Paraná lacks colonial monuments but has no shortage of handsome 19th-century buildings near Plaza 1 de Mayo. On the plaza’s east side, dating from 1885, the neoclassical Iglesia Catedral (cathedral) is a national historical monument distinguished by its columnar facade, twin bell towers, and a gracefully arched central dome.
Two blocks west, the Museo y Mercado Provincial de Artesanías (Avenida Urquiza 1239, tel. 0343/420-8891, 9 a.m.–12:30 p.m. and 4–8 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Sat., free) is a hybrid institution displaying classic crafts from around the province—wood carvings, ceramics, leather goods, and metalwork—and selling comparable pieces.
One block north, dating from 1908, the Teatro Municipal 3 de Febrero (25 de Junio 60) is Paraná’s prime performing arts venue, distinguished by its horseshoe-shaped auditorium and ceiling frescos.
The San Martín pedestrian mall, popular for Saturday-morning outings, ends two blocks north at Plaza Alvear, the site of three key museums. The Museo Histórico Provincial Martiniano Leguizamón (Buenos Aires 286, tel. 0343/420-7869, US$2) highlights—and sometimes exaggerates—the province’s role in Argentina’s mid-19th-century political history. Hours are 8 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Tuesday–Friday, but if the budget permits, it may open in the afternoon and on weekends.
On the west side of Plaza Alvear, the Museo de Bellas Artes Pedro E. Martínez (Buenos Aires 355, tel. 0343/420-7868, museobellasartes [at] yahoo [dot] com [dot] ar, 7 a.m.–1 p.m. and 3–7 p.m. Tues.–Fri., 10 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5–8 p.m. Sat., 4–7 p.m. Sun., free) showcases provincial painters, sculptors, and illustrators.
In new quarters, the Museo de la Ciudad (Buenos Aires 226, tel. 0343/421-1884, 8 a.m.–noon and 4–8 p.m. Tues.–Fri., 9 a.m.–noon and 4–8 p.m. Sat., 4–8 p.m. Sun., free), details Paraná’s urban development.
On the north side of the plaza, the Museo de Ciencias Naturales y Antropológicas Doctor Antonio Serrano (Carlos Gardel 62, tel. 0343/420-8894, museoserrano [at] hotmail [dot] com, 8 a.m.–12:30 p.m. and 2–6 p.m. Tues.–Sat., 9 a.m.–noon Sun., free, donations accepted) specializes in natural history and archaeology.
One block west of Plaza Alvear, Swiss architect Bernardo Rigoli designed the Casa de Gobierno (1887), which became the site of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches when the provincial government relocated from Concepción del Uruguay; the courts have since moved to a newer building immediately south. Four blocks north, Parque Urquiza is the city’s signature open space, along the Paraná riverfront.
At the Santa Fe approach to town, the Túnel Subfluvial Uranga Silvestre Begnis (1969) is a civil engineering monument, a three-kilometer toll tunnel beneath the river that’s the only one of its kind in the country. It’s also a political monument, representing cooperation with Santa Fe at a time when the federal government refused to permit the two provinces to build a bridge. Free guided tours (tel. 0343/420-0400) take place 7 a.m.–7 p.m. daily.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition