What is Brazil Capital? It’s Not Rio or São Paulo

What is Brazil Capital? Be honest with me right now: I’m pretty sure that you used to think that the capital of Brazil was Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, am I right? If you do, don’t be embarrassed. That’s what 99% of the people that live outside of Brazil think.

Brasília is the capital of Brazil since 1960. The city is the third capital in the history of the country, the first was Salvador (1549-1763) and the second was Rio de Janeiro (1763-1960). Brasília is located in the Federal District and is a planned city with the shape of an airplane.

More than the capital of the country, Brasília is the city where all the important powers of Brazil are located, like the Congress, Senate, the Palace of the Supreme Court, and the “Planalto Palace”, which houses the presidential offices.

Although Brasília is the current capital of Brazil, it’s not the first.

What is The Capital of Brazil Today?

Throughout its history, Brazil has had three different capitals. The first of these was the city of Salvador, founded in 1549 by the first governor of Brazil, Tomé de Souza. For more than 200 years, the city of Salvador was the political and also economic center of the country. More than that: back then Salvador was the administrative headquarters of Brazil. All political decisions were made in the beautiful capital of Bahia.

In 1763 the capital of Brazil was transferred from Salvador to the worldwide famous city of Rio de Janeiro (so if you thought that Rio was our capital, you’re not totally wrong). This was a period of a series of important political reforms in Brazil, led by a politician inspired by the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment.

Seeking to bring the Portuguese colonial administration as close as possible to the main source of wealth at the time, the mining region of Minas Gerais, Pombal, the politician, determined that Rio de Janeiro would become the new capital of Brazil.

Finally, almost two centuries later, in 1960, our capital was transferred from Rio de Janeiro to the city of Brasília.

Juscelino Kubitschek

The president at that time, Juscelino Kubitschek, seeking to transfer the capital of Brazil to a place far from the great centers of popular pressure, turned the Midwest into the main stage for political decisions.

Brasília is known as the “Capital of Hope” because it was born at a time when Brazil was confident in its development and the government of Kubitschek was betting on building a prosperous nation.

With a beautiful project by Oscar Niemeyer and Lúcio Costa, Brasília is the capital of Brazil.

General Information about Brasília

StateFederal District (“Distrito Federal”)
Population3,055,149 (2020)
Demographic Density444 Inhabitants/km2
Altitude1171 Meters
HDI0,824 – Very High
FoundationApril 21, 1960

The City of Brasília Has the Shape of An Airplane

The construction of the country’s capital had a bold and pioneering architecture. Designed by Lúcio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer, its innovation made it the only city in the country to win the title of Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The concept of the city’s Pilot Plan was bold but also focused on developing a functional city. The plan was created based on the territory that became the city and its topography, and flow of water. One of the great enigmas, however, is why Brasília is shaped like an airplane.

This is one of the nicest facts about Brasília. It’s not only a drawing of a crazy architect that still on paper. The project was executed and the city has the shape of an airplane! More than that, the position of the most important buildings of the city is strategically positioned over the shape of the airplane.

There are even locations of the city that are named after their positions on the plane, like South Wing and North Wing for instance.

Cultural Heritage of Humanity

One of the greatest accomplishments of the city of Brasília was being considered a Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 1987. And the “prize” was not by case: the city of Brasília is full of culture.

Starting from the modern architectural lines designed by Oscar Niemeyer and the bold urbanization plans designed by Lúcio Costa. This makes Brasilia a full plate for those who want to visit a modern architectural paradise in a planned and welcoming city.

Music is also a cultural trend in Brasília. The city is the birthplace of some of the most iconic rock bands in Brazilian history. National rap and rock are strong brands in the culture of Brasilia.

Cinema also plays an important role in the city’s cultural agenda. The Brasília Film Festival takes place annually at Cine Brasília.

4 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Brasília

Praça dos Três Poderes

Brasília is the political center of Brazil and this is exactly what is represented by the Praça dos Três Poderes (Square of The Three Powers).

As the name suggests, the square is surrounded by the most important political-buildings of the country, housing the three powers: executive, legislative, and judicial.

It’s also the place of the official residence and offices of the president, the Planalto Palace (Palácio do Planalto”), the Supreme Court, and the Congress.

Catedral Metropolitana de Nossa Senhora Aparecida

Probably the most famous landmark of Brasília, this Cathedral was also designed by Niemeyer and completed 10 years after the inauguration of Brasília, 1970.

What is Brazil Capital?

The architecture of the cathedral is outstanding, with 16 curved concrete columns soaring up to create a crown that surrounds a glass roof. The lightning inside the church will make your jaw drop.

Palácio dos Arcos

The “Palácio dos Arcos”, also known as “Palácio do Itamaraty”, houses the Foreign Ministry and is my favorite work of art made by Oscar Niemeyer.

What is Brazil Capital? What About Brazil

The palace is modern and classic at the same time. The building consists of a long line of arches that stands above a reflecting pool surrounded by beautiful gardens designed by the Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx.

Congresso Nacional

The building of the National Congress is as old as the city of Brasília itself. Like almost every building in Brasília, it was designed by the architect Oscar Niemeyer.

The building consists of a flat-based structure with two high buildings, where the offices of the members of parliament are located. The National Congress also houses the federal senate. Tourists can visit the National Congress for free. It just depends on the availability for the day.


I hope you have learned a lot from this post. Even I that live in Brazil for my entire life discovered some new details while I was researching and writing the article.

It’s crazy how a simple question like “What is Brazil Capital” can generate so much helpful content. If you liked this post, share it with a friend or leave a comment down here.

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Have a good one and I see you on the next time 🙂


What’s up! I’m André, a Brazilian born and bred living in the South of Brazil in a little city called Guarapuava. I’m passionate about traveling and knowing different cultures and that’s why I love to share useful information about the Food, Travel, Facts, and Culture of my beloved country, Brazil.

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