Stepping into the gleaming white streets of Brasilia you might feel like you’ve wandered straight onto the set of a science fiction film. Comprising sculptural silhouettes and ultra-modern landmarks, this futuristic capital of Brazil is one of the great purpose-built cities of the world!
Architecture is the quintessential expression of modern design. It was plotted as a planned city, with districts assigned like the Hotel Sector, the Banking Sector, the Embassy Sector, and so forth.
Perhaps the most striking fact about Brasilia is that, when viewed from above, the city resembles an airplane. This is how I see it from the Cloud! If you want to see it for yourself, check out Google Earth.
Here’s a pro-tip: The Brazilian Real is the national currency. Currently, the exchange rate is about 7 Reals to £1.00 but the rate fluctuates a lot. The best place to exchange your money is at the major banks in the city or you can withdraw cash directly from the ATMs everywhere. Many shops and restaurants also accept US dollars.
Brasília–Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek International Airport serves the capital of Brazil. Non-stop flights connect Brasilia to such cities as Orlando, Paris, Lisbon, Miami and Buenos Aires and there are further easy connections via Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. Situated 11 km (7 miles) from the city centre, you can take a taxi downtown for R$30-40 (£4-5.50).
Alternatively, you can make use of the Executive Bus service which connects the Hotel District and central Brasilia for R$10. Travelling around the city itself is easy due to an efficient public transport system. My suggestion is to use the bus service which navigates the city centre and its major tourist sites. It’s more convenient than the metro.
Brasilia is full of unique buildings designed by Oscar Niemeyer and touring the city is comparable to exploring a large open air art museum. These are my top recommendations of what to see and do:
- National Congress – Housing Brazil’s legislature body, this important building was designed by Oscar Niemeyer in his futuristic style that sets the tone for the city. As a visitor, you can actually take a tour of the interior, but note that this is currently suspended due to the pandemic.
- Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB) – Another wonder from the hands of Niemeyer, here you can watch concerts, theatre performances, films, and exhibitions. This is one example of a network of cultural centres that located around the country.
- Santuário São João Bosco – With its iconic floor-to-ceiling windows and Murano glass chandelier, this contemporary cathedral resembles the starry night sky. It was constructed in 1963 by the architect Carlos Alberto Naves and dedicated to the patron saint of the city, Dom Giovanni Melchiorre Bosco
- Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida – Also known as the Cathedral of Brasilia, this Roman Catholic church is another of Oscar Niemeyer’s designs. The acoustics are of such a standard that even when speaking at low volume you can still be heard on the opposite side of the building.
- Explore Brasilia’s nature – This avant-garde city doesn’t forfeit nature. These are my favourite beauty spots in and around the city:
- – Paranoá Lake is a picturesque spot to watch the sunset or enjoy water sports and swimming.
– The natural oasis of Parque Municipal do Itiquira is a perfect day trip from the capital, located 114 km (70 miles) out of town. Visit to snap photos, explore the nature trails, soak up the tranquillity and take a dip in waterfall pools. Standing at a height of 168 metres, the Itiquira Falls are one of the most beautiful in Brazil.
– Located closer at just 13 km (8 miles) from the city, the National Park of Brasília offers a delightful day out. In addition to cycling and hiking routes, there are natural mineral pools for swimming and you may spot the resident monkeys, giant otters and armadillos.
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Brazilian food exemplifies South American cuisine and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to find your favourite dish whilst in Brasilia. There’s seemingly no limit to the amazing dining options in the capital. Here are my favourites:
- Coco Bambu Lago Sul – Boasting beautiful lake views and seafood specialities including their famous shrimp, this restaurant has an extensive menu, good prices, and a friendly atmosphere.
- Caminito Parilla Sudoeste – This colourful Argentinian steakhouse is designed to resemble a warehouse. This is the place to come for tender, lean and flavoursome meats grilled to perfection.
- Nazo Sushi Bar – One of the most highly rated restaurants in Brasilia is also the best place to eat Japanese cuisine and sushi. This venue is equipped with an authentic ‘rotating’ sushi conveyor belt which makes it all the more fun.
Here’s another pro-tip: Don’t leave Brazil without trying some traditional snacks. Pão de Queijo is essentially a ball of cheese covered in dough, but they are absolutely delicious. You’ll find these available almost everywhere and they are a real treat.
This metropolitan city has so much to offer in the evenings. Here are my top choices on how to spend your nights in Brasilia:
- Bar Brasilia – This retro watering-hole is a laid-back place to grab a draft beer or indulge in a cocktail. The food is great and the feijoada is particularly commendable.
- Stadt Bar & Music – The city’s leading traditional German brewery is popular with local residents and visitors. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy music, beers and typical German dishes. The Stadt Bier brewery is right around the corner.
- Cine Drive-In – Visit this old-school drive-in to watch films from the comfort of your car on the largest screen in the whole of Brazil. The Cine sells all the concessions you would expect like popcorn, refreshing drinks and snacks but you can also bring your own.
Here’s a pro-tip: Try Brazil’s famous alcohol, Cachaca, a distilled spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice. The national cocktail is the Caipirinha mixing Cachaca with lime juice and sugar. Visit Emporio da Cachaca to sample the drink in a relaxing atmosphere which often shows live sports screenings.
Brasilia has some great accommodation options that won’t break the bank. Check out my favourite places to stay in when I visit:
- Royal Tulip Brasília Alvorada – This elegantly designed hotel is located on the shore of the Paranoá Lake. In addition to its luxurious rooms, this 5* hotel provides a swimming pool and spa.
- Sia Park Executive Hotel – Located outside the centre of the city is this beautiful hotel surrounded by lush gardens. It’s conveniently located just 15 minutes from the airport and well situated for day trips from the city.
- Windsor Brasília Hotel – This hotel boasts a cleverly designed indoor pool that overlooks the city. The hotel is located just 1 km (0.6 miles) from Parque da Cidade and mere steps away from Conjunto Nacional Mall.
You can reflect on the cool architecture of Brasilia!
Brasilia is a design masterpiece set in a wild landscape of imposing beauty. Visiting this modernist city will give you a different view of Brazil. I hope you visit and love the city as much as I do!