Curitiba is overflowing with parks and wooded areas. The Museu Oscar Niemeyer overlooks the Bosque Papa João Paulo (6 a.m.–6 p.m. daily), a wooded area named in honor of Pope John Paul II’s 1980 visit to Curitiba. Among several log cabins built by Polish immigrants in the 1880s is a small museum where you can buy Polish handicrafts.
In a pretty wooden house at the park’s entrance, Kawiarnia Krakowiak (Travessa Wellington de Oliveira Vianna 40, tel. 41/3026-7462, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. daily) serves a “colonial tea” with scrumptious Polish cakes including kremòwka, a creamy vanilla mille-feuille that was the favorite of Pope John Paul II when he visited. If the weather is cold, warm up with one of many hearty soups—the “Hungarian” soup is made with wine and ginger while the “Curitibana” soup includes pine nuts.
The popular Jardim Botânico (Rua Engenheiro Ostoja Roguski, Jardim Botânico, tel. 31/3364-6694, 6 a.m.–8 p.m. daily, R$3) features winding trails that lead though formal French gardens, shaded by peach trees and araucárias, as well as a patch of native Atlantic rainforest. The highlight is the elegant steel and glass hothouse modeled after London’s Crystal Palace, featuring a collection of rare Brazilian plants.
The Parque Tanguá (Rua Nilo Peçanha, Pilarziho, tel. 41/3352-7607, open 24 hours daily) occupies two former stone quarries linked by a tunnel through the rocks. Aside from a lake, an artificial waterfall, and a panoramic lookout, there are numerous hiking and biking trails through the greenery.
Curitiba’s equivalent of New York’s Central Park is Parque Barigüi (Rodovia do Café/BR-227, Santo Inácio, tel. 41/3339-8975, open 24 hours daily). The city’s biggest park by far, it gets packed on weekends. Parque Tingüi (Rua Dr. Bemben, Pilarzinho, 41/32401103, 6 a.m.–7 p.m. daily) is a pleasant park that pays homage to Paraná’s Ukrainian community with a replica of a 19th-century onion-domed Ukrainian church. Inside, traditional crafts are displayed, including an impressive collection of pêssankas (hand-painted Easter eggs).
Bosque Alemão (Rua Niccolo Paganini, Jardim Schaffer, tel. 41/3338-6835, open 24 hours daily) is a wooded parkland that honors Paraná’s German population. Classical musical concerts are held at the chapel-like Bach Oratorium, and kids can pretend to get lost by following the “Hansel and Gretel Trail” through the woods. A lookout point offers great panoramic views of the city and the surrounding Serra do Mar.
Parque da Pedreira (Rua João Gava, Abranches, tel. 41/3355-6071, 8 a.m.–10 p.m. Tues.–Sun.) also used to be a rock quarry before it was converted into a green space with a lake and two theaters. The outdoor Pedreira Paulo Leminski amphitheater is the stage for large shows and concerts, but the park’s true highlight is the Ópera de Arame—a superbly designed “wire” opera house designed by local architect Domingos Bongestabs. Its delicate structure of tubular steel and wire mesh features walls of glass that allow you to contemplate the surrounding lakes and woodlands. Even if there are no performances scheduled, the opera house is an architectural marvel and well worth the visit.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition