Did you know that Rio de Janeiro isn’t the capital of Brazil? Mistaking the capital of Samba for still being the capital of Brazil is a common mistake.  Ever since I read Jaclyn’s post on abandoned futuristic monuments from former Yugoslavia, I’ve been thinking about Brasilia, Brazil’s capital since the 1960, which in itself is one of the most monumental and futuristic places on earth. Brasilia, the wet dream of city planners and architecture enthusiasts, might not be able to compete with Rio’s rich culture, but it sure is one of the weirdest (and I mean this in a good way) cities I’ve ever seen.

If Brazil was ever to be a world power, it needed a monumental capital. At least this was to thought of the Brazilian President, and in 1956 the work to build the most modern and monumental capital in the world started. Brasilia was planned and developed by the urban planner Lucio Costa and the architect Oscar Niemeyer, and within four years it had taken Rio de Janeiro’s role as Brazil’s capital. First time I went to Brasilia, it struck me that everything was symmetrical, if you had a roundabout on one side, there had to be an equivalent on the other side. Everything was planned, there wasn’t a even a tree of a bush growing in the wrong place. The city seen from the air, has the shape of an airplane or a bird. Everything is thought out to the tiniest detail.

The artificial lake seen in the background of the picture is called Paranoá Lake, with a circumference of 80 km, this enormous lake helps you breathe in this extremely dry climate. To my surprise this lake has a huge marina, and is a great location for windsurfing and wakeboarding. The area around the shore is full of restaurants and bars that are worth to check out and make the city seem a little less artificial and strange. If you’re into windsurfing, try signing up for a course here.

The modern style of the buildings in the capital becomes obvious when you look at the national congress, and symbolically it is located in the middle of the main street of Brasília. The buildings might be the most futuristic in the whole capital, and in several cartoons the building on the right is drawn as a UFO.

The national congress

To get as much as possible out of your visit in Brasília, I recommend you to take an architectural tour of the city. I had m friends show me around, but if you’re not that lucky, the tourism company Prestheza offers urban adventure tourism in Brasilia. Next time I’m around, I’ll definitely go on the bike tour through the city.

Architectural highlights not to be missed are:

– Presidential Residence, Palácio Alvorada

– Our Lady of Fátima Church

– St. John Bosco Sanctuary

– The TV tower

– The military sector

– Juscelino Kubitschek Memorial

– Metropolitan Cathedral

– Ministries Boulevard

– Itamaraty Palace (Foreign Affairs Ministry)

– Three Powers Square

– Democracy and Liberty Pantheon

– Lucio Costa cultural area

– Jaburu Palace (residence of the vice president)

– Superquadras (commercial area), where you should have the best bread in town at La Boulangerie, snacks at Casa do Biscoito Mineiro, açai at Sub’s.

Modern statues

If you’re looking for more information about Brasília, have a look at the websites of BrasiliaTur and the Ministry of Tourism. I also highly recommend to have a look at the beautiful documentary, A vida é um sopro, about Brasília’s architect Oscar Niemeyer if you’re into architecture or just fascinating people.

Kathrine Opshaug Bakke Kathrine Opshaug Bakke, editor at Travelettes from 2009 to 2013, wrote this post. Originating from Norway, she has been living in Berlin, Lisbon, and Stockholm the past 6 years.

She loves cities with imperfect facades, photography, traveling by bike, vintage hunting, and everything that comes with cheese. Follow her visual diary at anchoredpaperplane.com.