Published On: May 1, 2010

Largo da Ordem Street Fair

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By Silvia Oliveira

I first came to Curitiba ten years ago.  Since then I have been to Spain doing my master’s and doctorate degrees.  I came back here and stayed.  I have spent more than 500 weekends in the capital of Paraná.  On at least three hundred of them, I must have been to the Largo da Ordem street market, Curitiba, which is held every Sunday. What few people know is that the tour should start on Saturday.

Largo da Ordem houses the oldest buildings in the city and one of my weaknesses: colourful houses and historic buildings.  Every time I go there, I feel like a naïve tourist.  In the square is the 18th-century Church of the Third Order of St. Francis.  It is the cheapest and most fun day out in the city.  To admire costs nothing.

Nevertheless, it is a fact: the historical centre of Curitiba has found its way into the tour guides more for one of the largest craft fairs in Latin America than for its architecture.  Sunday, come rain or come shine, there it is!  An enormous outdoor market where you can find a little of everything: paintings, carvings, embroidery, wooden pencils, knitting, candles, jewellery, baskets, slippers, handbags, flowers, curtains, tablecloths, napkins, bonsai, mandalas, rugs, dolls, hammocks, and many “et ceteras”.

However, the market’s greatest riches are its characters. There are the artisans, the tourists, even us locals; simple and relaxed folk.  Not to mention the curious types that appear there: the opera singer, the old accordion player, the blind brothers who sing country songs, the living statue, the girl with the beaded hair and the chap who makes dolls from clay.

Tip number 1: arrive early.  The market opens at 9a.m. and by then it is already chaos. It is crowded, really crowded.  There are over a thousand exhibitors and 15,000 visitors each Sunday.  In the midst of this massive crowd, look up.  You will see the colourful houses contrasting with the blue sky.  If it is cloudy, focus on the different shades and hues of the tents.

Tip number 2: do not take much money.  The Largo da Ordem street market has the strange power of unleashing an obsessive-compulsive shopping disorder.  Everything is so cheap, so easy, so quick, and so pretty that when we come to our senses we are taking half the market home with us!  I no longer know what to do with so many tea towels and fridge magnets.

Like any good outdoor crafts fair that is worth visiting, the Largo da Ordem street market has a large “food court”.  Confirming the immigrant tradition of the city are several stalls selling all those delights that are forbidden during the week, such as pasties, Polish pirogue, acarajé from Bahia, fritters, biscuits, crystallised sweets, Mexican tacos, beef skewers and the crowning glory: deep-fried meat pasties with sugar cane juice.  See you there next Sunday?

Largo da Ordem Street market
Location: Praça Coronel Enéas and Praça Garibaldi – São Francisco.
Opening hours: Sundays – 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

[Photo by Raul Mattar]

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