It will take you a full day (minimum) to visit Brasília ’s architectural marvels. Although most are located along the Eixo Monumental, its length, coupled with the inevitably scalding sun, means you’ll have to combine walking with buses and taxis to get from one end to the other.
Even so, wear sunscreen, carry mineral water, and dress lightly (although not skimpily—no flip-flops, shorts, tank tops—since many of the sights you’ll be visiting are government buildings with dress codes).
It’s best to start at the tail end of the Eixo Monumental. From the lofty height of Praça do Cruzeiro, you are treated to an impressive view down the Eixo towards the Esplanada dos Ministérios. Surveying the scene is a monumental bronze statue of Juscelino Kubitschek (JK) inside a curving half shell.
Brasília’s urban design is as futuristic as its architecture. If you arrive by plane (and most people do), you’ll be treated to an eagle’s eye view of the city’s layout in the shape of an airplane or a bird with outstretched wings. Lúcio Costa referred to this as the Plano Piloto (Pilot Plan). Once you’re on the ground, no matter how confusing Brasília might seem, it helps if you keep in mind this organization of the city into the bird or plane’s head, body, and tail.
The body, known as the Eixo Monumental (Monumental Axis), is an 8-kilometer (5-mile) strip of multi-lane boulevards that runs east–west from the Praça do Cruzeiro (the plane’s tail) to Praça dos Três Poderes  (the head, or cockpit). Running north–south, and intersecting with the Eixo Monumental, the Eixo Rodoviário (known as the “Eixão”) is a curving artery that forms the wings of the bird/plane. At the intersection of the two Eixos is the city’s transportation hub: the municipal Rodoviária de Brasília, from which local buses come and go.
Another signature feature of Brasília is its organization into zones. For instance, the Eixo Monumental is lined with government buildings, monuments, and museums, but is also divided into specific setores (S) that concentrate clusters of banks (Setor Bancário), hotels (Setor Hoteleiro), and commercial areas (Setor Comércio). Sectors themselves are further subdivided into blocos (Bl.), which are large buildings; conjuntos (Cj.), which are building subdivisions; lojas (Lj.), or stores; and lotes (Lt.), or lots.
The two “wings” of the bird or plane that branch off either side of the Eixo Monumental are actually referred to as wings: curving south is the Asa Sul (South Wing) and swinging north is the Asa Norte (North Wing). Both of these sweeping districts are largely residential with numbered apartment blocks, known as quadras (Q) and superquadras (SQ). Instead of names, roads are numbered according to their distance from the main Eixo and whether they are north (N) or south (S) of the Eixo Monumental and east (L) or (W) west of the Eixo Rodoviário.
Despite this precision, for all its rational geometry and its division into sectors and quads, Brasília can be both easy and incredibly confusing to navigate. The problem isn’t so much the uniformity of the buildings, but trying to decipher the addresses. See A Decoder’s Guide to Brasília  for more information on understanding Brasília’s addresses.