Rio is the only “samba metropole” in the world – a city oozing of passion and a laid-back approach to life. But where to begin? We’ll guide you through some of the most chic restaurants, hotels and neighborhoods in the city that literally never sleeps.
Rio has always fascinated travelers from all over the world, but there’s also a downside of this charming and optimistic culture. The enormous concentration of the so-called favelas (ghettos) and poor inhabitants, are simply unavoidable when visiting the city, but they’re also very important factors in terms of understanding the country. It all constitutes this crazy, fantastic and absurd beautiful big city, which was immortalized by the rhythms of Bossa Nova and long, dreamy beaches. Nevertheless, Rio still makes up the perfect settings for a full scale romantic holiday.
Where to stay:
Since the very beginning in 1923, this iconic hotel has marked itself as one of Rio’s leading luxury hotels. It experienced a down-fall in the 1980s and early 1990s, but today, Copacabana Palace shines brighter than ever. We love the location overlooking the famous beach promenade of Copacabana and the dramatic ocean behind it.
The Palace offers one gourmet restaurant, Cipriani (named after the legendary hotel in Venice) and one Michelin restaurant, MEE (read our review here). Guests will also find a spa, Rio’s largest swimming pool, a fitness center, a luxury shop and (our favorite!), the Piano Bar with live jazz music. When you step inside, it’s as if time hasn’t changed a thing.
Copacabana Palace is old-school luxury at its best.
#1 reason to stay here: The grand settings and old-world glamour.
A sleek, modern yet cosy hotel overlooking the famous (and most elegant beach in Rio!), Ipanema. The head architect, Phillippe Starck, decided to reflect the heyday of the 50’s and 60’s Bossa Nova era in the hotel – something, which can easily be felt the minute you step inside. Guests can enjoy modern in-room technology, delicate cuisine at the Fasano al Mare restaurant and probably the best sunset view in all of Rio! The fashionable rooftop terrace and cocktail bar is for guests only, but we reckon it’s worth checking in for a night just to get a glimpse of the magical sunset. All 79 rooms and 10 suites have balconies, and if the views aren’t enough, you can indulge yourself in the spa.
#1 reason to stay here: The modern approach to luxury and the sunset views.
Sofitel Rio de Janeiro
A true blend of French savoir-faire and Brazilian hospitality, Sofitel at Copacabana offers not only good views of the beach promenade, but also exquisite cuisine and spacey surroundings. Sofitel is considered to be ideal for business travelers and this property is no exception. Business travelers can find a large Convention & Business Center in connection to the hotel as well as excellent meeting facilities, but there’s also plenty of room for families and other leisure travelers. Sofitel at Copacabana offers 388 rooms with balcony, beach service, exclusive service for women (!), two swimming pools overlooking the beach and a splendid Michelin restaurant, which is also mentioned below.
#1 reason to stay here: The cuisine and the facilities.
Hotel Santa Teresa
A part of Relais & Chateaux, Hotel Santa Teresa is like a home away from home. This tropical design hotel nestles in the hills of Santa Teresa, which is located approximately half an hour’s drive from Ipanema and Copacabana. The green surroundings away from the hectic city buzz, call for pure relaxation and tranquility. Especially the pool and lush garden, makes you forget about the famous beaches for a while. Hotel Santa Teresa is a colonial-style property with 5 different room categories, a gourmet restaurant, a bar, a spa and a pool lounge. It’s pretty much everything you need, but the area of Santa Teresa deserves a bit of exploring as well.
#1 reason to stay here: The refuge-like surroundings and colonial references.
Where to eat:
Fogo de Chao Botafogo
Fogo de Chao Botafogo can’t be categorized as gourmet dining, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be included in the list! If you’re a fan of tender meat – and lots of it! – this place is Rio’s #1 spot to go! For decades, churrascarias (the Portuguese word for ‘barbeque’), has been the gathering point of Brazilian and Portuguese families enjoying a well-cooked dinner, but it has become so widely popular, that the concept has spread to other countries as well. Fogo de Chao in the neighborhood of Botafogo, is an up-scale version of the traditional churrascaria meaning that both interior and food has a somewhat more elegant touch. Smiling waiters will service you all the meat you can eat (anything from chicken to lamb, beef and fish), while you can re-fuel in the lavish buffet. There’s is literally nothing you can’t get here (apart from junk food!) The restaurant is located in the harbor area, which means you’ll have splendid views, especially at night. Remember to enjoy an aperitif in the heated terrace either before or after dinner.
