Sitting atop a plateau west of Paranaguá in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná is the city of Curitiba. As the state’s capital and the eighth most populous city in Brazil, Curitiba is an essential Latin American center for culture, economics, and politics. The city’s reputation for being a quintessential food city is also a big draw when it comes to the things to do in Curitiba, Brazil.
The History of Curitiba
Curitiba was founded by the Portuguese in March of 1693 under the name “Vila da Nossa Senhora da Luz dos Pinhais.” The name, which translates to “Village of Our Lady of the Light of the Pines, changed to “Curitiba” in 1721.
During the 1700s, the settlers in Curitiba took advantage of its favorable location for cattle breeding, which saw the city expand. Later in its history, in the 19th and 20th centuries, logging and other agricultural practices such as coffee, mate, corn, soybean, and wheat cultivation, then led to more expansions.
During the city’s expansion in the 19th century, Curitiba became the new home of several waves of European immigrants. Italians, Ukrainians, Germans, and Poles arrived in huge numbers, and the culture they brought with them continues to shape the city’s identity to this day.
Today, Curitiba is one of the safest Brazilian cities, as well as the best big city in the country to call home, according to Reader’s Digest. It’s also known for its sustainable urban development.
But Curitiba is probably best known for its gastronomical scene, which ranges from traditional family-style Italian eateries to the gaúcho meat-roasting method known as fogo de chao. Served at churrascarias throughout the country, this traditional fire-roasting technique is a signature of Curitiba’s cosmopolitan cuisine.
My time in Curitiba was quick but eventful, and took my taste buds on a mouthwatering journey through its eclectic food and coffee culture. And while Curitiba’s famously rainy weather was on full display for most of my visit, it couldn’t put a damper on my excitement.
I can’t think of a better way to explore the city than to join my friends Guilherme and Rafa from Rio4Fun and Rio4Food on this epic gastronomical journey. These are the top 10 things to do in Curitiba, Brazil!
Visit Jardim Botânico de Curitiba
The European influences in southern Brazil are as abundant as they are varied. One of these diverse influences from across the pond can be seen in one of the city’s most famous attractions, Jardim Botânico de Curitiba.
These sprawling, French-style botanical gardens have been one of Curitiba’s main tourist sites since it opened in 1991. Visiting them is easily one of the best things to do in Curitiba, Brazil. The gardens encompass neat, impeccably-manicured grounds that feature evergreen hedgerows, bright and healthy-looking grass, and thousands of vibrant flowers.
Don’t be alarmed if you spot some small animals crossing the garden paths or hiding amongst the flowers. These are esquilos, small, rodent-like creatures that call the garden home. I found them to be quite funny; they kept hiding from me if I got close but would then poke their heads out to get a look at me once I walked away!
The centerpiece of Jardim Botânico de Curitiba is its glorious, French-inspired greenhouse. Made almost entirely of glass, it looks more like a crystal palace than a greenhouse! It’s a gorgeous site, especially framed behind the garden’s statues and flowers and photographed from above!
Best of all, entry to the botanical gardens is free, so it’s perfect for travelers who are on a budget but still want something fun and touristy to do. I highly recommend taking at least a few minutes to check it out!
Jardim Botânico de Curitiba
R. Engo Ostoja Roguski – Jardim Botânico
Curitiba, Paraná 80210-390
PHONE: +55 41 3362-1800
Eat Authentic Fogo de Chao at Villa Rosa Brasil Restaurante
If you’re a carnivore looking to visit Brazil, you’ve probably already heard about Brazilian barbecue. Fogo de chao, a world-famous form of Brazilian barbecue that’s characterized by the meat roasting vertically over flaming ashes, is an absolute must. In Curitiba, the best place to try it is Villa Rosa Brasil Restaurante!
This family-owned restaurant lies just 20 minutes outside the city and is a meat lovers paradise. From the moment you arrive, you can see massive ribs and other cuts of meat roasting to charred perfection outside. The meat comes with a number of sides, including mashed potatoes, rice, beans, sausage, yucca, fresh watermelon, and salad.
