The grand old dame of Rio, the Copacabana Palace, is one of the iconic hotels of the world. It is a must visit in Rio just to sip a caprihini in the bar but I was lucky enough to be invited to stay for a night at the hotel. Situated right on Copacabana beach the hotel was built in 1931 and retains the elegance and sophistication of another era. Walking in to the cool, dark foyer it is easy to imagine the time the hotel was built, a time of cocktail gowns and cigarette holders when Marlene Dietrich and Orson Welles were guests. Despite this hallowed history the Copa Palace is thoroughly modern with free wifi, ipod docks in rooms and a sense of a carefully polished past rather than any sense of faded glory.
The stucco white exterior of the Copacabana Palace
More than 80 years on the Copa Palace is still the place to stay in Rio. Madonna hired the penthouse suite and the Gisele calls the hotel home when she is in town. After my nights stay I can see what all the fuss is about as the hotel offers unparallelled luxury and the best service I have ever experienced at a hotel.
The living room of our suite at the Copacabana Palace
The Copa Palace is the sort of hotel that anticipates what you want before you think of it yourself. It is the little details that set the it apart with his and hers Havianas in the rooms, a pillow menu, bottles of water and chocolate ready by the bed side at night and loungers lined with pool towels which magically appear as you walk to the pool.
The bedroom at the Copacabana Palace
We stayed in room 750 which was so big it actually needed a its own door bell. With a separate lounge and kitchen area and closet space to make Carrie Bradshaw jealous, the rooms at the Copa Palace are the last word in luxury. Did I mention that there is also a dedicated spa, acres of ballrooms and a seriously swish pool area?
Private balcony overlooking Copacabana beach from room 750
The food at the Copa Palace meets the high standards of the rest of the hotel. Brunch or lunch at the Pergula restaurant with the hotel pool on one side and the white sands of the Copacabana beach on the other is a great way to experience some of the magic of the hotel. There is a buffet option but the a la carte menu is too good to miss. The food is light and summery and while the menu does include standard hotel options such as club sandwiches there are also lots of seafood choices and Brazillian specialties.
Ceviche of sea bass
Ceviche of sea bass with okra and rocket ($R45) was lifted by its cure of zesty lime while a trio of bruschetta offered traditional tomato and basil, diced shrimp and rich goats cheese.
Trio of bruschetta
From the mains on offer the poached crusted sole ($R74) had a buttery finish and was served with light rolls of pesto pasta and crisp, toasted pine nuts.
Poached crusted sole
However, the dish guaranteed to inspire jealousy with fellow diners was the jumbo shrimps ($R94). These were the most amazing crustaceans I have ever seen, incredibly juicy and meaty. They were expertly deveined and served, finger bowl and all, with a very Brazillian accompaniment of broccoli flecked rice.
The jumbo shrimp
The end of the meal was just as strong with home made sorbets providing a refreshing finish and a seasonal fruit tart demonstrating superior skills by the Copa Palace’s pastry chef.
Once again service was impeccable with helpful ordering suggestions, constantly refilled water glasses and friendly banter from the waiters. Perhaps the ultimate hospitality was the invitation to the hotel’s guests that night to attend the Copa Palace’s pre Carnaval cocktail party in the swanky Bar do Copa. Under the twinkling lights of the bar’s roof which replicate the stars of the Southern Hemisphere we drank complimentary champagne and caprihinis while magnificently beplumed and bejewelled samba dancers swayed amongst us.
Dancer at the Copacabana Palace’s pre Carnaval cocktail party
Details: Copacabana Palace, Avenida Atlântica 1702, Rio de Janeiro, CEP 22021 001, Brazil
(Ph +55 21 2548 7070)
Damage: Budget breaking. A bed and breakfast package at the Copacabana Palace starts from US $495 for one night but I did not pay on this occasion. Prices at the Pergula restaurant were also high, but fairly typical for top end dining in Rio.
Gourmet Chick was a guest of the Copacabana Palace hotel.
Footage of inside our suite at the Copacabana Palace
Gourmet Travel Tips
We flew to Rio from London with British Airways, prices start from around £650 return.
In Rio you can catch the electric train to the top of Christ the Redeemer statue (sit on the right hand side) or a cable car to the top of the Sugarloaf for more spectacular views.
We also hired bikes for a day from the lake area and cycled along Copacabana and Ipanema beach.