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Home » Citytours & Maps » All About Copacabana
Copacabana Beach
Copacabana is one of the reasons why people fall in love at first sight with Rio. The Princess of the Sea is one of the best areas for you to stay, with a higher concentration of hotels than any other neighborhood in town. Like Ipanema and Leblon, Copacabana and Leme share the same beach. This is where Rio's New Year's Celebrations happen, attracting 2 million people every year.

The name Copacabana has a Bolivian origin. Historians trace it to a XVII century image of Our Virgin Lady of Copacabana, brought by the Portuguese from a small village around distant Lake Titicaca. It was installed in a chapel that would later be demolished for the construction of Forte de Copacabana.

Until the late XIX century Copacabana was considered a distant area. It was covered with sand, dunes and shrubs - not unlike Barra in the 60's. A small fishermen's village concentrated most of the dwellers. The neighborhood only started to grow with the opening of Tunel Velho, connecting it to Botafogo and Downtown.

The inauguration of the Av. Atlantica along the beach around the 1900's was a major turning point. When Copacabana Palace Hotel opened its doors in 1923, romance and glamour became Copacabana trademarks. Neoclassical and art-nouveau skyscrapers (4 to 12 stories high) added a touch of sophistication and wealthy Cariocas started to move to the suspended mansions.

Copacabana today is one of Rio's most democratic and eclectic neighborhoods. There are penthouses and apartments along the beach that are easily worth more than a million dollars. There are also buildings with as many as thirty tiny studio apartments on the same floor, and no parking garage.

Copacabana is perfectly suitable for walking tours, as it is basically flat, and distances are relatively small. To better understand the diversity of the neighborhood we suggest you take your time, and use one or two days exploring all possibilities. Copacabana has a little (and sometimes a lot) of everything, and there's fun for everyone. We lined up below some of the attractions you don't want to miss. For dozens of original images try our Copacabana Slide Show!

16This beach is home to Rio's famous New Year's celebration. It attracts over 2 million people from all over the world! Following a local tradition, most people dress in white for good luck. Offering a white flower to Yemanjá, the goddess of the seas, is also a part of the ritual. The exquisite fireworks festival starts at midnight, lasting almost a half hour. With white sand and waters that are never rough, this is also a very popular beach for sunbathing. During the summer international championships of beach soccer, volleyball and other sports are promoted in arenas along Copacabana Beach. Some beach kiosks are open around the clock, offering refreshments and snacks. Cross the street and explore the beachside cafes, restaurants, and night clubs along Av. Atlantica.

9Rio's most glamorous hotel, Copacabana Palace has played a major role in the social and cultural life of Rio de Janeiro since it opened its doors, in the early 20's. The project by architect Joseph Gire was inspired in grand European hotels like the Negresco in Nice, and the Carlton in Cannes. Edith Piaf, Nat King Cole, Rock Hudson, De Gaulle, Eva Peron, Queen Elisabeth (and Charles and Diana), Walt Disney... the list of VIP's who have stayed here is endless. It was the setting for the Fred and Ginger's Flying down to Rio. Even books have been written about it. If you cannot afford to stay here, you can at least enjoy an afternoon tea by the pool, or maybe a meal at outstanding restaurant Cipriani.

6The structure that dominates the corner of Copacabana and Arpoador is well worth a visit. This is where you get to take the classical photo of Copacabana Beach you see on postcards. Take a short walk uphill for photos of Arpoador Park, Ipanema and Leblon. The Forte was built by the military around 1908 in the spot where the old Copacabana chapel used to be. Powerful cannons were installed in the rock to protect the city from invaders. Today Forte de Copacabana is a cultural center, and you are welcome to visit inside. The fireworks cascade along Forte de Copacabana is one of the highlights of the New Year's Eve festival.

7Right next to Forte de Copacabana you will find the fishermen's corner, with a tradition of over 100 years. It is an amazing concept that fishermen actually make a living right in the heart of one of Rio's most urban areas. Come before sunrise to watch the action - seeing to believing. You may even help to pull the fishnets out of the water. Fresh fish are for sale at the stand every morning. Don't forget the photo among the fishermen's boats on the beach sand...

8This landmark art-deco district right in the middle of Copacabana's delicious urban chaos is a haven of piece, preserving a small-town atmosphere. Buildings are 4-stories high or lower. There is a quiet square where the elderly play chess next to children in the playground. Walk a few blocks and you are on the main street or the beach.

10The area between Copacabana Palace and Av. Princesa Isabel is known as Lido. It concentrates a number of landmark art-nouveau and neoclassical buildings, a living memory of a glamorous past. Masterpieces like building Itahy on Av. Copacabana 252 are not to be missed (photo under the mermaid). Many of these buildings have huge 5-bedroom apartments with only one bathroom and no garage, as parking on the street was the norm. Most were adapted to other uses by language schools, and other businesses.

11Lido's bustling nightlife is an attraction apart. The area concentrates some of Rio's most famous strip clubs and bars. They are hard to miss with the neon signs at the door, and usually a window with suggestive photos of dancers. Boite Holiday, Frank's Bar, Cicciolina, Pussycat, Scotch Bar, Niko's, and Baccara are also part of this circuit, and each one has a legion of fans.

Shopping or at least window-shopping in Copacabana is not to be missed. Attractions include shophisticated boutiques, a number of outlets, and discount shops and specialty stores. The largest outlet district is around Rua Santa Clara and Av. Copacabana, but there are good shopping opportunities all over the main streets. From fine furniture and antiques at Shopping Casino Atlantico, to exotic underwear and rental tuxedos at the corner of Princesa Isabel, you will find everything you may be looking for and then some!

12Copacabana does not discriminate. A few of blocks away from the suspended mansions along the beach there are buildings with dozens of tiny apartments. It's what Cariocas humurously call a cabeça de porco (or pig's heads). The famous Barata Ribeiro 200 earned a reputation when a play was named after it in the 70's. They later changed the number to 194, but the structure remained where it always used to be (next to the subway station). Pretend you are visiting a friend to climb up the stairs, and snoop around the hallways. One of our funny but true Carnival stories happened there...
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