In Rio de Janeiro: Terras e Águas de Guanabara, published in 1945, Afrânio Peixoto said of Copacabana: “It is a singular mixture of city and beach, of skyscrapers and sand, of hotel palaces and casinos, of nude goddesses and naked Apollos, who bathe or drink cocktails…” In this walking tour you’ll see that nothing is new under the sun.
Start your tour at (1) Hotel Copacabana Palace (Avenida Atlântica 1702; www.copacabanapalace.com.br), inspired by luxury hotels on the French Riviera and inaugurated in 1923. Rooms range from $575 (Deluxe City View) to $3,200 (Penthouse Suite, ocean view) and the guest book boasts such names as Albert Einstein, Carmen Miranda, Orson Welles, Princess Diana, and Bill Clinton. The Rolling Stones stayed here in 2006, performing a free concert for over one million fans on the beach out front. Visit the pool area, then leave the hotel and walk around back, where you’ll see large black and white images of Copacabana in the 1920s and ’30s mounted on the wall. Return to Avenida Atlântica and cross to (2) Copacabana Beach. Here you’ll encounter “a democratic mix of apartment and favela dwellers, and tourists.”—Madson Araújo, tour guide, www.tourguiderio.com
Turn right on the wave-patterned promenade and follow the beach. When you reach Rua Figueiredo Magalhães, turn right and walk three blocks to Rua Barata Ribeiro. Turn left and look for number 502, where you’ll find (3) Modern Sound (Rua Barata Ribeiro 502; www.modernsound.com.br), Copacabana’s best-known music store, founded in 1966. There, listen to new Brazilian releases and drink a cappuccino at the Allegro bistro. Then follow Rua Santa Clara back to the beach. Stroll along the promenade until you reach the end of the beach and see a bench with a (4) life-size bronze statue of Carlos Drummond de Andrade (Avenida Atlântica). This influential Brazilian poet lived in Rio, and often visited this stretch of Copacabana. At nearby Posto 6 you’ll find (5) Bar dos Pescadores (Avenida Atlântica), a market where fishermen sell their catch after a night at sea.
Walk to the gated entrance of (6) Forte de Copacabana (Praça Coronel Eugênio Franco; www.fortedecopacabana.com). A chapel once stood on this point, housing a statue of Our Lady of Copacabana (from the Bolivian town on Lake Titicaca). The chapel was torn down in 1908 to build the fort, but the name still identifies the beach. Inside the fort (fee) visit the (7) Museu Histórico do Exército, which traces Brazilian military campaigns since the Empire, and have a snack at (8) Confeitaria Colombo, a branch of the famous pastry shop downtown. Finish your tour at the (9) Krupp cannons on the promontory. The largest has a range of 14 miles (23 kilometers) and is aimed at the Hotel Copacabana Palace. “This is one of our best views of Copacabana. You might as well be in a boat.”— Madson Araújo.
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