Brasilia bleg

I’ll be there too, your recommendations are welcome.  Looking for a hotel there has been a side-splitting experience.  No one seems to mind that few of them are any good, and they’ll plunk perfectly good ones on the side of a lake, next to nothing, many miles from the city center.  Nonetheless visiting Brasilia has long been a dream of mine and I do have a room.  I’ve already read Shoumatoff’s excellent Capital of Hope.


Anywhere you stay here, you'll always need a cab. Good news is the city is rather small and they are not that expensive (not that cheap either!). If you want to stay closer to the city centre, you better choose Melia Hotel:
If you stay much longer than a couple of days, you must visit "Chapada dos Veadeiros", a National Park 250 km away from Brasilia.

Chapada is great. I second that.

Wear pants. They won't let you into a lot of government buildings in shorts, even if it's ungodly hot.

I've been to Brasilia. There are too contradictory points to keep in mind with Brasilia:

1. Brasilia was designed during the height of the automobile age, when people hadn't realized that relying on cars exclusively for transportation had environmental problems or that the amount of petroleum in the world was limited. So just like many American cities that got started around the same time, everything is really spread out. You will need a rented car or a cab to get anywhere no matter where you stay.

2. Nevertheless, the road system Brasilia is really well designed and traffic moves quickly. Cabs are quick and not that expensive. There is also a good bus system, like in most Brazilian cities, but since cabs and quick and not that expensive a visitor will probably never use it.

There is a (deliberately designed) hotel district, near the main bus station, with lots of identical high rise mediocre hotels. Staying in one of them is not bad. You can get a good sense of the layout of the city from the roof.

One thing that distinguishes Brasilia from an American sunbelt city is that the residential blocks are designed in a way that you can walk from your apartment -another departure from American practice- to a variety of shops and restaurants. That may be the secret to why traffic is not that bad. This is one city where the normal residential areas are worth visiting, maybe more so than the public areas.

It may be worth visiting the Juscelino Kubitschek (sp?) memorial (and tomb) first on your visit, since the exhibits there give you a good idea why Brasilia was constructed in the first place.

Chapada is indeed great. If it is not raining, very much worth the visit if you have a couple of spare days. Pirenópolis, an 18th century colonial town around 100 miles away is also worthwhile.

While you're around, make sure you go to a "Goiano" restaurant, with typical cerrado food. You must try rice with pequi (pronounced 'peekee'). Be very careful not to bite into it. If you do, you could be in hospital for a couple of hours removing the very small thorns from your tongue and gums.

Will you give any talks or seminars or just look around?

I absolutely second TDX above on the Melia, very convenient next to the Fernsehturm and the "central" no man's land (although the food was terrible when I was there), and the fact that this is a "city" in name only, a really inhospitable place for pedestrians - do NOT attempt to walk between residential blocks, especially at night, by the way.

Some of the architecture is really interesting, but is it worth the hassle, even for visitors? Remember East Berlin? Well, if you thought that that was the ultimate in impracticality that demented marxist architects could inflict on a city center, then think again. Absolute contempt for a capital city's inhabitants and their practical needs is not a preserve of totalitarian states, and Brasilia stands as a living proof to that. Its layout is grotesque, with the place cut into 4 quarters by motorways. As to the several miles-long, monumental main thoroughfare, with the ministries absurdly and incomfortably arrayed around it, it exists only so that it can be seen from the Praça dos Três Poderes at the end. What a megalomaniac waste!

The good news is that there are lots of nice restaurants.

I lived in Brasilia for 2 years. When my family visited, they stayed in the Melia: I think it's your best bet.

that fine. Wear pants. They won’t let you into a lot of government buildings in shorts, even if it’s ungodly hot.

Just wondering why it would be a dream of yours to go there? Was living in Rio for a couple of months a few years and, long story short, ended up there on a misadventure for two days. Found it sterile, grey and drab, sprawling with no sense of purpose, direction or meaning, tons of horrible graffiti and "modern" architecture that has clearly not stood the test of time. I got out of there as soon as possible and back to the coast of Brazil where the real living is.

I was about to write this post for a while... here it goes. Looking forward to meeting you here:

Brasília is not as human unfriendly as it looks for the first time visitor. I guess that the best thing to do is to take a walk on its Superquadras, like SQS 308, and feel how it is to live here. The main tourist attractions are just there: Congresso Nacional, Palácio Itamaraty, Catedral and so on... Catetinho, the temporary home of the president during the construction of the capital, is far from the center and holds a small exhibition about the city. Interesting, but it appeals only to the Architecture/Brazilian history fans. Skip it if you do not have time to spare.

