Words by Renae Spinks
If you want to be part of the see-and-be-seen scene, samba down to the golden sands, glamorous clubs, and luxe shopping districts of Rio de Janeiro. Brazil’s ‘Marvellous City’ is as attractive as the Cariocas who stroll along the Arpoador to look at the sea and watch the sun go down.
The commanding Christo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) statue atop Corcovado Mountain extends his loving gaze over a city that sits between the sea and jungle-covered mountain slopes, where colonial buildings stand amid gleaming towers. Sure, you can hit Rio during big events such as the Olympics or Carnival, but there’s plenty to fuel your lust for luxury at any time of year. Here’s a quick guide to living the luxe life in Rio.
Picture: Getty Images
You must see the enormous statue of Christ up close and one of the best ways to do it is in a helicopter tour – your pilot will circle the statue for maximum photo opportunities, and you’ll get a privileged point of view of the city’s other great sights – Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, Sugar Loaf Mountain, Copacabana and Ipanema Beaches, Guanabara Bay, the Olympic venues, Fort Copacabana, and more.
Also try: At ground level, make sure you strut your stuff at Ipanema Beach; or amp the romance by taking time out by the water lilies and orchids of Jardim Botanic.
The upmarket Leblon neighbourhood is where chi chi Cariocas go to keep themselves nice for the beach and the bar. Grab yourself a swimsuit by Lenny Niemeyer – the fashion queen who brought some chic back to the beach; cover up with a vibrant kaftan from Brazilian designer Adriana Barra; or pick up a little number from the Tropical Surrealism collection at Jenessequa.
Also try: Lokalwear near the Jardim Botanica for unusual Brazilian/Hungarian/American-inspired earrings, necklaces and bracelets.
Image: Sergio Pagano/Belmond
Hankering for some pampering? Hit the Copacabana Palace Spa for indulgent treatments using organic ingredients, including acai and guarana fruits and white clay from the Amazon. Consider a facial, aromatherapy massage, or the ultimate five-hour Belmond Experience for two, including body exfoliation, clay mask, aromatic bath, massage, facial and moisturising mask. You can even get your hair done at the spa’s salon, one of the most exclusive in Rio.
Also try: Shine Spa for Sheraton for some staggering ocean views from your treatment room.
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Japanese might not be the first cuisine that springs to mind when you think of Rio, but the Zen-like Sushi Leblon has reportedly attracted the likes of Madonna, Beyonce and designer Marc Jacobs. The Michelin guide recommends the ussuzukuri (sandperch marinated in sake and lemon, and scented with truffle oil). Just watch out for the paparazzi.
Also try: Claude and Thomas Troisgros’ Olympe for French-Brazilian fusion cuisine, including such delights as acai-crusted lamb loin, yucca gnocchi and sumac butter solids.
Picture: Hotel Santa Teresa
Up in the Santa Teresa hills, Bar dos Descasados in the chic Hotel Santa Teresa – a former colonial mansion, slave quarters and hotel for the recently divorced – offers an intimate spot for a caipirinha cocktail, while lounging on daybeds among an A-list crowd and enjoying marvellous views across the city. The name means Bar of Divorcees, so get ready for some romance!
Also try: The three-level Rio Scenarium in the Lapa neighbourhood for some samba, choro or pagode beats.
Let’s face it, glamorous and sophisticated Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro in the heart of Ipanema Beach is the ultimate hangout. The Philippe Starck-designed hotel reflects the Bossa Nova era of the 1950s and ’60s. The rooms are luxury all the way, with balconies, hardwood floors, ear-shaped mirrors, Sergio Rodrigues chairs, 300-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, goose down pillows and marble bathrooms. In fact, you barely need to leave the hotel, with top restaurants, a poolside bar overlooking the ocean, the Baretto-Londra nightclub, and an exquisite spa. Oh, and did we mention the unlimited views of the Morro Dois Irmaos mountain, Arpoador and Corcovado?
Also try: The boutique Mama Ruisa hotel in Santa Teresa for a colonial Brazilian feel with French touches overlooking the sea.