Perfect if: You are crazy about (tender) meat.
MEE Copacabana Palace
We’ve already describes Copacabana Palace as an old-fashion jet set hotel, but its Michelin restaurant MEE, is anything but traditional. The restaurant hasn’t been in service for more than a year, but during that time, it has managed to build up an impressive reputation. Well-known for its exciting and delicious take on Asian cuisine, guest can find both Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Singaporean and Japanese delicacies on the menu. We have never had sushi this good before, but if you’re in for a treat, go for the full menu accompanied by the traditional Japanese drink, Sake. Yes, MEE has its own Sake waiter to complete the experience. A polished yet very cosy restaurant catering for anyone with a preference for Asian food deluxe. Prices are reasonable compared to the level.
Perfect if: You want to surround yourself with luxury from A-Z.
Le Pré Catelan
Often referred to as Rio’s best French restaurant, Le Pré Catelan is definitely a must-try for foodies visiting Rio! Michelin Chef Roland Villard creates tasteful, French dishes with fresh, local ingredients. Dinner is served in a chic yet cosy atmosphere (Swarovski chandeliers and sleek furniture), and guests can enjoy the views of Copacabana beach. The restaurant, which is open for dinner every night, is located on top of the Sofitel Hotel. There are a la carte options available, but go for one of the excellent tasting menus and finish off with a couple of delicate dessert treats. The menu changes every two weeks.
Perfect if: You want to celebrate a special occasion.
Academia Da Cachaca
Located in Leblon, a trendy neighbourhood in Rio, Academia Da Cachaca is almost an institution in the city that literally never sleeps. Some say that Caipirinhas are Brazil’s gift to the world, and when you visit this place, it’s very hard not to agree! The refreshing drink is made of sugar, limes, lots of crushed ice and of course Cachaca (the national white rum distilled from cane sugar) and one is rarely enough! Academia Da Cachaca has 2.000 different types of Cachaca in stock (the oldest one is from 1875!), so there’s really no excuse not to indulge in Brazil’s national drink. In the back, one will find a cosy restaurant serving typical Brazilian food (some claim that the feijoada is the best in town!). Go enjoy the best of Brazil!
Perfect if: You want to have a slice of Brazil.
Where to have coffee:
Garota de Ipanema
The reason for this bars extensive popularity lies in its name. Music history took place here when poet Vinicius de Moraes and singer Tom Jobim wrote the iconic song “The Girl from Ipanema” in 1962, and even though much have changed since then, one can still get a feeling of Bossanova, when entering the bar. Or should we say restaurant, cause that’s basically what Garota de Ipanema is today. The food is nothing special, but pay a visit simply to honor the Bossa Nova roots and the song, which evidently made Rio world famous.
Go here if: You want to enjoy a drink in historical settings
This traditional café is located in Rio’s historical downtown, where local bargain hunters look for new treasures and tourists enjoy the lively atmosphere. Casa Cavé was founded in 1860 by a Frenchman and it quickly became one of the hot spots for the upper class clientele in Rio. Today it’s a popular meeting point for both locals and tourists craving a pastel de nata (traditional custard tart) and a cup of coffee. Casa Cavé has a wide coffee menu, but the espresso con chantilly (whipped cream), is a must-try. The café is closed in Sundays.
Go here if: You crave a good cup of coffee accompanied by a sweet treat
Loved by tourists and locals alike, Confeitaria Colombo is an institution in Rio. The café/restaurant is famous for its delicate pastries and sweets, but also the breathtakingly beautiful interior, which dates back to 1894. Often packed with people, especially during weekends, Colombo is a popular place to hang out while looking over Copacabana Beach and the turquoise ocean. Go for the brunch if you can – it’s one of the best in Rio! And remember to book a table in advance. Colombo is located on Copacabana Fort (a former military base), which is very interesting to explore as well. Closed on Mondays.
Go here if: You crave a good brunch with even better views.