Since it opened in 1923, Copacabana Palace has been synonymous with glitz and glamour on Rio de Janeiro’s Avenida Atlântica. Ninety years later and this iconic Orient-Express hotel was recently given a $20 million facelift. Still, old school charm is the name of the game — after all, the last thing you’d want is to change the feel of a hotel whose guest book is filled with names such as Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, Nelson Mandela and Tom Cruise. Here are five things you should know about this new and improved famous hotel:
1. There’s a great swimming pool. The 24-hour swimming pool takes pride of place in the heart of the hotel. Both of the restaurants overlook its blue waters and elegant sun loungers, as do many of the hotel’s 245 guest rooms. As for Copacabana Beach, Palace guests don’t have to rough it in the sand — look for a sea of white sun loungers and umbrellas in an area called The Plaza, lie back on an over-sized towel and order a couple of Caipirinhas. If you’re willing to shell out some serious cash, book a sixth floor Penthouse Suite and you’ll have your very own black slate swimming pool.
2. You’ll find plenty of dining options. Named after Orient-Express’s Hotel Cipriani in Venice, the Hotel Cipriani Restaurant is run by top Italian chef, Nicola Finamore. Sip Bellinis to the sound of live piano music and enjoy fine dining in one of Rio’s most sophisticated restaurants — the lobster with lemon risotto is a must-try. For breakfast and more casual dining, Pérgula Restaurant flanks the opposite end of the hotel pool overlooking the promenade and Copacabana Beach. Venetian chef, Francesco Carli, stands at the helm of this eatery, whipping up his famous Saturday feijoadas (a classic Brazilian stew with black beans and meat) and Sunday brunches.
3. You can dance the night away. Bar do Copa was a new addition to Copacabana Palace in March 2009. Designed by South African, Graham Viney, this poolside bar boasts an impressive brass dance floor, a gold tile mosaic bar, and a ceiling covered in 10,000 fiber optic lights reproducing the astronomical map of Rio de Janeiro. The irresistible lineup of cocktails includes martinis inspired by the 1933 movie Flying Down to Rio, which was set at the Palace. Popular with Cariocas (Rio residents) and guests alike, Bar do Copa is open Thursday to Saturday beginning at 10 p.m. and entrance is free for hotel guests on Thursdays. The most famous parties at the Palace, however, take place during Carnival and on New Year’s when the property hosts the colorful Magic Ball and exclusive New Year’s Ball.
4. There’s an impressive spa. Keeping up with the Brazilian beauties on Copacabana Beach means spa time is pretty much essential. The Copacabana Palace Spa is spread over three floors with seven treatment rooms, a Beauty Salon and Guerlain makeup room. Choose from the menu’s 20 treatments, which range from speedy massages to five-hour sessions during which you’ll be plucked, preened and prodded to perfection. Products used during treatments come from the AYASPA line, consisting of luxe ingredients such as Amazonian white clay and açaí.
5. The hotel offers exclusive products and perks. You might notice that a fresh, fruity scent follows you around the hotel — this is, in fact, Copacabana Palace’s very own perfume. Other Palace one-offs include branded chocolates, mineral water and bathrobes. As for pleasing extras, don’t miss out on the outdoor tennis court or concierge-arranged activities such as golf, boating, water skiing, skydiving or paragliding. Lastly, one of the best Palace perks comes in the form of a note from the concierge allowing you to jump the queue at Rio restaurants when the guest book is full.
Photos courtesy of Orient-Express Hotels Ltd