As the restaurant is extremely popular, it will likely be packed. I suggest eating in their tent-covered outdoor dining area. But best of all, the food is practically a steal—it only costs R$ 64.90, or roughly $12 USD, for an all-you-can-eat Brazilian barbecue meal!
The Fogo de Chao
I suggest going for a bit of everything, but the fatty and crispy pancetta is a true highlight. Pairing it with the flavor-packed rice and beans and grilled pineapple is a true treat for your palate.
The smoky and salty ribs are also out of this world. They’re a signature of the meat culture in southern Brazil. Here, the meat is seasoned only with salt, and there isn’t much in the way of sauces. The simplicity allows the flavor of the meat to shine in a way it often doesn’t when there are too many bells and whistles.
There are also caramelized pumpkins, which add a nice sweetness to the savory, salty, oily, and crunchy meal. I also can’t recommend the spicy asado eggplant enough. I love eggplant, and when you add chilies to it, it changes the game in the best possible way!
I’m a big fan of mixing foods to get new flavor and texture combinations, so I also recommend mixing your rice, beans, and farofa—the local name for manioc flour—together for a delicious, mouthwatering bite.
Finish up with some grilled pineapple sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar for dessert. The sweet, acidic, and smoky fruit is a flavor explosion in your mouth! It’s a fantastic digestive, as the bromelain in the pineapple will help break down the heavy, protein-rich meal you just had! Trying some is also among the best things to do in Curitiba, Brazil!
Villa Rosa Brasil Restaurante
R. do Contôrno
588 – Granja das Acácias
Quatro Barras – Paraná 83420-000
PHONE: +55 41 99989-6660
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Try Brazilian Coffee at Lucca Cafés Especiais
As I mentioned earlier, even though Curitiba was founded by the Portuguese, its Italian influences also run deep. One of my favorite spots in town to see and feel those nuggets of Italian culture is Lucca Cafés Especiais.
This European-style café is very reminiscent of coffeehouses I’ve visited in Italy. Inside, they sell coffees from various states and regions in Brazilin including Bahia, Cerrado, Norte do Paraná, and Sul de Minas. I recommend buying 250 grams of their Naimeg, which costs roughly $11 USD.
There, you can buy bags of whole or ground coffee beans, as well as a unique coffee-infused blonde ale. Called Cerveja Morada Hop Arabica Lata, this beer is like a crafty cross between a blonde ale and a porter, with a rich coffee flavor. It takes some getting used to but is easily among the top things to do in Curitiba, Brazil!
Lucca Cafés Especiais
Alameda Pres. Taunay, 40
Batel, Curitiba, Paraná 80420-180
PHONE: +55 41 3016-6675
Eat Exotic Brazilian Ukrainian Food at BarBaran
When you visit Curitiba, you might be shocked to hear locals talking about eating jaguar meat. But then, after learning a bit more, you’ll find that the meat isn’t actually from the spotted jungle feline. It’s actually just the name given to a type of raw mincemeat you can find around town.
One of the top eateries in town to try this exotic delicacy is BarBaran, a popular local Ukrainian bar and restaurant. The bar, of course, serves various types of alcohol, including a spicy and sweet vodka-like drink with honey.
They also sell a sandwich called pao de bolinho, which is a black beef croqueta sandwich. It comes topped with mayo, pickles, wasabi, Brazilian sausage, and melted cheese. It’s crispy and savory, and quite heavy, and goes well with a Colorado Brewery coffee-style porter.
But the star here is the “jaguar,” which is actually beef tartare served with bread, white and spring onions, ginger, wasabi, black mustard, ginger, and olive oil. Raw beef, of course, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ve loved it ever since I first tried it in Morocco.
It’s crunchy and fresh, with a nice amount of heat and quite a bit of flavor. If you like expanding your palate with new food adventures, this dish is a great way to do it. It had my mouth watering from the jump and I can’t recommend it enough!
Alameda Augusto Stellfield, 799
Centro, Curitiba, Paraná 80410-140
PHONE: +55 41 3322-2912
Explore Downtown Curitiba
With a city as diverse and multifaceted as Curitiba, you’d probably expect its downtown area to be a melting pot of the cultures that make the city so unique. If so, you’d be right. The busy downtown area is full of European influences, including the old buildings and streetcars along its pedestrian street.
