WITH ITS BRIGHT LIGHTS and warm smiles, Rio de Janeiro is the city of carnival, ritual, samba and soul food. It’s also a destination that’s rooted in golden age glamour, immortalized in films like Flying Down to Rio with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and a sun-soaked retreat for rock stars.
Its only right, then, that the city is presided over by the singular silhouette of Sugarloaf Mountain and the gigantic, iconic Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado Mountain. One of the new seven wonders of the world, the statue is best viewed in the morning when the sun illuminates its front. Easily accessible by taxi, shuttle bus or cog train, there are even rock climbing routes up the mountain, for particularly bold travellers.
A landmark in itself, Belmond Copacabana Palace sits at the very center of this perfect stretch of coastline. The Balneario itself runs from Princesa Isabel Avenue and ends at Posto Seis. The pristine sands outside the hotel are manned by a beach attendant who will bring you fluffy towels and cool water while you enjoy the soothing sound of the ocean.
There’s more to do in Copacabana than just sun-lounging, though. Nearby, the impressive Forte de Copacabana is a great place to get a sense of Brazil’s history (and enjoy an al fresco breakfast). For a supremely delicious boteco experience, stop by at Adega Perola for perfect tacos and a crisp beer. And those with a love of surfing would do well to head to the Arpoador peninsula (literally, “the harpoon thrower”) where the waves crash against the rocks with breathtaking beauty.
Rio’s nightlife is unrivalled. For a truly authentic samba experience, visit Pedro do Sal in Saúde—also known as Little Africa, and the Cradle of Samba. Local musicians and Cariocas (Brazilians) flock here to play and dance to traditional sounds al fresco. The place is true to its slogan, aqui se respeita o samba (“Here, we respect samba music”). You’ll get a truly memorable caipirinha, too. Dance the night away and grab a bite at nearby Largo de São Francisco da Prainha.
Cycling at sunset is another must in Rio, and bikes are easily rented along the beach-side. The Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon is a particularly lovely route. The ride makes an ice-cold fruit juice back in the cool surrounds of the Belmond Copacabana Palace even more refreshing. Saúde!
ACADEMIA DE CACHAÇA: Exceptional cachaça blended with fruits of the season. Terrasse Centre, Rua Conde de Bernadotte, 26, Leblon
BAR ASTOR: Crisp caipirinhas and a prime spot on Ipanema beach. Avenida Vieira Souto, 110, Ipanema
BAR URCA: Watch the world go by at this serene spot. Rua Cândido Gafree, 205, Urca
PLEASE CHOOSE YOUR LANGUAGE