Monday, July 9, 2018

Flying Down to Rio: The Belmond Copacabana Palace Hotel in Rio de Janeiro Dazzles with Classic Glamour, Elegance and Spirit

Where to Go Next:  After a handsome renovation, and with the addition of new restaurants, ‘The Copa’ is a compelling destination. Copacabana Beach is a step away. The legendary excitement, music, beach life and history of Rio de Janeiro invite and seduce.

Come with me for an insider visit. I stayed there recently and loved every moment.

Belmond Copacabana Palace Hotel — Authenticity, Polish, Style, and a World-Class Location

Overlooking three dazzling miles of golden sand and surf and with green hills and verdant jungle forming a tropical dream backdrop, the elegant white Art Deco-style Belmond Copacabana Palace is one of the world’s most glamorous hotels. 

Guests arriving at beachfront suites who step onto their balconies to take in the sea air and dazzling vista can be forgiven for becoming a little giddy. The most beautiful beach in the world is ready to embrace them, and the legendary laid-back, bossa-nova beat of Rio de Janeiro creates the soundtrack.

The sweet scent of salt air and the sibilant sound of waves and sea breezes fill the room and immediately calm the senses. Beautiful Rio, the marvelous 
Belmond Copacabana Palace, and such a fortunate location.

Modern Approach to Historic Design: A Spectacular Renovation

The key to today’s Belmond Copacabana Palace is that it feels the same—traditional, understated, light-filled and comfortable—and yet the hotel has undergone modernization and fresh updates.

Well-known French decorator Gerard Gallet, who has been involved with the decoration of other Belmond hotels, such as Villa San Michele (Florence) and the Cipriani (Venice), was responsible for the conception and remodel and refurbishment of the interiors.

French artist Dominique Jardy, famous for her murals, was chosen by Gallet to create the beautiful trompe l’oeil gardens, faux finishes, tropical plants and exotic birds that can be seen in the elevators, along the corridors of the Penthouse floor, and in other rooms in the hotel.

Furniture throughout the hotel was crafted from Brazilian freijó or mahogany wood. In the main suites it is encrusted with minerals and semi-precious stones and beige, green and red slices of agate.

Bathrooms have large comfortable American bathtubs and are equipped with telephones. The walls and floors are of white, itaóca pink, aurora and jú-paraná pink Brazilian marble. 

The history of the most luxurious hotel of Rio began in 1923 when Brazil President Epitácio Pessoa asked businessman Otavio Guinle to construct it. The concept was to put Brazil on the international tourist map, and attract a cosmopolitan crowd.

French architect Joseph Gire modeled the hotel on the Mediterranean styles of the Beaux-Arts Negresco in Nice and the neoclassical Carlton in Cannes. With its lavish exterior and Beaux-Arts interiors the Copacabana Palace became a symbol of Rio. 

Copacabana Beach was still quite deserted and unknown at that time. Quickly the hotel attracted chic and elegant guests from around the world, and the concept of ‘flying down to Rio’ became very attractive, with a dazzling destination.

In the Copacabana Palace’s early years such celebrities as Gene Kelly, Orson Welles, Nelson Rockfeller, Kirk Douglas and Arturo Toscanini all stayed in the hotel’s magnificent suites.

Kings and queens came. Weddings were celebrated. Flashbulbs popped. News was made. The Copacabana Palace was launched.

The Copacabana Palace became the place to stay, the hotel of choice for actors and stars such as Madonna, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Will Smith, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, to mention a few. Brazil’s Gisele Bundchen is also one of many personalities who refer to the hotel as her second home.

Fashion designer Valentino loves Brazil and adores the Copacabana Palace. And recently, young stars Kristen Stewart, Lana Del Rey, the Jonas Brothers and others made an appearance.

And the 
Belmond Copacabana Palace Hotel attracts those who come to immerse themselves in the rich history of Brazilian Baroque architecture, for others who come to study landscape design and tropical horticulture.

Fans of modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer arrive to study his clean-lined landmark buildings. Others visit the Roberto Burle-Marx estate with its world-class collection of Brazilian native plants. . Others fly in for Carnival. And for gem connoisseurs and jewelry collectors, Rio offers heritage jewelry companies as well as singular jewelry designers.

I was in Rio to study and learn about Brazilian contemporary design and architecture. Thanks to associates at the 
Belmond Copacabana Palace Hotel, I had the great pleasure to meet top design editors and trend-setting architects, and to meet the great Patricia Mayer at CASA COR, the impressive annual showcase of Brazilian design, new products. I was most impressed and grateful. Very inspiring.

