Click on the interactive map below (or click here for a list and a bigger map!) to view some of the recommended sites and restaurants in Brasilia.
Two or Three Days in the city
Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, is a testament to what Brazilians can do and have done. This 50-year old city is an impressive architectural monument that represents the realization of a dream. Sitting between an artificial lake and a national park, Brasilia is recognized as a pioneer in the use of rigorous urban planning.
The primary attraction in Brasilia is its architecture. Most of Brasilia was designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer. The city today is like a living museum of his work, with his dis-tinctive modernist style showcased in almost all of the major government buildings. As you head up and down the Eixo Monumental, you will pass many of his famous structures.
BY BUS: Brasilia City Tour offers a two-hour bus tour of the city. Ticket offices are located at the base of the TV Tower and in front of Brasilia Shopping. ~R$25. Kids are free. Phone: 9339-1166.
BY BOAT: If you are interested in doing a boat tour, visit Mar de Brasilia. The tour leaves from the Royal Tulip Hotel and circles beneath the JK Bridge and back.
A week or more
If you have a few weeks, you could (and should) expand your activities to include some of the following:
Praça dos Três Poderes: Flanked by a large cup and saucer, the towers of Congresso Nacional begin the circle of Three Powers Square. Made up of the legislative, judicial and executive buildings, this is one of the best-known images representing Brasilia. Sitting on the corner of Three Powers Square is Palácio do Planalto. This is the seat of the Executive Power and is the office of the President of the Republic. Open to the public on Sundays from 9:30 to 2 p.m. The square also includes the Supremo Tribunal Federal, which has public tours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and holidays. The Praça dos Três Poderes is a free self guided walking/driving tour.
Palácio do Itamaraty: Headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this is one of Niemeyer’s most radiant buildings. The bridge over an enormous ornamental pool leads to one of the largest public art collections in Brazil. Free 40 minute guided tour. Esplanada dos Ministérios, Bloco H . Mon-Fri 2pm – 4:30pm; Sat, Sun and holidays: 10am – 3:30pm. More information here.
Catedral Metropolitana de Brasil: The Metropolitan Cathedral is Niemeyer’s masterpiece.The mostly underground cathedral has sixteen curved columns and a stained glass interior with 3 aluminum angels suspended from the ceiling. Outside, standing near the entrance are four large statues known as the Four Evangelists. Free admission. The Cathedral is open everyday for public visitation, except during Mass.
Torre de Televisão: Located at the highest point of the Eixo Monumental, the Torre offers a spectacular view of the city. Take the free elevator to the top get a bird’s eye view of Lùcio Costa’s pilot plan. Brasilia’s traditional handicrafts fair is held just west of the tower. The fair is in full swing on the weekends and some vendors are open during the week. Free admission. Eixo Monumental. Mon 2pm-8pm, Tues-Sun 8am-8pm. phone: 3322-6611.
Memorial JK: Built close to the place where the first mass of Brasilia was celebrated in 1957, Oscar Niemeyer designed this mausoleum to hold Juscelino Kubitschek’s remains. Inside is a museum showcasing a collection of memorabilia about Kubitschek’s life and the construction of Brasilia. R$ 4 entrance fee. Eixo Monumental, West Side, Praça do Cruzeiro. Tues-Sun 9am-6pm. phone: 3226-7860
Memorial dos Povos Indígenas: Another Niemeyer project, this museum showcases objects of indigenous Indian culture including basketry, ceramic and plume art. There is a small gift shop. Free admission. Across from Memorial JK on the Eixo Monumental. Tues-Fri 9am-6pm, Sun 10am-6pm. Phone: 3334-1154.
Teatro Nacional Cláudio Santoro: Another design by Oscar Niemeyer, it is dark on the outside and illuminated by natural light on the inside. It holds three performance halls, which usually host classical concerts and dance performances. Free admission. Eixo Monumental Leste/Setor Cultural Norte. Mon-Sun 9am-8pm.
Esplanada dos Ministerios: Seventeen identical rectangular government office buildings line the Monumental Axis. These Oscar Niemeyer buildings reflect practicality rather than innovation. Free self guided walking/driving tour.