I visited in December, so at the time, the permanent street market in the area was decked out in preparation for Christmas. Any other time of the year, handicrafts are the main items for sale, but in December, you’ll find Christmas-related items.
The market is home to street food carts selling food from various Brazilian states and countries, from Poland to Bolivia to Belgium. You can try several types of sugary coconut candy, including rock-hard nuggets and a softer coconut bar called cocada. I recommend the fermented Portuguese drink called quentão, which is a grape-based drink similar to hot licorice wine.
Across from the market is Bar Stuart, the oldest bar in Curitiba and one of the oldest in Brazil. There, you can try some fragrant cachaça, a popular spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice that’s similar to grappa or raki.
Bar Stuart also offers several exotic dishes, including bull testicles and fried crocodile tail. The crocodile tail is dense and gamy but goes well with chimichurri, manioc flour, and spring onions served on the side. If you’re an adventurous eater like I am, you shouldn’t pass it up!
Praça Gen. Osório, 427
Centro, Curitiba, Paraná 80020-010
PHONE: +555 41 3323-5504
Eat Pasteles at Juvevê Bar Restaurante e Pastelaria
Of the many things you must do in Curitiba, Brazil, near the top of the list is having a pastel. These large, savory pastries are essentially deep-fried pies stuffed with meat, vegetables, and cheese. They’re similar to the empanadas I regularly eat in Miami. By far, the best spot to try one in the city is Juvevê Bar Restaurante e Pastelaria.
This local haunt is over 40 years old and its pasteles are legendary. They have over 150 varieties, many of which come from town and cities around Brazil.
The pastel I tried was massive and contained shredded beef, banana, and manioc flour. It originated from a nearby town called Morretes. It’s crunchy on the outside and quite oily, and the filling is both savory and sweet, though also salty. The manioc flour adds a dry element, but it also creates a new layer of texture.
While the pastel was heavenly on its own, I also recommend adding some chili sauce if you like your food to have a kick to it. The heat and flavor of the chilies tie everything together and creates a flavor profile you won’t be able to get enough of. And, best of all, at just R$ 24 (just under $5 USD), it’s practically a steal!
Juvevê Bar Restaurante e Pastelaria
Avenida João Cualberto, 1817
Juvevê, Curitiba, Paraná 80030-001
PHONE: +55 41 3253-0838
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Enjoy a Drink at Casa Velha Bar
One of the best ways to immerse yourself in local culture while traveling is to visit one of its bars. One of the most famous in Curitiba is Casa Velha, a rustic but authentic sports bar located inside an old house.
There, you can enjoy a drink and watch some sports while chowing down on some local bar food. During my visit, I went with one of their draft beers, a Buddy Brewery American Pale Ale that was hoppy, crisp, and sessionable. I also tried a dark, malty beer called Petra, which was like a cross between a stout and a porter.
Then, my friend and guide Guilherme and I went with a type of croqueta called a bolinho for a quick snack. They’re essentially ground beef fritters with molten cheese inside, served with mustard and a spicy sauce.
They’re the kind of snack you can pop all afternoon long! The outer layer is golden brown and crispy, while the inside is soft and juicy. But the gooey cheese inside is what makes them! Eating this unassuming snack is among the top things to do in Curitiba, Brazil, so stop by and tell them I sent you!
Casa Velha Bar
R. Mateus Leme, 5981
Abranches, Curitiba, Paraná 82130-085
PHONE: +55 41 3354-4050
Have Breakfast at Pizzaria Itália
Pizza for breakfast? Why not? As the Italian culture is one of many that has helped shape modern-day Curitiba’s identity, it should come as no surprise that Italian restaurants are abundant in the area. Pizzaria Itália, an Italian-style diner that dates back to 1969, is among the local favorites.
As a frequent visitor to Italy (I still have family living in the Umbria region), Pizza Itália transported me back to my mother’s homeland the moment I entered. Images of Italian cities I’ve explored in the past adorn its walls, and the entire place has a cozy feel that made me long for another trip across the pond.
Even early in the morning, the stringy mozzarella and thick, doughy crust of their pizza hit the spot. Their cheese variety was good, for sure, but their pepperoni was even better, especially with some hot chili flakes and olive oil on top! The fresh oregano really helped set it off.