Brasília is not a place for foodies, but here is my list of restaurants

Ethnic or International: Despite all the embassies, the demographics is pretty homogeneous, so ethnic and international restaurants - in general - should be avoided. Palace Long Fu(Chinese) at Academia de Tênis is OK. Pretty much the same thing that you can find at an average restaurant in China. Servus is an Austrian restaurant in the countryside. The restaurant, almost hidden, is located about 40 minute away from the center of Brasilia near Tororó Falls. The owner speaks English and can give instructions. Opens on Saturdays and Sundays. Reservations are strongly recommended (Phone 3339-6180).

Brazilian Barbecue: Porcão and Fogo de Chão. The branches in Brasília offer the same top quality as everywhere else.
Regional (Northeast) food : Mangai is the one that everybody knows and recommends. It is pretty good, but my choice is Macambira (SCRLN 714 bloco F loja 22). The place is tiny, not well located and opens just for lunch. It is not as good as Mocotó (in São Paulo), but the idea is quite the same.Tia Zélia, Lula's favourite (people say), is just fine (Opens for lunch on Mondays to Fridays).
I've never been to Aquavit (Scandinavian). The prices are comparable to two-star restaurants in France. I will wait for the next Brazilian currency crisis to visit the place.:-)
Places to avoid: Beirute for its bad food, and Zuu , overpriced.

I've posted the previous comment on my blog (with links):

Anywhere you stay in Brasília you'll be in the midle of nowhere, even if you are at the city center. So you'd better stay at a nice hotel. If you can read portuguese, there are two interesting museums at 'Praça dos Três Poderes' (and Juscelino Kubitschek's memorial, like already said), I'd recommend taking a look at the Cathedral (and, by that I mean, going inside it) and, yes, Chapada dos Veadeiros is nice. If you don't have that amount of time to go to the 'Chapada', you can go to some nice waterfalls near the Solaris (AKA 'Chifrudo') monumentum, at the BR-050 (you'll have to ask people how to get there), those are only 30 km away.

I've lived in Brasilia since October of last year. I'll be here until July doing research on Fome Zero and Bolsa Familia for my dissertation.

The buses aren't great, but aren't as bad as some people make them out to be. I often take them to go to interviews at the ministries or the Congress. And they only cost 2 reis, which is about $1.25 these days.

You can save money by calling a cab (30% discount). There's a cooperative reached at 3325-3030. I've found it takes longer for them to arrive, perhaps because they have fewer cabs. So, while I like to support cooperatives, if I'm in a hurry I call another company at 3321-3030.

There's a lot of civic tourism stuff to do. The House and Senate are open 7 days a week for this and have free tours every 30 minutes. I grabbed a card when I was at the Senate with a list of the key civic tourism info, so let me know if you have other questions.

I agree, the falls are very nice.

Please drop me a line if you'd like to meet up.


Oh, and if you need a nice place to walk or run, the Olhos d' Agua ecological park is really great. I go there almost every day. It has a 2 km paved loop and then paths that cross inside and pass through a variety of types of terrain. It's In blocks 413/414 north.

Some pics here:

Are you going to speak anywhere? Would like to go

Close to the Palácio do Planalto is Vila Planalto -- this is where the workers who built most of Brasília set up their living quarters in the 50's. It was supposed to be "temporary", but, well, it's still there (it'd be an interesting study on property rights, like the De Soto books, because most people there don't have formal titles to their property). Anyway, this place looks nothing like the rest of Brasília -- it's more like a small village from the interior of Brazil, and it's become a "pólo gastronômico" with a lot of good restaurants. I really like it -- I lived there for a couple of years, shunning the impersonal "blocks" of the SQs, the SuperQuadras. Here is a link: My favorite there was the "Fogão de Pedra", or Stone Oven.

In Brazil, a "dive" is called a "pé sujo": literally, a "dirty foot". I like these -- and from what I've read of your gastronomical forays, you don't mind them either. Here are a few:

Paulicéia (113 Sul): This is a great place to go for a "feijoada", but it's only on Saturdays (maybe on Fridays too, I forget). On Wednesdays they have "rabada", oxtail. You sit outdoors, under the trees. Gets really crowded, but it's a lot of fun.

Carneiro e Picanha (216 Norte): Go there for the "carneiro", lamb, and not the picanha, which is not as good. The best plate there is the "guisado", a sort of a lamb stew with many spices.

Feira do Guará: it's a little farther out from the center. It's a marketplace and they have stuff from all over Brazil. I like the Café Dona Neide there. This place is unruly -- gets chaotic, even -- but it's authentic, well worth the trip out there.

My favorite used bookstore is "Sebinho" (406 Norte) -- they used to hold some meetings of Brasília's "Instituto Liberal" there (of course, "liberal" in Brazil means the opposite of what it does in the US).

Here is a link to the map of where these places are: Hope you have a great time there!

Brasilia is not a great city by any stretch. The crime rate is too high to make walking between areas feasible at night. The city seems to have been designed to be as awful as possible for pedestrians. Street life is dominated by malls.

