BRAZIL  |  Brasilia, Brazil Travel Guide
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Eixo Monumental East

Eixo Monumental East

The Television Tower

The tallest structure in the city offers the greatest view. From that vantage point the airplane shape becomes evident. The tower stands 715 feet high, although the observation deck is at 246 feet. There are restaurants and gift shops. The elevator runs daily from 8 am to 8 pm. Facing west (to the tail of the plane) you’ll see Praça do Cruzeiro, where the city’s first mass was held in 1957, the Kubitschek Memorial and the Memorial dos Povos Indigenas. Facing east (to the cockpit) the Aztec pyramid you see on your left is the National Theater (Teatro Nacional Cláudio Santoro) and the wine-cup shape on your right is the cathedral. The large park below the tower is Sara Kubitschek City Park. You’ll have unobstructed views of the parallel row of government buildings and, in the distance, the twin towers that mark Three Powers Square. Beyond the square is manmade Lake Paraná, the only part of Brasília that was unplanned.

You can walk from the Television Tower to Three Powers Square. Leave at least six hours so you can explore all the sights en route at a comfortable pace.

The Metropolitan Cathedral

Brasília’s only cathedral, N. S. da Aparecida, was designed by Niemeyer and completed in 1967. It is a magnificent structure. With 16 arched spires representing hands stretched toward heaven circling the entire thing, it has the wide bottom and the skinny top of a wine cup. The hands support huge panes of glass that allow natural light to flood the sanctuary below. The entrance is marked by four bronze statues that symbolize Christ’s disciples. The entrance curves downward through a totally dark passage called the Meditation Zone. The darkness symbolizes the time before creation. The marble is from Italy, the crystal from France, the bells a gift from Spain and the organ from Germany. A cross used at the city’s first mass was moved from Praça do Cruzeiro for display here. The entire structure is surrounded by a reflecting pool. Open daily, 8 am-6 pm.

National Theater (Cláudio Santoro)

An attractive pyramid decorated with concrete geometric figures, the theater has several stages and art galleries. Daily, 3 pm- 8 pm.

Esplanade of Government Buildings

If you walk from the cathedral to the Plaza of Three Powers, you will see other Niemeyer buildings. They form a corridor (Esplanada do Ministérios) and are all government-related. Two are worth visiting. Itamaraty Palace (Palácio do Itamaraty) houses the Foreign Ministry. It is a glass-enclosed structure with a façade made of a series of elegant arches. It stands in a Burle Marx-designed reflecting pool surrounded by beautiful flora – a very peaceful spot. The building and reflecting pool are perfect backdrops for the abstract Carrera marble sculpture of the Meteoro (Meteor). Take the guided tour of the palace interior to see a wonderful collection of modern art. Check English-language tour schedules with your concierge.

Across the promenade you’ll see the Palace of Justice (Palácio da Justiça), which has waterfalls flowing between its arched columns. There is a library inside, but it isn’t open to the public. Friends tell us that it housed an original set of Shakespeare’s works given as a gift to Kubitschek from Queen Elizabeth. There are tours in English. Check schedules with your concierge.

Three Powers Square

Praça dos Três Poderes is at the eastern end of the esplanade. It has several buildings worth visiting. The most striking is the National Congress (Congresso Nacional), which consists of two 28-story towers where the offices of the 500 legislators are housed.

The towers are flanked by a saucer and a bowl. The saucer is where the Senators meet, while the bowl is where members of the House meet. Tunnels, filled with works of art, connect the structures. Burle Marx designed the indoor gardens. You can take the English-language guided tour. Check schedules.

The 25-foot-tall bronze sculpture in the plaza was designed by Giorgi as a monument to the laborers who built Brasília. It is called Os Candangos, the name given to the Brazilians who came to a wilderness and built this great city. It depicts two tall, lithe figures holding poles.

Os Condangos faces Planalto Palace (Palácio do Planalto) that has a marble and glass exterior marked by straight and slanting columns. There is a changing of the guard ceremony here.

The Pantheon (Panteno do Pátria) was designed by Niemeyer in 1985 to honor the nation’s heroes. Among them is Tancredo Neves, Brazil’s first democratically elected president after years of military rule. Unfortunately, he died before taking office. The Pantheon is curved and resembles a dove. There are many works of art and panels that pay homage to those who died in an early revolt against the Portuguese. Open Tues-Sun, 9 am-6 pm.

The Flagpole (Mastro da Bandeira) rises to 300 feet and holds a 240-square-foot Brazilian flag. The flag’s background is green for Brazil’s forests, yellow for the gold that played such a large part in the country’s growth, and blue for the blue skies that keep the country bathed in sunshine. There are 27 stars – one for each state and the Federal District. Each month a different state flag is raised as well.

Also in the square is the small Historical Museum of Brasília. It has interesting photos of famous visitors to the city. Look for the statue of Kubitschek on the façade.

Alvorada Palace & Vila Planalto

Alvorada Palace sits on a peninsula jutting into Lake Paraná. A magnificent building, it is the official residence of Brazil’s president. It has white marble slanting columns and was the first building completed by Niemeyer. It is not open to the public but you can see the building and gardens from beyond the gate.

Nearby, Vila Planalto is a neighborhood that housed professional workers who arrived in Brasília. Some of the prefabricated houses they lived in still stand along Av. Dos Engenheiros (Engineers). The area today houses mid-level government workers and it retains its boomtown, free-spirited ambience. Stop in a local chopperia to cool down.

Last updated December 5, 2007
Posted in   Brazil  |  Brasilia
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