Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is considered one the world’s most beautiful beaches, popular with both Cariocas (as the Rio de Janeiro natives are called) and tourists. Its sprawling white sand frames the Atlantic Ocean creating striking views between the sea and the city. Without a doubt it’s a must-see sight, but beyond the post card perfect views, Copacabana is also a neighborhood experience full of surprises not to be missed during your next visit to Rio de Janeiro.
With that in mind, here are a few carefully selected highlights not to be missed that will help you to take in not just the stunning landscape but also discover the local flavor of one of the world’s top travelers’ destinations.
Fairmont Rio de Janeiro
Searching for a hotel to stay in Copacabana, look no further than the Fairmont Rio de Janeiro. Located at the tip of the Copacabana Beach, just before Ipanema, the Fairmont Rio de Janeiro is the first South American outlet of the renown Fairmont group. Its privileged location allows for a full frame panoramic view of the beach and the iconic Sugar Loaf mountain.
The hotel recently went through a massive renovation, re-opening a few months before the pandemic crisis erupted. Designed by the internationally known Brazilian architect Patricia Anastassiadis, the décor draws on the cool, sophisticated feel of the 1950s era in Copacabana. With 380 plus rooms and presidential suites, the property also features an infinity pool overlooking the beach, meeting rooms, and a restaurant (Marine Resto) serving delicious Brazilian cuisine.
In the Morning
Start your day bright an early as the sun rises to experience an Instagram worthy photo by the infinity pool. Walk down to the beach (or just look out from your balcony) and you’ll get a glimpse of cariocas breaking up a sweat on a morning jog along the famous wavy patterned boardwalk, or balancing up on the highly popular paddleboards, and soon to be mums practicing beach yoga. And just next to all this bursting activity, the local fishermen catch the fish of the day that later will be served at the Fairmont’s restaurant. The infinity pool gets busy in the late morning so before breakfast take a plunge for a quiet swim at the pool. The hotel offers a savory buffet style breakfast that includes mimosas, pastries, eggs, waffles, and a wide selection of fresh tropical fruits. (After indulging in the scrumptious breakfast, you may need to take a pool side nap).
In the afternoon
The afternoon time is a perfect time to head to the Forte de Copacabana just across the street from the hotel. The forte is a military base located at the tip of the beach with magnificent views of Copacabana. Many visitors are not aware the fort is open to the public, so you will mostly encounter locals here. Built in 1914, the forte was used as the city’s first line of defense against attack from foreign invaders. Make sure to visit the museum part (open to the public every day except Mondays) with exhibits that traces the history of the Portuguese colony in the 19th century. Once you visit the museum, you can walk around the forte and can even have a meal at one the two restaurants part of the complex, along the main promenade. Both restaurants offer outdoor seating facing the views and are a perfect choice for a tasty caipirinha and exquisite Brazilian nibblies.
If you can resist the call of the beach, a quick (and very scenic) cab ride to the downtown area of Rio brings you to two of the city’s most important museums, both of which happen to be also high profile pieces of Architecture: The Museum of Modern Art (known as “MAM”), and the Museum of Tomorrow (“Museu do Amanhã”) are both worthy museums to include in your second day. MAM was founded in 1948 and it is housed in a striking modernistic building designed by French-Brazilian architect Affonso Eduardo Reidy. The museum sits within the Parque do Flamengo green area and it is Rio’s main art institution, featuring both modern and contemporary art exhibits. The Museum of Tomorrow, a futuristic, spaceship like structure designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Located at the Pier Mauá, adjacent to Rio’s busy harbor, this science museum features installations and presentations focused on musings about the planet future, with a strong emphasis on ecological and sustainability topics.
In the afternoon, immerse yourself in the culture of Brazilian food with a 4-hour boozy Brazilian culinary feast cooking class. You’ll discover exotic Brazilian ingredients, techniques, and flavors such as making a Seafood Moqueca. The cooking class is a fun way to meet other fellow travelers and discover new dishes.
After indulging in the Brazilian culinary class, head back to the Fairmont’s Hotel bar and order a Caipirinha (Brazil’s national drink, it’s uniquely refreshing!). While enjoying the Caipirinha enjoy a live concert by the Fairmont’s infinity pool and dance with the locals!