Copacabana Palace Hotel in a Nutshell:
Could a hotel ever enjoy a more dramatic setting than that of the legendary Copacabana Palace? Within thirty seconds of exiting the 1923 wedding cake confection, guests can frolic on the white sands of one of the world’s most celebrated strands, with the jutting peaks that define Rio de Janeiro rising behind the hotel. A cavalcade of royalty, from Princesses Grace to Diana, and stars from Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to the Rolling Stones have stayed at the protected landmark (the second-floor celebrity photo collection is enormous).
Guest Rooms at Copacabana Palace Hotel:
Watercolors and delicate engravings of Brazilian flora and fauna stand out in the motifs of the 243 high-ceiled rooms and suites, with golden-hued walls and furnishings a common decor. Plush king beds are covered by unadorned white bedspreads. The hotel’s dark-wood walk-in closets feel as large as some New York studios. Most of the marble bathrooms have both baths and showers, and are stocked with Brazil’s unique Phebo line of black, musky-scented soaps.
Sixth-floor suites, which stock Bulgari bath products, come with a butler and have access to a private rooftop pool; six of the seven face the beach with large terraces. The 1938 Tower Wing annex is an exquisite 1949 art deco building with 58 suites and 40 rooms that were renovated in 2005. The free wi-fi has a strong signal throughout the hotel, while international plugs mean you can leave the adaptor at home. All rooms have soundproof windows.
Dining at Copacabana Palace Hotel:
Reservations are advised at Cipriani, the Copacabana’s intimate restaurant in the Tower Wing lobby. Among the appetizer selections, octopus in a citrus vinaigrette stands out, while the green tagliarini gratin with prosciutto is the signature entree.
A bright and casual room off the pool, Pergula restaurant serves both breakfast and lunch buffets that stretch for miles with tables filled with sweet and tangy Brazilian fruits whose names are a challenge to pronounce. The restaurant is known for its picadinho, a hearty, favorite Rio dish of chopped beef, rice, kale, and potatoes, topped with a poached or fried egg. Saturday lunch highlights the national feijoada pork stew dish. The restaurant’s poolside terrace makes for a leisurely Sunday brunch spot. The a la carte dinner menu at Pergula is influenced by the chef’s Italian heritage.
Destination Weddings at Copacabana Palace Hotel:
The hotel wedding package includes an arrangement of flowers and strawberries accompanied by French Champagne. The Copacabana can arrange for live music or a DJ. Bride and groom receive thirty minute couples massages at the Copacabana spa on the day of arrival or departure, made more convenient by a choice of early check-in or late check-out until 8 pm. Couples also receive a set of hotel restaurant placemats displaying historic images of the property. Wedding parties are granted access to the prime areas of the hotel for photos.
Honeymoons/Romance at Copacabana Palace Hotel:
Honeymoon couples are served continental breakfast in their room or can opt for a buffet breakfast in Pergula restaurant. As with the wedding package, couples also receive strawberries, Champagne and an arrangement of flowers, as well as spa treatments and late check-out. The Copacabana can arrange an afternoon of couples VIP shopping, with a personal shopper and driver (there can be cocktail imbibing on the spree). For the ultimate romantic excursion, couples can book helicopter flights leaving from the Sugarloaf cable car station to fly around the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue and return over Ipanema beach.
Activities at Copacabana Palace Hotel:
Taking up almost the entire space between the Copacabana’s two buildings, the semi-Olympic-size swimming pool takes pride of place in the hotel’s enclosed grounds. Before sunning poolside, couples can pop into the lobby-level Signature shop to pick up fine Panama hats or Havaianas with the hotel’s image printed on them. For more luxe items, a branch of the select H. Stern jewelry company is located in the hotel-front exterior gallery. The three-floor spa is decked out in native hardwood and granite. A Bride’s Day treatment includes make-up, hair, and mani-pedi in a private setting. Wet and dry sauna, fitness equipment and tennis courts are available. For very late night action, couples can visit the Bar do Copa nightclub and boogie with the city’s young elite who strive to look common in t-shirts. Hotel guests pay no entrance fee to the recently-built $2 million party space.
Nearby Copacabana Palace Hotel:
Sporting couples can jump on bright orange bikes on loan from the city’s new Samba bicycle share program and cruise Copacabana Beach for miles along designer Roberto Burle Marx’s iconic wavy, black-and-white sidewalk mosaics.
For a cooler excursion, head into lush Tijuca forest just behind Corcovado peak and the Christ statue for a romantic jeep ride and hike through Rio’s lungs. Couples can pick up tchotckes for home in the monthly first-Saturday flea market that takes place outdoors in the downtown Lapa district, where nineteenth century buildings have been repurposed as antique emporiums; at night gallery spaces like the three-story Rio Scenarium absolutely shake as live music restaurants/clubs.
The hilly Santa Teresa district has become an artists’ haunt where the Chácara do Céu art museum in a quaint 1950’s modernist house is worth a quiet detour. An hour’s excursion into the mountains takes you to the city of Petrópolis to see luxury villas from the 1800’s imperial era, sample foods from the large German and Italian immigrant waves, and take in fresh air.
Drawbacks at Copacabana Palace Hotel:
The Copacabana’s central air conditioning is nicely powerful, but if you’re watching a movie when it kicks on, you may have to pump up the volume. The outer of the double windows could have used a wipe-down. A $30 million lobby expansion is scheduled for mid-late 2012, so check the status for construction delays before booking.
Vibe at Copacabana Palace Hotel:
Generations of carioca (Rio natives) have made the Copacabana Palace their playground. At all hours one can sit in the lobby and watch the city’s high-society folk come and go on the way to weddings and parties, or celebrities giving TV interviews in front of adoring fans lined up outside.
The annual New Year’s party and firework show and the Carnival ball bring out the cream of the town as well. Throughout the hotel, French artist Dominique Jordy’s paintings and trompe l’oeil works add a bright air to the historic edifice. In the Tower Wing, live piano music in the Cipriani lobby restaurant makes for the perfect romantic ambiance for a drink after a day of exploring Rio.
Copacabana Palace Hotel Info and Reservations:
Copacabana Palace Hotel
Avenida Atlântica 1702
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Hotel Web Site
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As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary accommodation and meals for the purpose of reviewing those services. In addition, he received roundtrip business class air travel courtesy of American Airlines. While this has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy .