Brasilia, Brazil

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This article originally appeared in Delta Air Lines’ 2012 Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America Travel Guide. It has been extracted from its original format. To read the full travel guide, visit the digital edition.

Brazil’s inland, futuristic capital, Brasilia, was carved out of nowhere in the 1950s—a stark, modernist and purpose-built city, and the only one in the world built in the 20th century that achieved UNESCO World Heritage site status. For an overview of this planned urban wonder, take the elevator to the top of the TV Tower, then consider a useful Brasilia City Tour aboard a double decker, hop-on-hop-off tourist bus that hits the high spots along the Eixo Monumental. The top attraction is the Metropolitan Cathedral, architect Oscar Niemeyer’s masterpiece. This subterranean church is awash in light, while above ground the cathedral resembles a crown of thorns. Also commanding are the National Congress building, the presidential Palacio do Planalto with its changing of the guard, and Palacio do Justica, all grouped around the Plaza of the Three Powers—a vast expanse of pure white stone. The Palacio do Itamaraty (Foreign Ministry) is one of the most impressive buildings of all, with a series of arches towering over a reflecting pool and floating gardens. Niemeyer is also responsible for the National Museum, a hemisphere-shaped design with a grand ramp leading to its gaping entrance.

City planners left room for lots of leisure and green spaces, such as the Parque da Cidade, with jogging and cycling paths. Outside the city limits, visit the Parque Nacional de Brasilia, which has natural swimming pools and is home to a number of endangered animals.

Along with 11 other Brazilian cities, Brasilia is gearing up for the World Cup futebol (soccer) matches in 2014, when indeed you’re going to need advance reservations for hotels. Most of the international chain picks—the newest is Sonesta Brasilia—are located in what is called the Setor Hoteleiro. Of course, in a capital accustomed to hosting international visitors, restaurants feature cuisines from around the world. However, everyone loves a great steak, among the best is served at Corrientes 348.

Facts

  • Best time to go:
    Summer in Brazil, December through March, is hot; winter months, June through September, are mild to cool and cooler, depending on latitude and altitude; in Amazonia, the dry season lasts June to December
  • Fun fact:
    Sure the samba (said to derive from the African slave dance called umbigada) was born in Brazil, but so were other undulating dance rhythms: lambada, ferro and bossa nova
  • Getting there:
    Delta flies from Atlanta to Brasilia
  • Entry documents:
    Valid passport, valid for six months beyond Brazil visit, and a tourist reciprocity visa, obtained in the U.S.; visa cost is $140, valid for 10 years; for Canadians, cost is $72
  • Currency:
    Brazilian real
  • Must-try local food: 
    Feijoada, the national dish and traditionally served on Saturday, is a black bean stew, simmered for hours with meats such as sausage, beef and pork, served with rice, farofa (manioc flour) orange slices, and stir-fried cabbage
  • Best buys:
    Brazilian gem stones, leather goods, wood carvings, sports clothes and shoes
    Information please: Brazilian Ministry of Tourism—brasiltour.com