Built out of practically nothing as a new capital, far removed in the Brazilian hinterland from both Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia is a futuristic city of government and administration created out of the vision of Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, who died in 2012 (10 days short of his 105th birthday). “Opened” as the nation’s capital in 1960, Brasilia is today the sixth-largest city in Brazil and sits almost 4,000 feet above sea level. Most visitors come here either for business or because they are interested in architecture, the curves, landscapes, angles, and brilliance of which has put the city on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list. An international population of embassy staff keeps Brasilia event venues healthy and interesting.
The city has a major airport, the Brasilia-Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek International Airport (BSB), which is three miles south of its planned city center. The only direct flights from the United States leave from Atlanta and Miami.
Chief among convention venues is the Ulysses Guimaraes Convention Center, which has a novel, fantastic design (nearly everything does here), measures more than 540,000 square feet in size, has an auditorium for 2,827 persons, as well as four other smaller ones, can host up to 9,000, and contains 30 meeting rooms and more than 120,000 square feet of exhibit space. A second convention center, Brasil 21, has an auditorium and 70,000 square feet of convention space for up to 4,000 persons.
Hotel venues in Brasilia may lack some of the well-known North American-brand properties, but make great choices, nonetheless. These include the 346-room Hotel Nacional, which has 12 meeting rooms and 30,000 square feet of function space, the largest space hosting up to 300 persons; the 334-room Melia Brasil 21, which has three meeting rooms for up to 140 persons; the 269-room Mercure Brasilia Lider, which has seven Greek-named meeting rooms, the largest able to accommodate 230 persons; the 205-room Carlton Hotel Brasilia, which has 15 function spaces, the largest able to cater to 200 persons; and the 84-room boutique property Brasilia Imperial, which has 10 meeting rooms.
This purpose-built capital cannot fail to have some unique gathering spots, but none are that old. Possibilities include space-age Complexo Cultural da Republica, which includes the National Library of Brasilia and National Museum of the Republic, both designed by Niemeyer and the latter coming with 150,000 square feet of exhibit space and two 780-seat auditoriums; events hall Unique Palace, which has 45,000 square feet of space, a 2,000-square-foot lobby and two banquet spaces that can host 350 and 900 persons, respectively, and auditorium space for 1,700; JK Memorial Museum, which is named, as is the airport, after Juscelino Kubitschek, a former Brazilian president, and which has a 310-seat auditorium named for his wife Marcia, among other spaces; and CAIXA Cultural art center, which has theater, seminar, and function space.
There is no typical cuisine from Brasilia, not surprisingly in such a young city. Brasilia has a branch of the popular American chain Fogo de Chao, a churrascaria meat-dominated restaurant with 500 seats and private group space. Other choices include competing churrascaria Oliver, which also has private function areas and puts on nightly music; Italian restaurant Villa Tevere, the romantics’ choice, which has spaces for between 15 and 200 persons for private affairs; Oscar, which is named in honor of Niemeyer, has a 1960s look, and is in the 156-room Brasilia Palace Hotel on the shores of Lake Paranoa; and Aquavit, which has nothing to do with the famed New York City restaurant of the same name, sits on the same lake, and has private areas for between 10 and 80 persons.