24 February 2018

The glorious whitewashed Copacabana Palace
Rio has so much more than just sport
Secret beaches, a booming gourmet district, and a tropical forest inside the city are just a few of the unforgettable treats discovered by Sarah Gordon
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ne glistening whitewashed building stands out on one of Rio de Janeiro's most famous beaches - the Belmond Copacabana Palace, a glorious throwback to Rio's glamorous heyday. Opened as South America's first luxury hotel in 1923, it was a beacon of luxury for the Hollywood elite.

It has hosted Marilyn Monroe, Madonna and Princess Diana and was immortalised in the 1933 film Flying Down To Rio starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers. Today , the white facade gives way to a cool marble interior and Baccarat crystal chandeliers. Guests relax away from the hubbub of the beach by the serene courtyard pool, play tennis on the rooftop court and have stylish meals at the on-site Cipriani.
The luxurious interior of the Copacabana Palace
At the summit of the Tijuca National Park, the statue of Christ the Redeemer
on the beach, running, using public exercise machines or playing foot-volley. Rio has plenty of greenery, and an unexpected attraction is Tijuca National Park, inside the city limits offering the world's largest urban forest.

The tropical rainforest spans 12 square miles, with bubbling rivers, farmhouse ruins and pretty waterfalls linked by beautiful footpaths. You need a guide. The Santa Teresa neighbourhood is perched in the hills, with spectacular views, cobbled streets, great restaurants and art galleries Copacabana Beach is still a favourite with visitors and locals. In the Sixties, bossa nova music and one particular song,

The Girl From Ipanema, brought it new style. Head inland for stylish boutiques, big brand names, restaurants and buzzing bars. It is in the Veloso Bar, now renamed Garota de Ipanema (The Girl From Ipanema) where composer Antonio Carlos Jobim and poet Vinícius de Moraes's were said to be so enamoured with passing 18-yearold Heloisa Eneida Menezes Pais Pinto, they penned the song about her on napkins.

For quieter beaches and great food, further west is Leblon beach. The street Dias Ferreira is possibly the best, with worldwide cuisine. At Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) or the rocky promontory Ponta do Arpoador, you can watch spectacular sunsets. To feel the samba rhythms of the city, head up to Lapa, a charmingly run-down area. Santa Teresa sits high up, set back from the sea, with cobbled streets, plenty of greenery, art galleries, restaurants and beautiful views. You soon understand why Rio is known as the Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvellous City).

Original article published in Nov 2015. All info and prices correct at time of publication.
For a more authentic Brazilian experience, try feijoada - traditional black bean stew with pork - at the Pergula restaurant. Those with a sea view wake up to a view of energetic cariocas (as local residents are known) indulging in their morning exercise
"You soon understand why Rio is known as the Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvellous City)."
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