What to do Brasilia - City sights & activities
Many of the
edifices and monuments of Brasiliaare along this wide boulevard.
Mind you, the whole stretch is about 10 km/ 6.5 miles long. If you are short on time, consider renting a car. Brasilia was not built for pedestrians anyway and it makes the best
city in Brazilfor self driving.
From east to west (cockpit to tail…) these are the major points of interest (except the shopping malls, they will be mentioned in a separate list):
Three Powers Square (Praça dos Trés Poderes)
This is the heart of
Brazilian governmentand the most interesting part of the Brasilia axis. The legislative, executive and judiciary powers are all represented, each in its own architectonic marvellous building. Eye catcher is the Congress (Congresso Nacional) which seems to consist of two separate buildings glued together and two huge bowls, one representing the Brazilian senate and one the house of representatives.
Guarded by Lady Justice, the next door Supreme Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal) is housed in an elegant building holding a permanent exposition on
architecture. At the presidential palace (Palácio do Planalto), it is interesting to watch the changing of the guard, every hour.
Across the square, in front of half of the 19 identical ministries (in order to avoid jealousy) you will find the beautiful Itamaraty Palace (Pálacio d’Itamaraty) where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is housed (A Minister of Foreign Affairs does not suffer from jealousy because he is never there..?).
Last but not least, check out the incredible admission-free scale map of Costa’s original Brasilia airplane design in Espaço Cultural Lucio Costa, underneath the square.
|The Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana)
Further along the boulevard, at the south side, you find probably the most famous building of Brasilia: The Cathedral. Representing a crown of thorns made of stained-glass and 16 curved concrete columns, the structure is most impressive from within.
While a curious building, Brasilia's cathedral is hardly used, due to the bad acoustics and the large parts of glass making attending mass an extremely hot affair.
The Republican Culture Complex (Complexo Cultural da República)
Close to the the cross of the fuselage and the wings of the ‘airplane’ (covered by the metro and bus terminal), another three epic buildings catch your attention:
The National Theatre (Teatro Nacional Claudio Santoro) is a huge pile of bricks, inspired by Aztec pyramids, making this structure the largest theatre in South America. In operation since 1979, guided tours are available.
Opposite of the boulevard, at the same side of the cathedral, you will find first the National Museum (Museu Nacional), which looks like half the sphere of Saturn. More to the west the National Library (Biblioteca Nacional) is open to the public, but not all books are stacked on the shelves yet...
TV Tower (Torre de Televisão)
You can get the best views in Brasilia from here by going up with a free elevator. From the observation deck at 75 meters/ 246 ft you have a good overlook on the axis and getting an idea of the vastness of the area. Unfortunately, you are not high enough to see the airplane pattern.
Indigenous People Memorial (Memorial dos Povos Indigenas)
Interesting small Brasilia museum with beautiful artefacts, which were collected by a British anthropologist who lived among Indian tribes. Also collections of other worldwide museums of ethnography are often on display.
Memorial of Juscelino Kubitschek (Memorial JK)
Finally, at the end (or start) of the Eixo Monumental you can visit this exhibition on Brasilia and on the life of its founding father, president Juscelino Kubitschek. Upstairs you can pay your respects to the man in his very own tomb (in style: it is rather kitschy).
When outside again and you look up, you see JK waving towards the government buildings at the other end of the boulevard. It looks a bit sarcastic, when you imagine the enormous debts incurred to have built the city Brasilia...
Arguably the most impressive building of Brasilia (from the inside that is).
Niemeyer eat your heart out: this design of young architect Carlos Alberto Neves is an oasis of peacefulness, accomplished by walls entirely made of pieces of blue and purple glass.
The lighting will take your breath away...
(Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil) – SCES, Trecho 02, Lote 22
In front of ‘the cockpit’, near the lake, you will find this excellent contemporary art museum and theatre complex. It was named after its sponsor, the largest bank of Latin America, which has more similar cultural institutes throughout Brazil.
In the large Brasilia branch there are several permanent and travelling exhibitions and it organises numerous cultural events all year round. If you have seen all the displays you can hang out in the laidback café and while a way a lazy afternoon. The views of the artificial lake of Brasilia and the odd bridge (Ponte JK) are superb.
Brasilia shopping mallsare buildings designed by artsy architects too! You can visit the largest shopping malls in South America and shop till you drop right here in Brasilia.
The largest, Conjunto Nacional, conveniently located next to the bus terminal of the Eixo Monumental and its younger, nicer competitive sister Pátio Brasil at the other side of the boulevard. A third mall in the area is Shopping Brasilia, housed in another piece of architectural art.
Looking for some variation and refreshment after architecture and shopping? Head for one of the many Brasilia city parks. City Park Sarah Kubitschek (Parque da Cidade – Sarah Kubitschek) in the city centre of Brasilia is the most obvious one.
Popular among locals is the larger National Park of Brasilia (Parque nacional de Brasilia Água mineral), about 12 km/ 7.5 miles west of the Eixo Monumental. It has some waterfalls and natural pools.