Palacio da Alvorada: Palace of the Dawn, this is the official presidential residence in Brasilia. The first building completed in Brasília, it is a beautiful structure that appears to be floating on the lake. Free admission. SHTN, Paranoá Lake. The Palacio is open to the public on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Groups are formed with 30 people on a first-come, first-serve basis. The duration of the explanations it is approximately 40 minutes. More information at http://www2.planalto.gov.br/presidencia/palacios-e-residencias-oficiais/palacio_alvorada
Santuario Dom Bosco: The Sanctuary of Dom Bosco honors the Italian saint who dreamed of a utopian city in 1883. Brasilia, the modern capital city of Brazil, was inspired by this dream. The shrine is especially notable for its impressive interior, bathed in heavenly blue light from walls of stained glass windows. Free admission. Av. W3 Sul Quadra 702 Lt. B. Phone 3223-6542.
Parque da Cidade: Slightly larger than NYC’s Central Park, this wide green area is the city’s hot spot for sports, as well as barbecues and a small carnival for children, Nicolandia. Free admission, fee for rides. The park features 4, 6 and 10 km circuits for walking, jogging, biking and skating. There is also a large playground (Ana Lidia) and several food vendors around the park. Near Nicolandia there are sport masseuses and futevolei courts. The park also houses a go-kart track. Entrances via the Monumental Axis, Setor de indústria and Quadras 901, 906 and 910 Sul. Open daily from 5 am to 12 am. View Map.
Torre de Televisão Digital: The Digital TV Tower, the latest Brasilia structure designed by Oscar Niemeyer, opened to the public in April 2012 and is worth a visit. From the top you will have a great view of Brasilia and the surrounding countryside/satellite cities. It is open Sat, Sun, and holidays from 9am – 5pm. Go early to avoid long lines. There is a small Brasilia photo exhibition, gift shop and snack bar. Located near Sobradinho, a small town just to the NE of Brasilia. Distance: 30 minutes from city center. Free Admission. View Map.
Jardím Zoológico: The Brasilia Zoo has 1300 animals including Brazilian birds, reptiles and mammals. They have a total of 253 species, with a main focus of South American animals that are on the verge of extinction. R$2 entrance fee for anyone over 5 years old. Avenida das Nações, Via L4 Sul. Tues – Sun from 9 am to 5 pm. Phone: 3445-7043. View Map.
Jardím Botanico: The Brasilia Botanical Garden is a nature reserve with almost 20 square miles of wild plants and animals. The visitor’s center at the Brasilia Botanical Gardens provides information about the park, Brazil and the cerrado climate. They have English tour guides who can take you on guided walking trails, or you can explore the park at your leisure. Also popular with joggers. R$2 entrance fee. SMDB conj. 12, Lago Sul. Open Tue-Friday 9 am – 5:00 pm and weekends 8 am – 5 pm. Phone: 3366-2141. View Map.
Ponte JK: Built in 2002, this award winning bridge immediately became another of Brasilia’s favorite landmarks. This steel and concrete bridge, with its three graceful arches, connects part of the residential area of Lago Sul to the Plano Piloto of Brasilia. Beautiful during the day, this bridge is magnificent at night.
Digital TV Tower: Opened in April 2012. Open to the public Sat, Sun, and holidays from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Go early to avoid long lines. The cupolas of the tower will hold a restaurant/bar set to open in 2014. Follow the Eixao all the way through Asa Norte and head toward Sobradinho, following the brown “Torre de TV Digital” signs (figure about 20 minutes drive from Asa Norte). View Map.
Parque Nacional de Brasilia: Located on the northern outskirts of the city, just under 10 km / 6 miles from the city center, the Parque Nacional de Brasilia was officially created in 1961 and covers an area of more than 74,100 acres / 30,000 hectares. There are two trails that take you through lush forest; an easier 20 minute hike; or for the serious hiker, a more challenging hour-long tour that includes pathways around the shoreline of the central Barragem Santa Maria (Santa Maria Lake). The park also boasts two swimming areas fed by healing mineral spring waters. Closed Monday. Brasilia residents: R$6.50, General Public: R$13. View Map.