bike path with Olympic measurements, a cycling school, three tennis courts, soccer fields, a sand volleyball court, and an outdoor gym.
The Jardim Botânico de Curitiba is located on Rua Engenheiro Ostoja Roguski. It is best visited in the spring and summer. We went in Brazil’s winter so there weren’t as many flowers blooming as usual. We will definitely return next spring with a picnic lunch and Dale’s guitar!
Museo Oscar Niemeyer, aka Museo do Olho/Oscar Niemeyer Museum also known and the Museum of the Eye.
Another place not to be missed in Curitiba is the Oscar Niemeyer Museum. Oscar Niemeyer is a famous Brazilian architect and key figure in the development of modern architecture. He uses a lot of reinforced concrete with bold geometric shapes, and curves that contrast the rectangular forms. This museum showcases how architecture can be allied with art. It houses many modern arts, sculptures, and photography.
The museum is located on Rua Mal Hermes, 999 in the Centro Cívico neighborhood. It is open Tuesdays-Sundays from 10:00a.m.-6:00p.m.
A trip to Curitiba is not complete without going to one of their famous Churrascarias. Curitiba is known for being home to many amazing churrascarias. A Churrascaria is a Brazilian Steakhouse. The typical churrascaria has a large salad bar with all types of hot and cold foods you can load up on as well as various deserts. Then waiters walk around the restaurant with many cuts of meat and serve you the meat at your table. You will have some type of paper or plastic item on your table that is red on one side and green on the other. Remember, green means go and red means stop. So if you want the waiters to bring the meat to your table flip it to green. If you get what we call the “meat sweats” (when you eat so much meat you begin to sweat) turn it to red and take a break. It is all you can eat, but be careful because some places will charge you extra if you leave a lot of food on your plate. The cuts of meat vary. They serve beef, pork, chicken, chicken hearts, sausage, and some places serve shrimp. My favorite cuts of beef are picanha (a rump cut not common in the United States) and filet minon. The chicken hearts are not bad by the way! One must try chicken hearts at least once while in Brazil. One tip from the now professional churrascaria eaters: do not fill up on too much food from the salad bar. While it looks and is delicious, it is just filler. You are there for the meat. Also, you can always go back to the salad bar at any time if you want more filler.
We came across our favorite churrascaria in Brazil while attending a World Cup game in Curitiba. We were lost, a little tipsy, needed to pee, and hungry when we saw this place called Jardins Grill. We figured it was fate, and indeed it was! We walked inside and the restaurant lit up with a beautiful gold glow and the angels started playing trumpets and singing. This is the place where I ate the best steak in my life! Okay, maybe I was a bit drunk and my senses were dulled, but I still remember how that steak just melted in my mouth. Now, every time we visit Curitiba we go back to Jardins Grill. Jardins Grill is located on Rua Lamenha Lins, 712 in the Rebouças neighborhood. It also turns out to be one of the top churrascarias in Curitiba and number two churrascaria on Trip Advisor.
While there are many, many different things to see and do in Curitiba, these are so far our favorite. Most travelers that come to Curitiba do so only because there is a major airport and they are on their way to somewhere else. There is a lot more to this area than the airport! We enjoy Curitiba because it is a larger city than we currently live. It is only about an hour and half drive from our house and it offers so many different options for dining, shopping, relaxation, and the arts. We know that over the years we will visit Curitiba again and again and we will add to this list of our favorite things to do! Have you been to Curitiba? If so, share your thoughts and recommendations below!