The Copacabana Palace Hotel, Rio’s elegant grande dame, graces the city’s beachfront promenade with its sparkling white neo-classical façade. In a city of majestic natural icons like Sugar Loaf and Corcovado, the Copacabana Palace Hotel has been a celebrated Rio architectural gem since its opening in 1923. French architect Joseph Gire modeled it on France’s Mediterranean landmark hotels Negresco in Nice and Carlton in Cannes.
The history-rich hostelry has welcomed a cast of legendary characters since Fred Astaire swept Ginger Rogers across the hotel’s gleaming dance floor in Flying Down to Rio. The 1933 film debut for the dance duo that defined grace for the decades includes a show-stopper, “The Carioca,” which became the next dance craze of the day!
Josephine Baker, Marlene Dietrich, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles and Nat King Cole were some of the many celebrities that performed at The Copa; luminaries like Alberto Santos-Dumont — Brazil’s “Father of Aviation,” Arturo Toscanini, Leonard Bernstein, and Nelson Mandela appear in a gallery of sepia-toned photos of noted guests that line the walls of the main foyer, alongside royalty like Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Brazilian stars like Carmen Miranda and Rio’s favorite son, Antonio Carlos Jobim, are represented.
Long a stage for key political, social and cultural events, the Copacabana Palace Hotel gave its guests front row access to the biggest announcement of 2009 – Rio’s selection as the host city for the 2016 Olympics! The broad swath of Copacabana Beach became the stage set for ecstatic Cariocas, celebrating not only the thrill of victory for their storied city and country, but for all of South America, whose time has clearly come.
To stay at The Copa is to be immersed in the graciousness of an impeccable Rio landmark, with chandeliers, gleaming marble, Brazilian hardwoods, and white glove service that is attentive and welcoming. Casual clothes are fine, but the Cariocas dress to the nines for dinner at the elegant Hotel Cipriani Restaurant or for drinks and dancing at the hip new Bar do Copa, where thousands of fiber optic lights on the walls and ceiling outline the constellations of the Southern Hemisphere. The bar, glittering with hundreds of gold Murano tiles, serves up signature cocktails like The Copa, made with premium vodka, Limoncello and caviar, and martini-based cocktails like the Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers.
Signature spa treatments like the Bossa Nova package include a body scrub and massage performed to the sultry rhythms of 60s Rio de Janeiro. The Amazon package incorporates indigenous herbs and hydro-massage into the harmonious treatment.
A bountiful breakfast buffet is served at The Pérgula Restaurant, overlooking Rio’s largest hotel swimming pool. Along with lunch and al fresco dinner, The Pérgula is noted for its Afternoon Tea, Sunday Brunch and Saturday Feijoada, a traditional Brazilian specialty.
Orient Express Hotels, which acquired the Copacabana Palace just as it became a National Heritage building, invested over $50 million to make the propery one of the three most important hotels of the legendary group.
11 airlines operate between San Francisco, CA and Rio de Janeiro, BR, two beautiful cities-by-the-bay. Well-priced packages are available through Brazil Tour Operators Association (BTOA).
Click here to read about 8 more Rio de Janeiro highs:
Top Ten Rio de Janeiro Highs #1
Sugar Loaf, Rio de Janeiro’s ultimate high #2
Corcovado and Cristo Redentor, overlooking Rio de Janeiro from the heights #3
Santa Teresa, another Rio de Janeiro high #4
Four more Rio de Janeiro highs: hang gliding and rooftop swims, tropical Brazilian fruits and juices #5-8
Find the soul of samba and Rio de Janeiro’s best nightlife in Lapa, plus a Saturday antiques fair #10
Story © Carol Canter, 2010
Photos © Carol Canter