That said, some individual buildings are very interesting. Definitely stop by the Cathedral Dom Bosco with its fantastic modern stained glass, and take a tour of the lovely foreign ministry and its tropical roof deck. Bring a copy of Jane Jacobs to read while you're there - it will be particularly salient!

Hey Tyler, nice to know you are coming here. I've lived here in Brasília my whole life, so I will try to help with something:

Hotel are way cheaper during weekends: they are very busy on weekedays because of Congress and government activies. Hotels near the lake are not actually that far: a quick 5min drive from the city centre. There's absolutely no traffic at that area. As some people said earlier, you will probably use cabs here, so it's not really a big deal getting a hotel near the lake.

Only 50% of the city's inhabitants were born in Brazilian: as that are lots and lots of immigrants, there's also a lot of very good restaurants of regional food from everywhere in the country and maybe world.

For barbecue, try "Porcão". "Mangai" is a great place for Northeast food (or maybe the more commertial "Coco Bambu" or the expensive "Bargaço"). For Amazionan food, "Raízes da Amazônia". "Feira da Torre" - the tower fair at the centre on Sundays is a nice place for trying street food from everywhere in the country, and a popular touristic attraction. A list of famous restaurants by type is here: (Portuguese) but a lot of those are "international" food.

I'm a grad student at University of Brasilia - are you coming for a seminar of something?

I would be very glad to help with anything else, so let me know!

I am wondering if anyone knows of older movies filmed in Brasilia.
I remember seeing one (with an "intrigue" plot of some sort that I no longer recall) on weekend afternoon TV in the mid-70s.
What fascinated me was this huge, modern, city, with so little traffic on the wide boulevards that appeared towards the end of the film.
I went and got my Dad and asked him what it was, and he said it was Brasilia.
Figuring the release delays at that time, it was probably made no earlier than 1970.

I've been in Brazil for twenty years now and have to go to the consulate there every so often. The city seems to me very un-Brazilian, mainly because it so car-centric and uniformly well off relatively and well maintained. It is the only Brazilian city in which I could recommend a visitor might rent a car, especially if trying to maximize a short visit. Driving and parking are straight forward. The best place to do this IMHO is at the airport where the competition is next to each other in booths and each with their own brochure. At the hotel you are often at the mercy of the management's partner. More important than the daily rate is the liability, which in some cases can equal the value of the car. Taxi is the next and maybe only other real option. If you plan on doing any walking, bring a parasol.
-Praça dos Três Poderes, in the cockpit of the 'plano piloto', surrounded by the Supreme Court, Congress, and the Administraion's 'palaces', is my favorite spot. Most of the exhibits are subterranean here. There are no tourist throngs, few signs, and no lines so you just have to find the entrances yourself. I love the somewhat creepy Panteão da Pátria e da Liberdade Tancredo Neves.
-Catedral de Brasília. Worth a visit.
-Torre de TV. Great veiw. It is a double bonus going here on Sunday (? check on this) when the swap meet like feira is in full swing and the food stalls are in operation. You can satisfy your tourist shopping lust/commitments quickly and at a good value here. The food is probably a tenth the cost of aforementioned restaurants, and greasy and salty, in the national style.
-The Quadras. Housing blocks. Some are more equal than others.
-The other side of the lake. Nice big lots. Mansions. I'm sure there are more criminals here per capita than in any flavela in Rio.

I wish you would comment on the exchange rate when you get back.

Happy Trails!!!

Academia de Tênis has its own hotel which is not fancy by any standard but is integrated in a complex that has its own decent restaurants (including a Dom Francisco), a coffee terrace, and movie theaters which show independent and foreign (European and Brazilian) movies. It is however relatively far from downtown so you'll need a cab or a rental in order to go anywhere else.
Ten years ago there were some nice restaurants that I could recommend, so I'm not sure about them now. Some of them were lunch hotspots and others were on the fancier nightlife side. The lunch hotspots were the "Dom Francisco", "Fred" and "Carpe Diem", good for a fancy executive meal, and not too expensive. They will offer Brazilian and Portuguese cuisine and a complete table of Brazilian desserts (which are wonderful). "Lagash" for decades has been the reference for middle-eastern food in town, it used to be very authentic. On the fancier side there were places such as the "Convento," the "Patu Anu" and the "Alice." Churrascaria Porcão is a tour de force for overindulging Brazilian BBQ lovers.
And yes, don't miss the "Chapada dos Veadeiros" park and take a guided tour in English, If possible, stay one night in one of the nice "farm hotels" around the park, which will cook traditional farm-style diners and breakfasts. Being there was the only thing in Brazil that really amazed my travel-jaded wife. If you've read Doyle's "The Lost World", this is the close you'll ever get to the original experience -- particularly if you're lucky enough to see one of the herds of emus roaming free amidst the (very) exotic native prairies.

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