Making a visit to Brasilia is like entering a retro-futuristic film set. Officially founded in just 1960, the city was built for the sole purpose of replacing Rio de Janeiro as the country’s capital. Now with half a century of tradition under its belt, Brasilia is coming into its own with many samba hot spots, impressive museums and galleries, striking architecture and a picture perfect sunset to top it all off with. Home to wide avenues and an imposing artificial lake, UNESCO were so impressed by the city they made it a World Heritage site - the only 20th century built city to make the list.
Anyone with a taste for avant-garde design can’t miss Brasilia. 1950s and 1960s architecture lovers need to see the Oscar Niemeyer designed Metropolitan Cathedral of Brasilia and the Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge while Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida is perhaps the city’s most striking building and is built in the from of an inverted chalice and crown of thorns. Brasilia’s art and culture is particularly rich and the Teatro Naciona, built in the form of an Aztec temple, showcases many theatre productions as well as ballet, dance and the local symphony orchestra.
The outdoor bars and restaurants around the city’s superblocks can give Brasilia a positively Parisian feel and the most popular night time activity for local residents is to catch up for a beer or caipirinha. Beirute is a popular traditional drinking establishment offering Middle Eastern fare, while Libanus and Boteco are popular with younger crowds. Many inexpensive places to eat can be found in the street markets and stalls around town. Rodoviaria and Nucleo Bandeirante offer the widest choices. Magnai is just one of the popular places to eat at and is where you can sample cuisine from regional Brazil and the buffet there with over 80 dishes is the big draw card. Payment is by weight, which is a typical Brazilian payment scheme.
Where to Stay
Hotels in Brasilia cater mostly to business travelers and many are found in the hotel sectors that were set-aside as accommodation areas when the town was planned. Hotels have these days stretched out to Lago Paranoa and staying close to Plano Piloto is recommended if you want to be close to the architectural landmarks and have good access to explore the city. As Brasilia continues to outgrow its CBD, more and more cheaper hotels have recently popped up in Guara and Taguatinga too. Another alternative is to stay west of the city at some of the comfortable jungle lodges.
Brasilia offers many choices for the discerning shopper. The town’s traditional shopping centre is the Conjunto Nacional and contains a variety of fashion, jewellery and furniture shops. Patio Brasil was opened in 1997 and offers something a little more modern with over 200 stores while Shopping Brasilia is perhaps the most sophisticated of them all with a number of department stores. If you’d prefer not to shop in malls, roam W3 Avenue and the streets near Rodoviaria, or make a visit to the Feira dos Importados (imports market) where you can explore the 2,000 market stalls for an interesting find.
Brasilia Like a Local
One attraction you won’t miss when you’re in Brasilia is the sunset. You only need to look up to see one from just about anywhere in the city but the best place to snap away the day’s departure is at the Ermida Dom Bosco lookout. A great local tip is not to follow the crowds as the sun dips away though. Stick it out with the smooching couples and coconut water vendors and you’ll be rewarded with the remnant oranges, reds and lavenders that litter the sky about 20 minutes later.