EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: Oscar Niemeyer's Metropolitan Cathedral is an architectural feat of wonder.
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As a HOST CITY FOR NEXT SUMMER'S 2014 FIFA WORLD CUP games, Brazil’s capital will have new light shed on its cultural offerings — including a taste of Brazilian history and insight into the city’s unique impact on the design world.

If You Go

Brasília Palace Hotel

Royal Tulip Brasília Alvorada

Meliá Brasil 21

Porcão Brasília
Varanda do Sul
CLS 311 BL D, 0 – Asa Sul

Metropolitan Cathedral
National Library (Biblioteca Nacional de Brasília)
Square of Three Powers (Praça Dos Três Poderes)

As Brazil’s sprawling capital, Brasília has long been a must-see on the bucket list of architecture and design aficionados worldwide. Founded in 1960, Brasília is a city unlike any other: It boasts an astounding number of Oscar Niemeyer–designed architectural wonders. Its efficient urban plan outlines the city in the shape of an airplane, and its cultural importance through the years is such that, in 1987, the city was named a UNESCO World Heritage site, making it the first modern city to be inscribed on the list. Visual impact aside, Brasília is visited daily by international diplomats and business leaders who lend their cosmopolitan influence to a capital that originally was created on a barren stretch of savanna.

If total immersion in modernism and design is what you’re after, Brasília Palace Hotel, the only hotel in Brasília designed by Oscar Niemeyer, is the place you want. Midcentury furniture and retro accessories placed in white-marble settings emulate a stay at a modern museum. Royal Tulip Brasília Alvorada — a five-star hotel located by Paranoá Lake and next to the Palácio da Alvorada (the Brazilian president’s home) — offers the most luxurious stay in the city and is the only hotel to offer Saturday boat tours to view the city ­panoramas from the surrounding lakes. Meliá Brasil 21 is a comfortable business hotel, with a central location convenient to the city’s key sights.

Visiting diplomats and dignitaries have helped to advance Brasília’s culinary scene, spurring a growing number of high-end restaurants perfect for satisfying a discriminating palate. But it’s also worth seeking out local cuisine, whether at “per-kilo” restaurants (food charged by weight) or at the churrascaria restaurants for which Brazil is known. Porcão Brasília, the ultimate churrascaria, has a steady stream of servers arriving to the table with one mouth-watering grilled meat after the next. Oliver offers continental food in a rustic setting. And Varanda do Sul is an authentic neighborhood “per-kilo” restaurant with the typical Brazilian fare of salads, rice-and-bean dishes and grilled meats served buffet-style and then weighed to determine the cost of your meal.

Witnessing Oscar Niemeyer’s stunning architectural contributions to Brasília firsthand is the main reason to visit this city. Start where Brasília’s airplane tail sits and move along its fuselage (the “Monumental Axis”) toward the cockpit. In other words, start at Memorial JK, where one can learn about the creation of Brasília and former Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek — the man who made it his mission to create the city and who is considered the founder of Brasília. Afterward, take a taxi to the National Museum, the domelike creation of Niemeyer’s that features rotating exhibits of modern art. Nearby are Niemeyer’s Metropolitan Cathedral and his midcentury design for the National Library. Further down the fuselage at the cockpit is the highlight of the city, the Square of Three Powers. In this square sits the Brazilian National Congress, the Supreme Federal Court and the presidential palace that houses president Dilma Rousseff’s office. Each building is an iconic work of Niemeyer’s, forever graced with his signature lines and curves.