Modern luxury delivered with tradition and style.
Ask any Brazilian what the most famous hotel in their country would be and the universal reply is the Belmond Copacabana Palace. It is a hotel steeped in history dating back to 1923 and soon to be celebrating their centenary. Anyone noteworthy in politics, entertainment and other important fields has stayed at this hotel from Orson Welles and Marlene Dietrich to Hillary Clinton and the Prince of Wales. It had been going through a minor decline in popularity during the turn of the millennium but since their no-expenses-spared refurbishment in 2012, this grand old lady of Rio has been restored to its former glory days with a touch of modernity fit for the next century.
Copacabana still ranks as one of the most astoundingly beautiful beaches in the world and getting one of the magnificent suites at the hotel, complete with spacious balcony overlooking the vibrant coastline, must rank as one of the most luxurious joys in life.
All of the luxuries you would expect from a top, five-star hotel are present: crisp, white linen with a firm but yielding bed that fits the contours of your body perfectly, and extensive use of elegant marble in the palatial bathrooms. Toiletries are from Etro, Milano, but an exclusive collection made for the hotel. IPod docking stations, wide-screen plasma TVs with premium cable channels and traditional Brazilian slippers are also on offer.
Dining facilities are finely chosen with the Pérgula Restaurant offering all day dining and Mee offering fine-dining pan-Asian cuisine, and it is in fact one of the first restaurants in South America to be awarded a Michelin star. There is also Cipriani restaurant, which has long been known as one of the most famous dining establishments in Brazil serving the best of Northern Italian cuisine. They have changed executive chefs recently and Nicola Finamore aims to bring a more modern approach to dining having worked with famous chefs like Gordon Ramsey in Europe.
The tasting menu we tried at Cipriani was a fascinating work-in-progress. Slow cooked egg with thirty-six month-aged parmigiano fondant and white truffle essence ranked up there with the very best from Europe as well as the cleverly deconstructed tiramisu dessert. The fusilloni with broccoli and sausage was more of the comfort food variety than a degustation menu dish. Apart from being served in a stunning dining room with classic Venetian touches, you also get to admire one of the most desirable swimming pools in the whole of the country.
Breakfast at Pérgula Restaurant is a must, not just because they contain all of the classic European offerings like smoked salmon and bespoke omelettes, but it's a chance to try out local fruits like goiaba, pitaya, caju and papaya. Their mango and watermelon are some of the best fruits I've tasted in this part of the world.
The hotel is a short taxi ride to the fashionable shopping area of Ipanema and the cultural heritage highlights of Saint Teresa. However, if you are suffering from beach or shopping fatigue, their heavenly spa is the solution to your woes. I had a ninety-minute soothing Harmonia massage using relaxing lavender oils, which is more than sufficient although they do have a regal five-hour Belmond experience option for those who want to be royally pampered.
For the experience of a lifetime, try to book the hotel either during New Year's Eve or the annual Carnival Ball – Baile do Copa. The 2017 edition included a spectacular geisha theme with mystical dragons, Buddha sculptures and a canopy of oriental umbrellas with five hundred Japanese lanterns to illuminate the party.
Rooms start from BRL 1,412 per night. Visit Belmond Copacabana Palace online.
Words by Baldwin Ho