Its metropolitan area comprises 26 municipalities with a total population of over 3.5 million (IBGE estimate in 2006). Curitiba is an important cultural, political and economic center in the country. The city is sits on a plateau at above sea level. It is located west of the sea port of Paranaguá and hosts the Afonso Pena International Airport.
One theory about the name "Curitiba" comes from the Tupi words kurí tyba, "many pine" due to the large number of Brazilian Pines (Araucaria angustifolia), in the region prior to its foundation. The Portuguese who founded a village in 1693 gave it the name of "Vila da Nossa Senhora da Luz dos Pinhais" (Our Lady of the Light in the Pine Forest). The name was changed to "Curitiba" in 1721. Curitiba officially became a town in 1812, spelling its name as Curityba. An alternative spelling also came up: Coritiba. This spelling looked to become dominant for it was used in press and state documents, but a state decree in 1919 settled the dispute by spelling the city name Curitiba.
Growth was based on the cattle trade, being half way between cattle breeding country to the South and markets to the North. Waves of European immigrants started arriving after 1850, mainly Germans, Italians, Poles and Ukrainians contributing to the economic and cultural development of the city.
Curitiba hosts the Universidade Federal do Paraná (Federal University of Paraná), the first in Brazil, was established in Curitiba in 1913, the same year in which electric streetcars were first deployed.
Curitiba's inhabitants claim that its weather is unpredictable. Heat waves during winter and cold waves during summer are not uncommon, and even within a single day there can be great variation, a typical feature of subtropical climates. A local saying says that "Curitiba is a city in which the four seasons are clearly defined, and it has all four every day." Several factors contribute to the climate's variable nature:
Curitiba has a master planned transportation system, which includes lanes on major streets devoted to a bus rapid transit system. The buses are long, split into three sections (bi-articulated), and stop at designated elevated tubes, complete with disabled access. There is only one price no matter how far you travel and you pay at the bus stop. The system, used by 85% of Curitiba's population, is the source of inspiration for the TransMilenio in Bogotá, Colombia, Metrovia in Guayaquil, Ecuador,as well as the Orange Line of Los Angeles, California, and for a future transportation system in Panama City, Panama. The city has also paid careful attention to preserving and caring for its green areas, boasting of green space per inhabitant.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Alfred Agache, cofounder of the French Society for Urban Studies, was hired to produce the first city plan. It emphasised a star of boulevards, with public amenities downtown, an industrial district and sanitation. It was followed when possible, but was too expensive to complete.
By the 1960s, Curitiba's population had ballooned to 430,000, and some residents feared that the growth in population threatened to drastically change the character of the city. In 1964, Mayor Ivo Arzua solicited proposals for urban design. Architect Jaime Lerner, who later became mayor, led a team from the Universidade Federal do Paraná that suggested strict controls on urban sprawl, a reduction of traffic in the downtown area, preservation of Curitiba's Historic Sector, and a convenient and affordable public transit system.
This plan, known as the Curitiba Master Plan, was adopted in 1968. Lerner closed XV de Novembro St. to vehicles, because it had very high pedestrian traffic. The plan had a new road design to minimise traffic: the Trinary Road System. This uses two one-way streets moving in opposite directions which surround a smaller, two-lane street where the express buses have their exclusive lane. Five of these roads form a star that converges to the city centre. Land farther from these roads is zoned for lower density developments, to reduce traffic away from the main roads. A number of areas subject to floods were condemned and became parks.
Today, Curitiba is considered one of the best examples of urban planning worldwide. In June 1996, the chairman of the Habitat II summit of mayors and urban planners in Istanbul praised Curitiba as "the most innovative city in the world."
In the 1980s, the RIT (Rede Integrada de Transporte, Integrated Transport Network) was created, allowing transit between any points in the city by paying just one fare. At the same time, the city began a project called the "Faróis de Saber" (Lighthouses of Knowledge). These Lighthouses are free educational centers which include libraries, Internet access, and other cultural resources. Job training, social welfare and educational programs are coordinated, and often supply labor to improve the city's amenities or services, as well as education and income.
According to the IBGE of 2007, there were 3,230,000 people residing in the Metropolitan Region of Curitiba. The population density was . The last PNAD (National Research for Sample of Domiciles) census revealed the following numbers: 2,503,250 White people (77.4%), 584,000 Pardo (Brown/Mostly Mulatto) people (18.2%), 93,000 Black people (2.9%), 45,000 Asian or Amerindian people (1.4%).
As most of Southern Brazil's population, Curitiba is mostly inhabited by Brazilians of European descent. The first Europeans to arrive in the region were of Portuguese origin, during the 17th century. They intermarried with the native people and with the African slaves.
In the 19th century, the influx of immigrants from Europe increased. In 1828, the first German immigrants settled in Paraná. However, large numbers of immigrants from Germany only arrived in Curitiba during the 1870s, most of them coming from Santa Catarina or Volga Germans from Russia.
Immigrants from Poland first arrived in 1871, settling in rural areas close to Curitiba. They largely influenced the agriculture of the region. Curitiba has the second largest Polish diaspora in the world, second only to Chicago. Italian immigrants started arriving in Brazil in 1875 and in Curitiba in 1878. They came mostly from the Veneto and Trento regions, in Northern Italy and settled mostly in the Santa Felicidade neighborhood, still today the center of the large Italian community of Curitiba.
Large numbers of Ukrainian immigrants settled in Curitiba, mostly between 1895 and 1897, when 20 thousands arrived. They were peasants from Galicia, who immigrated to Brazil to become small farmers. Nowadays there are 300 thousand Ukrainian-Brazilians living in Paraná.
