Cathedral of Brasília (Photo Courtesy of Embratur)

One might assume that Brasília, the capital of Brazil, has been around for more than a century, but in reality, it was built on an impressive timeline of just 41 months, from 1956 to 1960. Brazil’s capital for the longest time was the extremely populated Rio de Janeiro, but then the government decided it was essential for the capital to be moved to the center of the country. And so, Brasília was born!

Brasília, the Capital of Innovation
Unlike other host cities for the FIFA World Cup 2014, Brasília is unique in that it was entirely a planned city. As part of the country’s “50 years of prosperity in 5″ plan, Brazil’s president at the time, Juscelino Kubitschek, and urban planner Lúcio Costa approached Oscar Niemeyer about becoming the chief architect in designing the new city’s public buildings.

At the time, Niemeyer was the youngest and most influential designer on the team, having served as the architectural mastermind behind the United Nations Headquarters in New York City roughly a decade before. From the moment he signed onto the project, Niemeyer turned Brasilia into his playground, creating buildings with modern and surreal architecture that could reflect the young capital’s innovativeness. Years later, UNESCO cited Brasília as a World Heritage site.


Sightseeing, “Brasília Style”
The key to understanding and appreciating Brasília is to know a little about the man who built this city. Niemeyer believed that a building should reflect the s spirit and ideals of an organization, or in this case, a country. So, he designed Brasília’s civic buildings to portray the Brazilian government as an urban utopia.

In his buildings, visitors will notice there are almost always big prominent curves instead of straight lines. These curves are Niemeyer’s signature design, symbolizing the organic shapes that he saw in Brazil’s mountains, rivers … and in its women. The city is divided into different sectors for embassies, consulates, hotels, politics, businesses and residents. Here are a handful of must-see buildings in Brasília, designed by Niemeyer:

- Monumental Axis (Eixo Monumental)
- Palace of Dawn (Palácio da Alvorada)
- Cathedral of Brasilia (Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida)
- National Congress of Brazil (Congresso Nacional)
- Palace of Dawn – President’s residency (Palácio do Alvorada)
- Square of Three Powers (Praça dos Três Poderes)
- Ministry of Justice (Palácio da Justiça)
- Memorial of the Aboriginal Peoples (Memorial dos Povos Indígenas)

Congresso Nacional (Photo Courtesy of Embratur)

Cultural Understanding
Fitting with the theme of a utopia, the Sanctuary of Dom Bosco (Santuario Dom Bosco) is a church built by Carlos Alberto Naves in honor of the 19th-century Italian saint who dreamt of a utopian city. This church is a breathtaking sight, with 12 shades of blue-stained glass displayed throughout the halls. A gorgeous golden chandelier made up of 7,400 pieces of glass hangs from the ceiling of the church.

In addition to admiring the architecture of Brasília, visitors are also encouraged to visit the Cultural Complex of the Republic, which is composed of the National Library of Brasília (Biblioteca Nacional de Brasília) and National Museum Honestino Guimarães (Museu Nacional Honestino Guimarães).

Leisure Activities on Paranoá Lake
Both locals and tourists visit Paranoá Lake (Lago Paranoá) in Brasília to relax, soak up the sun and partake in water sports. Other popular activities on the lake include stand-up paddle boarding, water skiing, jogging, kayaking, kite surfing, wakeboarding and boating, with rentals available for visitors who are interested.  Visitors can also spend the day around Paranoá, exploring lakeside areas such as Pontão and Peninsula dos Ministros in Brasilia’s South Lake neighborhood.

The Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge, which crosses over the lake, is justifiably considered one of the most beautiful bridges in the world. The bridge also connects the city’s Pilot Plan (the North and South Wing residential neighborhoods) to the south end of the lake. Several hotels, restaurants and bars in Brasília are located around the lake, too. At the end of the day, go to the top of the Ermida Dom Bosco monument, which overlooks the lake to witness a picturesque sunset, along with one of the best views of Brasília.

Getting Around Brasília
Brasilia has 24 metro stations throughout the metropolitan area. Taxis and rental cars are another convenient means of transportation for visitors. Find them at Brasília–Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek International Airport, which is conveniently located 7 miles from the center of Brasília.

Due to its central location, Brasília is also an easy pivot point for reaching other cities within Brazil. In addition to the airport, locals and visitors can explore other cities by taking a bus from the Brazilian Interstate Bus Terminal, a hub with a total of 29 bus terminals.

Soccer Fun Fact: The 31-year-old Brazilian soccer player Kaká (Ricardo Izecson Dos Santos Leite), a midfielder for A.C. Milan, the professional Italian soccer club based in Milan, was born in Brasilia.

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– By The Brazilian Tourism Board (Embratur)

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