Now this is how to plan a city! Brazil’s capital Brasilia is a masterpiece of modernist architecture and attracts building buffs from around the world. And despite not being famed for its nightlife, Brasilia has a few spots that save travellers from staying in their hotel rooms glued to reality TV.
Brasilia’s most stunning and weirdly futuristic architecture lies east of the Monumental Axis and includes the iconic arches of the Palácio da Alvorada. Culture snobs scornful of the city’s lack of major museums (or of the awkwardly inadequate Brasilia National Museum) will enjoy the active contemporary arts scene of CAIXA Cultural. And if you’re still convinced that the real Brazil doesn’t exist here, head to the popular dining destination CLS 405 for a taste of almost every culture you can think of…
Brasilia's Top 10
10. Chapada Imperial Not all parks and waterfalls in Brasilia are man-made – this natural wonder has trekking trails, a camping area, native birds and waters that run down stone instead of concrete.
5. Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil One of the few buildings where what’s inside is as interesting as the façade. The exhibitions range from Russian paintings to thematic movie festivals.
9. Juscelino Kubitschek Memorial If all museums dedicated to the lives of past presidents were located underground and felt like something out of a 1960s sci-fi horror movie, more people would go!
4. Palace of Justice Waterfalls and stark geometry make up this modernist masterpiece.
8. Brasilia National Park They planned this 30,000-hectare park as an oasis of nature in the middle of the city, but its plants and wildlife are entirely organic.
3. Brasilia Cathedral With 16 curved pillars, it looks more like a spaceship than a cathedral!
7. Paranoá Lake It’s artificial, but pretty cool nonetheless.
2. Itamaraty Palace Home to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it’s twice as beautiful as anything surrounding it – and not just because its magnificence is mirrored in an artificial lake.
6. Television Tower There’s a market at the base, but why stay at ground level when you can experience views of Brasilia from on high – for free?
1. The Three Powers Square This precisely aligned square encompasses the Congress, Presidential Palace and Supreme Court.
Brasilia Art & Culture
- Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil – Offers a variety of exhibits and cultural events, including paintings, plays, concerts, documentaries, movie festivals and more.
- Brasilia National Museum – Features famous national and international exhibits.
- Art – Brasilia hosts the works of some of the country’s best artists, with landscape designs, geometric tile panels, sculptures and buildings.
- CAIXA Cultural – Offers concerts, photography displays and modern art exhibits.
- Monetary Museum – Run by Brazil’s central bank, it includes everything related to money.
- Setor de Diversões – A nice place to go shopping in the centre of Brasilia.
- Conjunto Nacional – An upscale place with small shops that offer music, books and clothing.
- Television Tower – Great place to find local crafts and home to a flea market on Sundays.
- Feira do Paraguai – The imports market and place to find great prices on electronics.
- FNAC – Great selections of foreign language literature, travel and cultural books, music and more.
Gay & Lesbian Brasilia
- Bar Beirut – Offers a large outdoor patio area, a great place to hang out and meet new people.
- Fabrica – A nightclub that offers tequila and sushi.
- Garagem – Great local disco for lots of fun.
- Gate’s Pub – One of the most popular places around with a disco and live bands.
- Vyla Arena – A cosy café bar in Brasilia.
- Paranoá Lake – With parks, walking areas and restaurants, this area provides spectacular views of Brasilia.
- City Park – One of the best places for outdoor sports like jogging, skating, biking and other open air activities.
- Poço Azul – A lovely sight indeed with a waterfall that forms crystal blue pools over quartz rocks.
- Parque Olhos D'Água – This lovely park includes streams, springs and a small pond.
- Brasilia National Park – Features some of the local fauna and vegetation and natural swimming pools.
- The Universo BRB basketball team plays between the months of January to June in the Clube da CEB Stadium.
- Brasilia is a unique place for air sports such as hang gliding, with strong thermal winds and cloud streets.
- The Brasiliense Futebol Clube soccer team plays at the Serejão Stadium.
- Jogging is the most popular sport in the city and the Eixo Rodoviario road is closed to traffic on Sundays and open for jogging, skating and cycling.
- The Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet is an international course and offers great car races.
Some of Brazil’s best parties are religious in origin, though June’s Festas Juninas seems to be more about massive fireworks displays.
August’s Japanese Festival is held at the Honpa Hongwanji Temple and is celebrated by Brazilians, Japanese and raw-fish lovers alike.
Celebrating rock ’n’ roll ’n’ all its variants, Porão do Rock in August is the biggest music festival in Brazil.
September’s Independence Day parade takes place at the Esplanada dos Ministérios and draws crowds of around 30,000.
The Festival de Cinema Brasileiro (September/October) is famous, but only if you can speak Portuguese.
When To Go
Temperatures in Brasilia usually hover between 17 and 27°C (63-81°F), but winters can drop almost to freezing at night and September can reach 34°C (93°F).
If you go during summer, expect to get wet. Up to 250mm of rain can fall each month.
Winter is seriously dry, with the landscape becoming desert-like. The best months to visit are May and June, when the city is still green but with less rainfall.
Brasilia was designed under the assumption that everyone would own a car. So don’t plan on seeing this sprawling, pedestrian-unfriendly city on foot.
Brasilia’s public transport system is pretty reliable, with buses a better sightseeing option than the subway.
Taxis are relatively expensive, and usually can’t be hailed on the streets.
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