An hour from São Francisco, the land on which JOINVILLE was settled was originally given as a dowry by Emperor Dom Pedro to his sister, who had married the Prince of Joinville, the son of Louis-Philippe of France. A deal with Hamburg timber merchants meant that, in 1851, 191 Germans, Swiss and Norwegians arrived in Santa Catarina, to exploit the fifty square kilometres of virgin forest, stake out homesteads and establish the "Colônia Dona Francisca" – later known as Joinville. As more Germans were dispatched from Hamburg, Joinville grew and prospered, developing from an agricultural backwater into the state's foremost industrial city. This economic success has diluted much of Joinville's once solidly German character, but evidence of its ethnic origins remains: the largely Germanic architecture and the impeccably clean streets produce the atmosphere of a rather dull, small town in Germany.
Shops and services are concentrated along Rua Princesa Isabel, while Rua XV de Novembro and Rua IX de Março run parallel to each other, terminating at the river. However, the points of interest associated with Joinville's German heritage are more widely scattered but still easily reached on foot. The first place to head for is the Museu Nacional de Imigração e Colonização at Rua Rio Branco 229, near Praça da Bandeira (Tues– Fri 9am–5pm, Sat & Sun 11am–5pm; Web: www.museunacional.com.br ; R$2), an excellent introduction to the history of German immigrants in Santa Catarina in general and Joinville in particular. In the main building, formerly the prince of Joinville's palace, built in 1870, there are some late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century photographs, though the museum's most interesting features are an old barn containing farm equipment used by early colonos, and a typical nineteenth-century enxaimel farmhouse with period furnishings. If you've more than a passing interest in Joinville's history, also visit the superbly organized Arquivo Histórico (Mon– Fri 8am–4pm), Av. Hermann August Lepper 650, where temporary, mainly photographic, exhibitions are held.
As throughout the region, Joinville's municipal authorities are making efforts to preserve the surviving enxaimel houses . Although scattered throughout the city, they can be seen in some concentration along the former main approach road, the cobbled Rua XV de Novembro . On the same road, about twenty minutes' walk from the centre, is the Cemitério dos Imigrantes , the final resting place of many of Joinville's pioneer settlers. Covering a hillside from which there are fine views of the city, the cemetery has been preserved as a national monument, the tombs and headstones serving as testimony to Joinville's ethnic origins. If you have some time pop into the Mercado Público Municipal (Mon– Fri 7am–7pm, Sat 7am–1pm) near the local bus terminal in the centre, which sells food and some handicrafts produced by local German colonos. On the second Saturday of each month a handicraft market is held in the nearby Praça Nereu Ramos.