If some of the best pizza in all of Curitiba wasn’t enough to entice you, Pizzaria Itália also offers amazing fruit smoothies so thick and rich, you’d swear they were milkshakes. You won’t find any artificial syrups here—just fruit, milk, and a bit of sugar.
I highly recommend the strawberry-papaya-avocado smoothie. It’s creamy and decadent, and is the perfect accompaniment to their fantastic pizza!
R. Maestro Carlos Frank, 1460
Boqueirão, Curitiba, Paraná 81750-400
PHONE: +55 41 3286-8033
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Try Authentic Brazilian Coffee at 4 Beans
If you’re looking for local things to do in Curitiba, Brazil, one of the best is visiting 4 Beans Coffee Co. This local coffee shop is said by many to make the best Brazilian coffee in the entire city. They offer countless different varieties, each of the highest quality available.
All of 4 Beans’ coffee is roasted in-house, so the moment you walk inside, you’re hit with the zesty, aromatic scents of roasting beans. From their floral and fragrant jasmine bean coffee from Rio to their bitter and unique variety from Bahia, 4 Beans is a coffee lover’s dream.
The coffee comes in a satchel almost like a large teabag. They place it inside your cup, open it up, and then pour the hot water inside. The result is an intensely fresh brew that helps kick start your day!
Their jasmine bean coffee was so delicious that I bought a bag to take home with me. It’s some of the best coffee I’ve ever had in my life!
4 Beans Coffee Co.
Alameda Augusto Stellfeld, 795
Centro, Curitiba, Paraná
PHONE: +55 41 99911-8664
Stay at the Intercity Curitiba Batel
Because I highly recommend spending 24-36 hours exploring Curitiba at the very least, you’ll need a place to stay overnight. The best option in town is the Intercity Curitiba Batel, located in the desirable and trendy Batel neighborhood.
This family-friendly hotel houses 180 air-conditioned rooms that offer complimentary WiFi, daily housekeeping, and a free breakfast buffet. The rooms come in three sizes: Standard Apartment, Superior Deluxe Suite, and Quarto Familia. Each room is spacious and modern and is furnished with a flatscreen TV, a bed, and a workspace.
The hotel is located just minutes from top entertainment and dining options, including the Hard Rock Café Curitiba, Mercado Municipal de Curitiba, Museu Oscar Niemeyer, and Shopping Pátio Batel.
With its central location and comfortable accommodations, the Intercity Curitiba Batel is a top-notch choice for travelers. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. The staff is friendly and it offers everything you could possibly want. Staying there is easily one of the top things to do in Curitiba, Brazil!
Intercity Curitiba Batel
Rua 24 de Maio, 144
Centro, Curitiba, Paraná 80230-080
PHONE: +55 41 3411-3001
BONUS: Eat at Gringo Dog Colombia
If there’s one food in Brazil that epitomizes the influence European cultures have had on the cuisine, it’s the hot dog. Brought over by German immigrants, hot dogs are immensely popular in Brazil. One of the most well-known spots in Curitiba to get one is a food cart called Gringo Dog Colombia.
Here, hot dogs are called vinha and come toasted and topped with onions, tomatoes, French fries, and yuca flour. On the side, you can also add a spicy, tangy pineapple sauce or a salsa-like tomato-and-chili sauce.
I admit, I’m not a big hot dog fan, but trying one is one of the top things to do in Curitiba, Brazil if you want to immerse yourself in local life. The bun is nice and crispy and the fresh vegetables add a healthier feel. The pineapple sauce is also incredible and takes the vinha to the next level!
With its diverse cuisine, European-style coffeehouses, and beautiful botanical gardens, Curitiba is a one-of-a-kind travel destination. I was told long before I arrived that it is a true foodie city, and as a foodie myself, I must say it did not disappoint one bit. From the pasteles to the bolinhos to the “jaguar” meat, every bite tantalized my taste buds and enticed me to sink even deeper into the local cuisine. And while the food was the main focus of my visit, the attractions also blew my mind. If you’re a foodie or a culture lover, book a trip to Curitiba soon to explore its culinary culture for yourself!
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