Brasilia and the West

We’ve compiled the best of the best in Brasilia and the West - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Catedral Metropolitana de Nossa Senhora da Aparecida

    Zona Cívico-Administrativa

    The city's cathedral, considered one of Niemeyer's masterpieces, was finished in 1967. From outside, what is visible is a circular structure—a bundle of 16 concrete "fingers" arching skyward. For some, it resembles a crown of thorns. Large panes of stained glass supported by the concrete structure shelter the nave, leaving it awash in natural light. Inside, Os Anjos (The Angels)—an aluminum sculpture by Brazilian artist Alfredo Ceschiatti—hovers above the altar. The city's first Mass was held at the Praça do Cruzeiro, on May 3, 1957; the cruz (cross) used is now here at the cathedral. The building's entrance is guarded by four majestic bronze statues, also by Ceschiatti, Os Evangelistas (The Evangelists). The outdoor carillon is a gift of the Spanish government.

    Esplanada dos Ministérios s/n, Brasília, Federal District, 70200-610, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Daily 8–6
  • 2. Museu de Valores

    Asa Sul

    Located on the second floor of the imposing headquarters of Brazil's central bank, this exhibition explores the often turbulent history of the nation's notes and coins, providing a detailed history of Brazil along the way. Look out for the highest-denomination note ever issued in Brazil. There is also a well designed and informative section devoted to gold and gold mining. On the eighth floor, don't miss the bank's art gallery, home to one of the finest collections of modernist Brazilian art in the country.

    SBS, Q. 3, Bl. B, Brasília, Federal District, 70074-900, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Tues.–Fri. 10–6
  • 3. Palácio da Alvorada

    Zona Cívico-Administrativa

    Open to the public on Wednesday afternoon, the president's official residence was Niemeyer's first project in the new capital and is located at the edge of Lago Paranoá. Niemeyer used delicate slanting support columns, here clad in white marble. The name of the building translates as Palace of the Dawn, and its design is suitably inspired. Get here by 2 pm to avoid a long wait for a guided tour (Portuguese only).

    SHTN, Via Presidencial s/n, Brasília, Federal District, 70150-903, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Wed. 3–5:30, Wed. 3–5 pm
  • 4. Palácio do Itamaraty

    Zona Cívico-Administrativa

    For the home of the Foreign Ministry, Niemeyer designed a glass-enclosed rectangular structure with a series of elegant arches on the facade. It's widely considered one of his masterpieces. A reflecting pool augments the sense of spaciousness. The building and the water create a perfect backdrop for the Meteoro (Meteor), a round, abstract Carrara-marble sculpture by Brazilian-Italian artist Bruno Giorgi. A guided tour shows a collection of art—including paintings by Brazilian artists like Cândido Portinari—and the impressive tropical gardens by Brazilian landscape designer Burle Marx.

    Esplanada dos Ministérios, Brasília, Federal District, 70170-900, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Guided tours leave on most hrs, but reserve ahead for tours in English, Daily 9–5
  • 5. Balneário Municipal

    One of the best-value sights in Bonito this municipal baths complex is just 6 km (4 miles) outside town. You can swim with fish in crystalline waters and get a bite to eat at several simple restaurants full of local people, all at a fraction of the price charged elsewhere in town.

    Rodovia Bonito Guia Lopes, Km 6, Bonito, Mato Grosso do Sul, 79 290000, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: R$30, Daily 7:30–6
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  • 6. Catetinho

    While the new capital was being built, the president's temporary quarters was called the Catetinho, meaning a smaller version of the grand Palácio do Catete in Rio. The wooden edifice was built in 10 days during the summer of 1956. A nearby landing strip allowed the president to fly in from Rio for his frequent inspections. The recently restored building is a must-see museum for those interested in the city's history. It's surrounded by woods with a small spring where the president and his entourage once bathed.

    Km 0, BR 040, Brasília, Federal District, 71745-000, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Tues.–Sun. 9–5
  • 7. Caverna Aroe Jari

    If you have time, arrange a guided visit to Caverna Aroe Jari, costing about R$45. The cave's name means "home of souls" in the Bororo language. This mile-long sandstone cave (one of Brazil's largest) can be reached after a 5-km (3-mile) hike through the cerrado, or on the back of a tractor.

    MT 251, Chapada dos Guimarães, Mato Grosso, 78295-970, Brazil
  • 8. Chapada dos Guimarães

    After navigating the steep and winding MT 251 through breathtaking canyons to reach the top of the mesa, you discover the pretty town of Chapada dos Guimarães, which still retains some of its colonial charm. If you're going to Chapada dos Guimarães around the second fortnight of June, don't miss the Winter Festival, with art and music workshops and various concerts with local artists.

    MT 251, Chapada dos Guimarães, Mato Grosso, 78195-000, Brazil
  • 9. Chapada Explorer

    This friendly and efficient travel agency can arrange tours with English-speaking guides to the main sights of the national park and around.

    Praça Dom Wunibaldo 57, Chapada dos Guimarães, Mato Grosso, 78 195000, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: From R$360 for the group, Office open 8–11 am
  • 10. Chapada Imperial

    For a taste of the spectacular landscape of the Planalto Central and the cerrado, drive about an hour northwest along the DF001 and the DF220 until you reach the privately owned Chapada Imperial ranch. Owners Márcio and Marta organize guided tours to a series of stunning waterfalls, on which you'll see an extraordinary range of birds, butterflies, and even deer.