Curitiba has a well established Jewish community originally established in the 1870s. Much of the early Jewish congregation has been assimilated. In 1937 with the rise of Nazi power, several notable German Jewish Academics were allowed into Brazil, some of them settling in Curitiba. Physicist César Lattes and former mayors Jaime Lerner and Nei Braga are Jewish. A monument in memory of the Holocaust has been erected in the city. There is also a Habad house in Curitiba "Beit Chabad" as well as at least two synagogues and two Jewish cemeteries, one of which was defiled by antisemites in 2004.
Japanese immigrants began arriving in the region in 1915. Most Japanese settled in the state of São Paulo, but many settled in Northern Paraná, cities such as Maringá and Londrina. Curitiba also received significant numbers of immigrants from Japan. Nowadays, there are about 40 thousand Japanese-Brazilians living in the city.
According to IPEA data, the GDP is estimated at real 29 billion, without recording activities in the agriculture and livestock farming (0.03%) sectors. Industry represented 34.13% and the commerce and service sectors 65.84%.
Cidade Industrial de Curitiba, the industrial district of Curitiba, is home to many multinational industries, such as Nissan, Renault, Volkswagen, Audi, HSBC, Siemens, ExxonMobil, and Kraft Foods, as well as many national industries, such as Sadia, O Boticário, Positivo Informática. The city attracts diverse industries through its excellent infrastructure (hotels, transportation, restaurants). Curitiba's infrastructure makes bus travel fast and convenient, effectively creating demand for bus use in the same way that the infrastructure of traditional cities creates demand for private motor vehicles.
Educational institutions include
24 Horas Street
The Street that never sleeps is the synthesis of a city which also never sleeps. It is 120 meters long and 12 meters wide. It is composed by 32 arches in metallic tubular structure, trademark of the modern curitibana architecture.
Curitiba’s trademark, created to resemble French gardens, rolls out its flower carpet to the visitors right at the entrance. The greenhouse, with a metallic structure, has botanic species that are national reference, and also a water fountain.
The wood has various features to celebrate and promote the German traditions. There are 38 thousand square meters of native forest, which was part of the old farm from the Schaffer family. The replica of an old wooden church, built in 1933 at the Seminário neighbourhood, with neo-gothich decorative elements, shelters a concert hall called Bach’s Oratorium.
Other attractions are the John and Mary path, which tells the Grimm brothers tale, a children’s library, the Philosophers Tower, a wooden observatory allowing a panoramic view of the city and the Ocean Ridge, and the German Poetry Square, with a reproduction of the Casa Mila façade, a German building from the beginning of the last century, originally located in the city centre. It's closed for remodeling at the present time.
A place for the typical parties of the Italian community in the district, such as the Grape Party, the Wine Party and the 4 Giorni in Italy. It has structure for food and drinkstalls, space for shows and folkloric presentations and a polenta pot.
Homage to Japanese immigrants who settled there dedicating themselves to agriculture. Scattered around the square are 30 cherry trees sent from Japan and artificial lakes. In 1993 the Japanese Portal, the Culture House and the Tea House were built.
Part of the biggest linear environmental park in the Country, established at the Barigüi river margins, it reminds us of the Indians who used to live there, with the statue of Tindiqüera Chieftain. The Ukrainian Memorial is also there, homage to the immigrants, in a replica of an orthodox church, originally built in inland Paraná State, hosting a pêssankas and icons exhibition.
Wire Opera House
It is one of the emblematic symbols of Curitiba, with tubular structure and transparent ceiling, of great beauty. Inaugurated in 1992, it caters for all types of shows, between lakes, typical vegetation and cascades, on a unique landscape. The Wire Opera House is part of the Pedreiras Park, together with the Paulo Leminski Cultural Space, where the Passion of Christ was enacted, and hosted many other big events since 1989, and can receive, in open air, 10 thousand people seating or 50 thousand standing.
This park was inaugurated in 1996, the Tanguá Park surprises with its beauty as an example of urban space being re-utilized - on one old complex of disactivated quarries -, and it is part of the Barigüi river preservation project joining Tingüi and Barigüi parks. This park with an area of 450 thousand square meters has two quarries connected by a 45 meter tunnel that may be crossed on foot by a path over the water. It can be visited on boat or on foot (hiking). The park has a cooper and bicycle track, snack bar, belvedere and Poty Lazzaroto garden.
Homage to the Portuguese-Brazilian bonds, this space is highlighted by a track following a small brook, where one can see drawn on tiles excerpts from famous Portuguese language poets, as well as a tribute to the great Portuguese navigators and their discoveries.
Curitiba has a unique transportation system, developed locally and causing much interest worldwide. This Bus Rapid Transit system, is very simple and practical. Public transportation consists entirely of buses. There are several different types of bus, each with a different function. All stations are easily accessed, are enclosed, and the busses have been changed to make for easier entry and exit. Together with other low-cost changes, this bus system aims at becoming a comfortable and preferred transportation choice for the public.
Recently, the city installed around 200 traffic radars, causing much discontent among drivers in general.
Curitiba provides visitors and residents with various sport activities. There are several soccer clubs based in Curitiba. The most important ones - Brazilian mid-class clubs - are:
Curitiba also has many Theaters. The biggest and most important one is the "Guaíra Theater.
Every year, in April, it hosts the "Curitiba Theater Festival, with various artists playing in Curitiba Theaters and even on the squares.
Curitiba is mostly known for some of its famous places: