Updated on Oct.6, 2011
Blumenau, located on the Itajaí River in Santa Catarina, is one of the cities where travelers can best experience German heritage in the Brazilian South.
Thriving Blumenau (pop. 292,972) has several attractions and events related to its German roots, of which the most popular is its Oktoberfest, the largest in Brazil. But Blumenau also received many Italian immigrants. The local Italian community's largest annual festival is Festitália, in July.
Blumenau is 139 kilometers (about 86 miles) from Florianópolis, the capital of Santa Catarina.
Every year, Blumenau hosts Oktoberfest Blumenau, the leader of Brazil Oktoberfests.
The event lasts almost three weeks and boasts parades, Bavarian and Brazilian bands, German food - eisbein, kassler, stuffed duck - and, of course, several beer brands, including renowned local craft beer Eisenbahn.
Sommerfest, held in January and February, is the summer version of Oktoberfest.
Blumenau was founded in 1850 by German philosopher Hermann Bruno Otto Blumenau. The city is part of the history of German immigration in the Brazilian South, which unfolded in the latter part of the nineteenth century with waves of European settlers seeking land and opportunities.
Fundação Cultural de Blumenau keeps track of the immigrants who shaped Blumenau's history and helped create attractive landmarks.
Historic Rua XV de Novembro, in downtown Blumenau, is the epitome of Blumenau's German architecture. Lined with half-timbered houses and paved with colorful bricks, the street hosts Oktoberfest parades.
Sightseeing in Blumenau includes several architectural attractions of European inspiration - some historic, and others built recently, but in accordance with the historic atmosphere.
Besides the houses along XV de Novembro, tourists will enjoy the landmarks along the historic circuit (get brochures at the Blumenau Visitors & Convention Bureau, see address below).
The first part of the circuit includes Teatro Carlos Gomes, the Flower Clock, Macuca - Blumenau's first steam engine - and Castelinho da Havan, a replica of the Michelstadt city hall in south Germany.
Among the landmarks you'll see in the second part of the circuit are the Biergarten at Praça Hercílio Luz, where Blumenau folks have gathered since immigrant colony times; the St. Paul Cathedral and the Lutheran Church; Museu da Família Colonial, with three immigrant house museums; and the Edith Gaertner Botanical Gardens, which are also home to an elaborate cat cemetery.
Vila Germânica, home to Oktoberfest and Sommerfest shows, has the pretty shopping center Empório Vila Germânica, in half-timbered style.
The area has many parks, the most fascinating of which are Parque das Nascentes (Park of Springs), the last remnant of preserved Atlantic rainforest in Santa Catarina, and Parque Ecológico Spitzkopf (phone 55-47-3336-5422).
The pointed head in the latter's German name is the Spitzkopf Peak at 1,000 meters, from which you can see Blumenau and the Itajaí Valley.
Both parks have campgrounds and delightful creeks and waterfalls you can splash in.
One of the best craft breweries in Brazil is located in Blumenau. You'll find Cervejaria Sudbrack, the makers of award-winning Eisenbahn, in the Salto Weissbach district.
The bar in the front is a popular Blumanau hangout on weekend nights (Thur-Sat). Guided visits of the brewery are available (Wed-Sat 4:30p-7p).Address: Rua Bahia 5181
Blumenau locals love Vila Itoupava, a district steeped in German heritage and home to Abendbrothaus, a unique home style German restaurant. Vila Itoupava is 25 kilometers from the center of town.
When to Go:
Blumenau is in a rainy zone. The drier season (up to 105mm of rain) goes roughly from April to August (fall and winter), with May as the driest month. Typically, spring and summer are prone to rain, with peaks of rainfall in January and February.
However, the weather tragedy of November 2008 reinforced the need for travel weather planning in Santa Catarina, especially in the Itajaí Valley.
Where to Eat in Blumenau:
Abendbrothaus, in Vila Itoupava, has been singled out by Brazil travel guide Guia Quatro Rodas as the best German restaurant in Brazil.
Owned by Josefa Jensen, who learned her cooking secrets from her grandmother, the restaurant in a half-timbered house only opens on Sundays (and for groups of 20+ from Mon-Sat and in Jan-Feb). It serves a single specialty: roast duck thigh and breast, served with guizzards, ox tongue, potato salad, purple cabbage, and apple puree.
The restaurant is located at Rua Henrique Conrad 1194 (phone: 55-47-3378-11570).
Hilltop Frohsinn (www.frohsinn.com.br), another restaurant serving German food, was created by the city of Blumenau in the 1960s to foster local tourism.
The best view from a restaurant in all of Blumenau and specialties such as roast duck, roast lamb and codfish have turned Frohsinn into a local favorite. The address is Rua Gertrud Sierich 940 (phone: 55-47-3322-2137).
Trattoria di Mantova (www.trattoriadimantova.com.br) is Blumenau's top Italian restaurant, serving a great variety of antipasti, pasta and meat dishes.
Where to Stay in Blumenau:
Your best bet if you're going to Oktoberfest or just plan to enjoy the Eisenbahn dunkel, pilsen and weizenbier is to stay in central Blumenau, especially considering Brazil has a zero tolerance law for drinking and driving.
Luxury is not the name of the game in the Blumenau hotel industry. The best Blumanau hotels include the most comfortable and most expensive as well as plain, clean, and centrally located inns which won't be so expensive to get to by taxi in case you drink, or which you might even walk to.
How Blumenau Handles Drinking and Driving:
Brazil has a zero tolerance law for drinkig and driving. Blumenau keeps tight control of transgressors and has a cool program called Oktober Segura ("Safe Oktober") for the Oktoberfest.
Oktober Segura has a station where revelers can go voluntarily and be tested on the breathalyzer. That way, each group can determine who's the safe driver in each group. A lot of people who attend Oktoberfest like to stay in nearby Balneário Camboriú and have to drive 38 miles to get back to their hotel.
Blumenau even has a local Safe Ride program in which a volunteer from the Public Transit School drives the reveler's car and another vehicle follows it to bring the volunteer back to the station.
According to Oktoberfest organizers, the state's Road Patrol credits the Dry Law with a 52% reduction in the number of deaths (from 46 to 22) in federal road accidents in the Oct.1-20 period between 2007 and 2008.
Blumenau Tourist Information
Blumenau Visitors & Convention Bureau
Rua XV de Novembro 420
Mon-Fri 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sat 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.