    Brasília, Federal District, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: R$90 including lunch, Weekends only, arrive before 11 am
  • 11. Congresso Nacional

    Zona Cívico-Administrativa

    One of Niemeyer's most daring projects consists of two 28-story office towers for the 500 representatives of the Câmara dos Deputados (House of Representatives) and the 80 members of the Senado (Senate). The convex dome is where the Câmara meets, and the concave bowl-like structure is where the Senado convenes. The main building is connected by tunnels to several anexos (annexes) located at the sides of Eixo Monumental. The complex contains works by such Brazilian artists as Di Cavalcanti, Bulcão, and Ceschiatti. A guided tour takes you through major sites within the building. Booking is mandatory on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and tours in English are available by request. No shorts or sandals allowed.

    Praça dos Três Poderes, Brasília, Federal District, 70160-900, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Daily 9–5
  • 12. Eco Turismo Cultural

    This is a popular agency for arranging a tour guide in the park.

    Av. Cipriano Curvo 655a, Chapada dos Guimarães, Mato Grosso, 78195-000, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: From R$100 per person, depending on group size
  • 13. Ermida Dom Bosco

    Lago Sul

    To view the best sunset in town, head to the Ermida Dom Bosco, in a peaceful setting by the southern shores of Lake Paranoá. There's a small shrine to Dom Bosco, but most people come here to walk, run, swim in the lake, or just watch the sunset with friends.

    SHIS, Q. 29, Brasília, Federal District, 71275-205, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Daily 6 am–10 pm
  • 14. Espaço Lúcio Costa

    Zona Cívico-Administrativa

    As a tribute to the urban planner who masterminded Brasília, this underground complex was added to the plaza and inaugurated in 1992. It has a 1,500-square-foot display of the city's blueprint, and you can read Costa's original ideas for the project (the text is in Portuguese and English).

    Praça dos Três Poderes, Brasília, Federal District, 70100-000, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Tues.–Sun. 9–6
  • 15. Gruta do Lago Azul

    The 160-foot-deep Gruta do Lago Azul has a crystal clear freshwater lake at the bottom and smaller side caves in the calcareous rock. The best time to visit is from mid-November to mid-January at around 8:30 am, when sunlight beams down the entrance, reflecting off the water to create an eerie turquoise glow. See stalagmites and stalactites in various stages of development.

    Bonito, Mato Grosso do Sul, 79290-000, Brazil
    No phone

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: R$60, Daily 7–2
  • 16. Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Santana do Sacramento

    This handsome colonial church (circa 1779) has some exceptional gold-plated interior flourishes.

    Praça D. Wunibaldo, Chapada dos Guimarães, Mato Grosso, 78195-000, Brazil
  • 17. Mastro da Bandeira

    Zona Cívico-Administrativa

    This 300-foot steel flagpole supporting a 242-square-foot Brazilian flag is the only element of Praça dos Três Poderes not designed by Niemeyer. In the morning of the first Sunday of the month, members of the armed forces take part in a troca da bandeira (flag changing) ceremony, to the sound of the Brazilian Army band.

    Praça dos Três Poderes, Brasília, Federal District, 70150-900, Brazil
  • 18. Memorial dos Povos Indígenas

    Zona Cívico-Administrativa

    Another Niemeyer project, this cylindrical structure was inspired by the huts built by the Yanomami people. A spiraling ramp leads to a central plaza where collections of indigenous crafts are displayed. Highlights among the main collection include pottery, headdresses, and feather ornaments made by the Kayapó, the Xavante, and other indigenous peoples. The space often houses temporary exhibits from other collections.

    Palácio do Buriti, Eixo Monumental Oeste, Brasília, Federal District, 70075-900, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Tues.–Fri. 9–5, weekends 10–5
  • 19. Memorial JK

    Zona Cívico-Administrativa

    This Niemeyer structure is a truncated pyramid and has a function similar to its Egyptian counterpart: it's the final resting place of former president Juscelino Kubitschek, the city's founding father, who died in 1981. The mortuary chamber has a stained-glass roof by local artist Marianne Peretti. JK's office and library from his apartment in Rio have been moved to the memorial's north wing. The bronze statue of JK—his hand raised as if in blessing—surrounded by a half-shell (a trademark of Brasília) looks down upon the Eixo Monumental and makes this one of the capital's most iconic monuments. Permanent and changing exhibits here document the city's construction. The most recent addition is JK's lovingly restored Ford Galaxie.

    Praça do Cruzeiro, at Eixo Monumental Oeste, Brasília, Federal District, 70070-300, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: R$10, Tues.–Sun. 9–6
  • 20. Mercado Municipal

    This covered market is a great place to try sopa paraguaia (Paraguayan soup), which, despite its name, is a corn pie with cheese, onions, and spices. There are many shops selling handicrafts made by the native peoples of Mato Grosso.

    Rua 7 de Setembro 65, Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul, 79002-041, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Mon.–Sat. 6:30–8, Sun. 6:30–noon

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