10 of the world's best city beaches…and #1 is….Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro!

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10 of the world’s best city beaches

Strip away the suit and indulge your tropical fantasies at these cities by the sea

By Duncan Forgan 23 May, 2012

When you hear the word “city,” what do you think of?

Skyscrapers? Traffic jams? Great restaurants? Bad service?

How about beaches?

There are some cities where the working class can strip off the suit and tie, jump into the swimming shorts or bikini and enjoy a day with their toes in the sand without having to leave the urban perimieter.

By talking with our well-traveled friends and colleagues, collating data from tourism authorities and using our own experiences, we’ve put together a list of what we think make up 10 of the best city beaches in the world.

No doubt you’ve got your own. We’d love to hear about them in the comments.


1. Ipanema Beach, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Ipanema Beach, Rio De Janiero

A beautiful beach, but take care in the currents.

Ipanema was famed long before Vinícius de Moraes and Tom Jobim composed their 1962 ode to one of the “tall and tanned and young and lovely” females that still throng the beach.

“The Girl From Ipanema,” however, perfectly encapsulates the eternal allure of the 1,600-meter-long, 90-meter deep stretch of white sand. Majestic granite peaks create a spectacular backdrop while the Cagarras Islands in the distance offer a counterpoint to the brilliant blue of the Atlantic.

This is the place where the dental-floss bikini and the crocheted G-string for men made their debuts, however, and it’s the sight of the beautiful people of the Cidade Maravilhosa strutting their scantily clad stuff that makes for arguably the most compelling spectacle.

Lowdown (marks out of 5)

Cleanliness: 4 — Ipanema is regarded by Cariocas (Rio natives) as the city’s cleanest beach.

Visual stimulus: 5 — Need we explain?

Food/drink options: 5 — Hawkers ply the sand selling everything from cold beer and caipirinhas to grilled sticks of halloumi cheese, while the streets that back the beach host some of the Rio’s best restaurants.

Safe swimming: 2 — The word Ipanema translates from native Indian as “bad, dangerous waters” and the undertow and the crashing waves should not be underestimated.

Party factor: 5 — Rio’s inland districts have the edge when it comes to partying down but Ipanema’s clubs are no slouches either.