Dining and Fine Wines at the Belmond Copacabana Palace Hotel

The Cipriani at the hotel is one of the most sophisticated restaurants in Rio de Janeiro. It was inaugurated in March 1994, and its windows frame the hotel’s swimming pool. Someone is always doing laps.

The menu includes traditional Italian dishes, casual trattoria-style lunch, with a more sophisticated menu for dinner. The chef responsible for the gastronomy at the restaurant is Aniello Cassese, from Tuscany.

Cipriani also offers the experience at the Chef's table (La tavola del chef). Located inside the kitchen, the Chef’s table can seat six people for lunch or dinner.

Cipriani at night has the relaxed ambiance of a live piano. In the restaurant bar, guests enjoy a wide range of drinks. 

Beach Views and a Relaxed Atmosphere

The famous restaurant by the pool, Pérgula was renovated late 2017 and is showcasing a new tropical vibe. With gorgeous panoramic windows, mirrored ceiling and a show kitchen, the new ambience now has a DJ from Thursday to Sunday at night. It’s great fun, and attracts a bright Rio crowd.

The chef Filipe Rizzato, serves an à la carte menu with Mediterranean food through a Carioca lens, with signature grill dishes, and of course, Brazilian classics.

On Sundays, the restaurant also serves an ocean-view brunch with a selection of fruits, breads, shellfish, meats and cheeses beautifully presented. Multi-generational families love it, and there’s a charming festive atmosphere.


The Belmond Copacabana Palace Spa has two floors and seven treatment rooms, of which five are individual and two are spa suites. A dry and wet sauna and a peaceful relaxation area make up this calm and tranquil spa. Beauty services offers facial and body treatments, therapies and both relaxing and energizing massages.

Among more than 20 treatments offered by the spa, there are quick relaxing massages and complete rituals with five hours duration for the balancing, beauty and well being of body and face. All products utilized are natural and organic.

A tennis court is located on the 1st floor of the main building, for guests, from 7am to 10pm. Other sports such as golf, boating, water skiing, skydiving and paragliding can also be pursued and planned through the Concierge. 

Asian Dining

MEE is Rio’s first pan-Asian restaurant that inaugurated in February 2014. One of the first restaurants in South America to be awarded a prestigious Michelin star, MEE offers a menu created by BBC star of Chinese gastronomy, Ken Hom, together with Brazilian chef Kazuo Harada. With dishes from Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Vietnam, China and Japan, the idea is take guests on a journey across Asia. 

News from the Belmond Copacabana Palace Hotel

I was told there are discussions among hotel management about reviving the Belmond Copacabana Palace’s legendary Golden Room. I was shown the space…and it awaits revival.

In the thirties, the Golden Room was inaugurated as the number one show venue in Latin America. The central dome has recently been relined with sheets of gold leaf.

Famous artists such as Josephine Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, Marlene Dietrich, Ray Charles and Nat King Cole performed there. Guests arrived through a special columned entrance, and the nightclub has a very private, glamorous, and glittering style and ambiance.

When the Belmond group acquired the Copacabana Palace, in 1989, the hotel had just been named a National Heritage building. Guests can look forward to more innovation at the 
Belmond Copacabana Palace Hotel…and perhaps a shimmering evening at the new Gold Room.

And the hotel, with its grand columned banquet rooms, continues to be the place for society weddings, family celebrations, holiday festivities, and of course grand costumed balls during Carnival.

And the 
Belmond Copacabana Palace is the perfect place to do nothing but sunbathe, swim, escape, and relax.

There is always the ‘beach club’ that the hotel sets up on Copacabana Beach every morning for guests. Here, chaises longues are arrayed beneath palm trees, and iced water and refreshments are at hand. It’s a dreamy way to spend time under the Southern Hemisphere sun. And on the way back to the hotel, there is always H. Stern’s shop near the entrance, beckoning with diamonds, emeralds and rubies, displaying Rio’s most lavish jewels.

I can’t wait to return to Rio. With historic baroque cathedrals and churches dating back to the sixteenth century, dramatic scenery, a rich cultural mix of music, beachwear, custom sunglass shops, custom bikini shops, top designers and architects, and dance clubs for every taste, it’s the most glamorous destination in South America. You’ll want to linger.

Courtesy Belmond Copacabana Palace Hotel used here with express permission.