Brasilia City Guide

By Thomas Oakey REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
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Vital statistics

With the country preparing to host the 2013 Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup, MSN brings you a guide to Brazil's capital city See Gallery

Vital statistics:

Founded: 1960
State: Federal District
Region: Central-West
Population: 2,609,997
Size: 5,802 km2

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History

Purpose-built to replace Rio de Janeiro as the principal city of the nation, Brazil’s architecturally astounding capital Brasilia was established as recently as 1960. Its beginnings stretch back much further, though.

The proposal for an inland, federally neutral capital was mooted first in 1822, after Brazil had gained independence, and again in 1891, at the writing of the country’s first republican constitution.

The idea fell by the wayside until the 1950s, when it resurfaced under president Getulio Vargas his successor Juscelino Kubitscheck. A competition to design the city was held, won by Brazilian Lúcio Costa, who became the principal urban planner. Costa worked alongside Oscar Niemeyer, the principal architect, as well as Roberto Burle Marx, the landscape designer.

Construction of the new home of Brazil’s federal and political power began in 1956, and was completed just 41 months later on April 21, 1960, a huge feat of design, planning and forward thinking.

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Brasilia today

As important as its more iconic landmarks, the city is recognisable today for its wide streets and carefully planned neighbourhoods, designed to facilitate its political position and accommodate those who live and work there. Important industries within the city - hotels, banking, business, for example - are organised into individual 'superblocks', all of which meet at the Praça dos Três Poderes(Three Powers' Square), the heart of the Brasilia and the home of the Supreme Federal Court.

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Metropolitan Cathedral of Brasilia

Away from its administrative position, the city is well known to most cultures as an avant-garde architectural marvel and a symbol for Brasilia’s early progressive philosophy, thanks largely to premier architect Oscar Niemeyer. Though his influence can be felt on almost every street and plaza, Niemeyer fans should head to Cathedral of Brasilia to see his famed style of work up close.

Dedicated in 1970, some 12 years after construction began, the structure possesses a unique crown-like exterior, while the inside is lit up by 2,000-square-meters of stained glass. See it and it's easily understandable why it’s considered one of Niemeyer’s most popular works.

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Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge

Another spectacular sight offered by the city is the Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge, a looping steel and concrete structure that stretches over Lake Paranoá.

Erected in 2002 in honour of Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira, Brazil’s former president and a forefather of Brasilia, the award-winning structure is particularly dazzling after night falls.

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National Congress of the Federative Republic of Brazil

A symbol of Brasilia’s beginnings, the National Congress buildings are another of the city’s most famous landmarks, and are located on the city’s main street, the Monumental Axis. The structure is characterised by two towers and two semi-spheres, which house the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, departments previously homed in separate locations in Rio.

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Climate

The climate of the capital is typically that of a Tropical Savannah climate, with average temperatures of around 20.5 °C(68.9 °F). It can get chilly in June and July, though – when fixtures will take place – with the lowest average minimum temperature 11 °C(52 °F).

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Geography and surrounding area

The Brazilian Highlands – a fresh, expansive green area that swallows up much of central, southern and eastern Brazil – provide a beautiful backdrop to the city and a useful escape from city life.

Downtown, those looking for a break can head to Paranoá Lake, an 80km in circumference artificial lake located in the east of the capital. Water sports and other activities take place on manufactured waves, or visitors can stroll along the ring of executive and university buildings that surround the shore, which includes the President’s residence the Palace of the Dawn.

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Football in Brasilia

The region homes two relatively infant domestic football clubs: Sociedade Esportiva do Gama (formed in 1976) and Brasiliense Futebol Clube (established in 2000).

Their lack of experience hasn’t stopped both sides enjoying some success, however; Brasiliense, recognisable by their alligator emblem, were finalists in the 2002 Copa do Brasil, while Sociedade bagged the second division trophy in 1998 (though they now languish in the fourth tier of Brazilian football).

Football at the Confederations Cup, World Cup and 2016 Olympics will be played at Brasilia’s brand new Estadio Nacional stadium (pictured). A replacement for the Estadio Mane Garrincha stadium, the ground aims to be carbon neutral, in keeping with the city’s progressive attitude.

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Did you know?

Did you know?

Testament to its impressive design, Brasilia is the only city in the world to be constructed after 1900 to be named a UNESCO world heritage site. The image above shows the Palácio da Alvorada (Palace of the Dawn), the official residence of the President of Brazil, another of the city's favourite buildings.