From Monday to Thursday—when Congress is in full swing—hotel rooms fill up, prices rise, and reservations are a must. Meanwhile, on weekends, when deputies return to their home states and the city clears out, you can get discounts of up to 50 percent.
Since business execs and politicos are much more common than backpackers, no-frills budget accommodations are harder to come by. The cheapest pousadas in town—on and around Via W3 Sul—are usually fairly down-and-out and not very safe, not to mention inconvenient.
Simplifying matters substantially, hotels in Brasília  are concentrated in the central Hotel Sector.
Sporting a cool ’70s vibe and lots of glossy marble (walls, floors, and bathrooms), the Hotel Bristol (SHS, Qd. 4, Bl. F, tel. 61/3962-6162, www.bristolhotel.com.br , R$160–200 d) is a friendly and well-appointed hotel near the Pátio Brasil shopping and five minutes from the Congresso Nacional . A rooftop swimming pool, piano bar, and appealing restaurant add to the already good value.
Well situated near the Eixo Monumental, another nicely priced option is the smaller and more basic, but welcoming Casablanca (SHN, Qd. 5, Bl. A, tel. 61/3228-8586, www.casablancabrasilia.com.br , R$165 d). Rooms are clean and comfortable (although the artwork includes the likes of Charlie Chaplin posters) and there is a decent restaurant that serves local dishes.
Recently reopened after 30 years of inactivity following a devastating fire, the Brasília Palace (Setor de Hotéis e Turismo Norte, trecho 1, Lt. 1, tel. 61/3306-9100, R$100–200 d) is Brasília ’s first hotel. Truth be told, it was inaugurated in 1958—two years before the city even existed. A modernist box designed entirely by Niemeyer (down to the furniture) and decorated with beautiful tile murals by Athão Bulcão, the Brasília Palace was built in an incredible eight months. The enormous pool was an afterthought—when asked on an Easter Sunday what shape it would have, Niemeyer replied “egg-shaped.”
Upon its completion, Brazil ’s “Waldorf Astoria” served as President Kubitschek’s private clubhouse. From here he entertained VIPs from far and wide, who flew into the dusty middle of nowhere to watch as the space-age capital rose to life before their eyes. When the city was inaugurated in 1960, the Palace was so overpacked that hotel tycoon Conrad Hilton had to bunk in the barber shop. Until Brasília’s embassies were built, heads of state were lodged and fêted in the hotel’s streamlined rooms on the banks of the recently completed Lago Paranoá.
Today, this architectural gem has once again become a hot spot, not only as a hotel, but as place to gather and listen to live jazz, performed Wednesday through Friday, at the swanky restaurant/piano bar, Oscar Jazz and Cucina.
Built in 1961, for decades the Hotel Nacional (SHS, Qd. 1, Bl. A, tel. 61/3321-7575, www.hotelnacional.com.br , R$310–390 d) was Brasília ’s most prestigious hotel, welcoming political bigwigs and international celebrities. In fact, charmed by the throwback ’60s decor, excellent service, and cavernous rooms—not to mention a luxurious new spa—many still haunt the place, making reservations essential. Weekend rates are half price.
For something more up-to-date, try the high-quality spankingly modern Meliá Brasil 21 (SHS, Qd. 6, Bl. D, tel. 61/3218-4700, www.solmelia.com , R$220–315 d). For comfort, location, service, and amenities—a full-business center with Internet, a heated rooftop pool, and access to one of the best gyms in town (for R$28 a day)—this hotel is hard to beat. A nice eco-touch is the decorative use of reforested native wood.