– Brasilia City
– New Koto Japanese Restaurant | 212 Sul, bloco C – loja 20, Brasilia | (no known website)
– Brasilia Palace Hotel | SHTN, Trecho 1, Lote 1, Brasilia | http://www.brasiliapalace.com.br/
Despite being the capital of Brazil, Brasilia isn’t considered to be much of a tourist destination, mainly because there’s just not a lot to do there, BUT if you’re at all interested in architecture and design, the city itself becomes an over sized gallery of the works of Niemeyer, Burle Marx and Athos Bulcão’s beautiful tile-work.
Completed in 1960, the city was constructed in 5 years as a kind of futuristic utopia of urban planning, and part of Brazil’s “fifty years of prosperity in five” plan. If it sounds like something out of Orwell’s “1984”, you’re not wrong, I felt inspired to read the book again after driving down the “Monumental Axis” lined by the domineering north and south ministries. The many surrounding buildings are all spectacular examples of post war modernist architecture, and very in vogue! The presidential palace is slightly further a field but definitely worth a visit, although I believe you can only go inside on Wednesday afternoons.
From Rio, Brasilia is an easy 1.5 hour flight. The aerial view of the city resembles an airplane when its lit up at night but unfortunately we missed this, as understandably all the window seats on our flight were snapped up before we checked in.
We stayed at the “Brasilia Palace Hotel” which was of course designed by Niemeyer and is stunningly retro. It was also a steal at R$180 per night + taxes. A rental car is a must as there’s no hope of seeing the city by public transport, but be warned you’ll need a GPS! Incredibly there are hardly any traffic lights or traffic jams in Brasilia as a result of the carefully designed street system, but it’s extremely difficult to navigate the under and over passes, and the complex letter and numbering system for street names doesn’t help. We were continually lost and managed to drive 200km in circles over 2 days!
Aside from the architecture, no weekend break is complete without checking out the local restaurant scene! We were in the mood for sushi and our expectations were exceeded when we found a fantastically good Japanese restaurant called “New Koto”. It’s quite a down to earth atmosphere with traditional Japanese canteen style interior, but the food is really excellent, which is most likely down to the Japanese owner who oversees all food preparation like a hawk. We had the 32 piece sushi boat which as the waiter explained is actually more like 40 pieces…strange but true, and plenty enough for 2 people. Also very reasonably priced at R$90. The quality was comparable to some of the better mid-range Japanese restaurants in Sao Paulo and definitely outdid Rio hands down.
Overall Brasilia is a really interesting weekend away but can definitely be done in two days, much more than that and you start to run out of things to do, as we discovered by 3pm Sunday. But for architectural buffs with a liking of Japanese food, this is definitely a must!