Don’t be put off by closed doors – a gentle knock will gain you access into some of Brazil’s finest ateliers
They say that Rio risks not being ready for the 2016 Olympics, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to be. Let us guide you through the sauciest spots to sup, sip, shop and flop in the postcard-pretty Marvellous City.
What you wear in Rio really matters, and luckily, there’s no shortage of fabulous homegrown fashion. First stop for kit to kill is hip Leblon shopping precinct, Palm Beach, a converted all-white apartment block on rua Dias Ferreira, secreting away untold, heavenly shopportunity. Seek out Adriana Barra’s bonkers stash of vibrant, floaty frocks, kaftans and bikinis and Jenessequá’s high-style Games-ready athletic gear. Just don’t be put off by closed doors – a gentle knock will gain you access into some of Brazil’s finest ateliers.
Belleza! It’s time to debut those gorgeous bun-baring bathers… but first, slather yourself in dreamy-creamy Brazil-made Granado goodies on nearby rua General Artigas, an apothecary of everything fragrant from lotions, body oils and soaps to cosmetics and heady colognes.
Shops loosely open 10am-7pm Mon-Fri and until 4pm Sat, but close on Sunday, which gives you the perfect reason to hit the beach – one of the top things to do in Rio. It’s the day when the surf-side roads are closed to traffic and the beautiful people come out with their pampered pooches and battered surfboards.
Globally famous and immortalised in song, the Copacabana of today sadly abounds with sunburnt tourists. Take a stroll down its promenade, but don’t dip your toes until you’ve rounded the corner to young, fun, flawless Ipanema. This 2km stretch of sand is where you want to sea and be scene – and honey, you won’t be people-watching, you’ll be people-ogling.
Bossa Nova enthusiasts beeline to Posto 9, where Vinicius de Moraes first clocked his ‘Girl from Ipanema’, while buff boys should check out the steamy stretch between the rainbow flags at Posto 8. Wherever you decide to settle, do not bring a towel – locals wear sarongs and rent beach chairs – a towel just screams tourist. Finish at the cluster of rocks, better known as Arpoador, for crashing waves and sunset vistas.
The city will no doubt be heaving during the Games, so away with you to the cool mist-kissed tranquility of Jardim Botânico, a lovely, oft-overlooked, 338-acre expanse of verdure with a marvellous orchidarium, foothill views of Cristo Redentor, and plenty of cute monkeys. Follow with a mod Brazilian lunch in sleb chef Roberta Sudbrack’s simple, sunny atrium, a five minute wander away.
If you’re looking to impress come evening, Eleven lures lovers of liquid nitrogen with chef-scientist Felipe Bronze’s intricate, whimsical molecular cuisine; or for a more casual affair, kick back with a local crowd at old-school hang Bar do Mineiro, famed for its hearty, soul-warming feijoada (black bean and pork stew).
Wrap up with sundowners at nearby viewtiful alcove Bar dos Descasados, hidden away inside the luscious Hotel Santa Teresa. Got the bolas to try Brazil’s national tipple? Sure you do… ready your ambulance, or request a caipiroska, which sees rocket fuel cachaça replaced with vodka.
Now, where to lay your blissfully sun-kissed coconut? Well unless you’re Gisele, you may have trouble bagging a suite in our favourite sceney pool-topped, Ipanema-flanking stunner Fasano at such a rave-busy time. But we also adore boho go-to Mama Ruisa, a character-packed, creaky-antiquey beauty, perched on a hill in winding cobbledy-kooky Santa Teresa (LatAm’s answer to Montmartre). Just eight abodes, breezy patio, pool, Guanabara Bay panoramas and an all-star concierge put the ooh in boutique.
Some final top tips. Taxis are abundant in Rio and most have GPS, but don’t expect a lick of English – bring addresses in Portuguese and gesticulate wildly. There is a poorly-signed metro and bus network that services far-out nabes, but without a native speaker you may end up near the Amazon. And be a savvy Susan – don’t wave your DSLR about, leave the Rolex at home, and no beaches after dark. Tchau tchau for now!
Click LUXE City Guides for more tips