What to Do in Rio’s Copacabana and Ipanema Neighborhood
With its world-famous beach and raucous nightclubs, Copacabana is Rio de Janeiro's touristy epicenter. Thousands flock to this world-famous beach each year to sun themselves among the sea of Cariocas in Brazilian bikinis. The beach runs for 2.2 miles and is dotted with bars, stands selling fresh coconut water, and volleyball courts. Parallel to the water, camera-happy visitors will delight in the famous promenade with its black-and-white wave design, created by Roberto Burle Marx in 1970. It is a must-see in Rio, and boasts some of the city's most famous spots like the Copacabana Palace Hotel.
Meanwhile, just south of Copacabana, Ipanema is a trendy district that draws crowds but is calmer than Copacabana. Outdoor cafés line the leafy avenues. Ipanema Beach, the stretch of white sand on Rio's coast between Arpoador and Leblon beaches, is considered the jewel in the city's crown. The area surrounding it is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city and appropriately filled with upscale boutiques and restaurants. The beach itself is usually full of beautiful people, parading around in Brazil's revealing designer swimwear, sipping from a coconut shell or a fresh fruit caipirinha (both available from beachside kiosks). Workout stations, volleyball courts, and soccer fields dot the landscape, each packed with Cariocas working on their physiques.
Needless to say, these neighboring beach neighborhoods are the ideal locations to base yourself during a vacation in Rio, and the seven places here are the perfect spots to kick off your visit.
You'll be hard-pressed to find better (or fresher) seafood than at Ipanema's Italian-influenced Satyricon. Choose from the tank's stock of live lobster and crayfish, or opt for delicacies such as the just-caught sea bream, baked in a rock-salt crust and served by waiters displaying the ideal degree of gravitas.
Directly in front of Ipanema beach and steps from the famous Fasano Hotel, the bar makes an unforgettable first impression—one made even better with the ice-cold beers served immediately upon arrival.
Feijoada is more than a meal in Brazil—the hearty black bean and pork stew is a part of the culture. It's typically eaten for lunch on Saturdays (so you have the rest of the weekend to sleep it off!).
Despite being a major cacao producer, Brazil is not known for fine chocolate. But Aquim, with its award-winning chocolate bars, is changing that. Brazilian chef Samantha Aquim's treasures are artfully displayed in thick, luxurious wrappers printed with rain forest flora and fauna, and lined up in cases and on rich wood shelves like fine cigars. Travelers on a budget should resign themselves to window shopping here: A box recently sold at auction in London for $15,000. Luckily most of the bars, cookies and other delights—all sourced from a single farm in Bahia—are pricey though reasonable enough to buy—and well worth the cost.
High-end-souvenir seekers won't want to miss Gilson Martins's namesake flagship in Ipanema. The Rio-born designer uses the city's landmarks (Christ the Redeemer; the Lapa arches) as inspiration for the stylized patterns on his inimitable satchels, wallets, and handbags. His items are so iconic, they've been shown at the Louvre and Milan Design Week.
Cariocas take the beach life—and beach look—seriously, and their number one place to shop for swimwear is Blue Man. Though it has full lines for women and children, plus recently-added activewear and home decor, Blue Man is most famous for its bathing suits for men. Every season brings new featured prints—think pictures of parrots and the rain forest splashed across the suits—though solid options are available year-round. The shop even draws some international celebrities from time to time, from Bill Clinton to Anthony Hopkins.
The second branch of restaurateur Rogério Fasano's understatedly chic brand appeals to both fashionable São Paulo senhoras and European hipsters. Philippe Starck–designed rooms have billowing silk curtains and 1960's Sergio Rodrigues chairs; at the ground-floor Fasano al Mare restaurant, chef Paolo Lavezzini prepares scallop risotto and an outstanding rock lobster with broccoli soufflé. What we love most: the rooftop pool, with its knockout views of Ipanema's crescent-shaped beach.
The landmark French Riviera-style palace dates back to 1923, with a modern, all-suite annex that overlooks one of the world's most famous stretches of sand, the 2.5-mile Copacabana Beach. (Prefer city views? They boast some of the best in Rio.) Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire once graced the halls of this 216-room Art Deco grande dame. Now, the likes of Elton John and Madonna can be found lounging by the stately semi-Olympic pool. And whether you're in the mood for a clubby piano bar or a Michelin-starred meal (pan-Asian Mee is one of the first in South America to earn one), you needn't even leave the premises.