The luxury travel guide to Rio de Janeiro
With World Cup and Olympic fever gaining pace in Rio, Chris Moss provides his guide to the city’s most stylish haunts – get there before the crowds do.
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By Chris Moss
10:36AM BST 11 Oct 2012
Why go now?
The epitome of glamour in the 1930s and 40s and rock ‘n’ roll sexiness in the 1960s and 70s, Rio is back in vogue. Preparations for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games mean revamps of everything from stadia to favelas, as well as protection orders on the colonial architecture. If São Paulo is Brazil’s economic powerhouse, Rio remains its cultural and hedonistic hub, with new arts spaces such as Movimento and the Bhering Factory and the renovation of the Theatro Municipal complementing landmarks such as the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum. The verities endure: Rio’s dreamy beaches, set against granite and quartz morros, and a proper wilderness just a 15-minute taxi ride away at Tijuca Forest Park. The cariocas, Rio’s residents, enjoy a frenetic social life and exude a natural grace, whether heading out for cocktails at the latest new bar in Santa Teresa or crossing the coast road in an otiose swimsuit. With London 2012 now over and the World Cup due to be hosted in the city in 2014, international focus is now turning to Rio – now is the time to go to beat the crowds.
Where to stay in Rio
The Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro in Ipanema.
The Hotel Santa Teresa opened three years ago in its namesake district – a newly fashionable area of tree-lined, cobbled streets. It’s away from the beachside bustle, with a pool, lovely gardens and furniture by Sergio Rodrigues, Rio’s most daring designer. Marina All Suites on Avenida Delfim Moreira, in Leblon, is expensively funky; its new Club Floor has spectacular, cleanly designed rooms with ocean views and its Bar d’Hotel is one of Rio’s hippest. Fasano has become one of South America’s most stylish hotel groups and its Ipanema hotel which wears the Starck signature well, has suites from which you can see the Atlantic from your bed. Staying at La Suite on a cliff in Joatinga, is akin to being at a friend’s place, though that friend is a millionaire modernist who loves pop art and Baccarat chandeliers.
Where to dine in Rio
Rio is perhaps best known for informal pé sujo (dirty foot) dining, sweet and salty comfort food and early drinking – a 10am bottle of Brahma beer is completely cool – in laid-back pubs called botecos. But it’s in the high-end restaurant scene that the city has seen its most obvious renaissance. La Fidúcia has been praised by cariocas for rebooting the classily romantic vibe along Copacabana’s Rua Duvivier, and the contemporary Italian menu – with Brazilian classics such as feijoada available at weekends – is one of the best in town. Le Pré Catelan at the Rio Sofitel (00 55 21 2525 1206, leprecatelan.com.br) is the best hotel restaurant, where Roland Villard oversees a trilogy-themed starter menu that features sensational seafood entrées such as lobster ravioli and bisque, and langoustine tartar with tomato and mango, and main courses that range from Amazonian tambaqui fish to Angus ox chops. A classic on Avenida Atlântica is Restaurante La Fiorentina which is popular with carioca celebrities and artists and ideal for a pasta or pizza evening with ice-cold beers. On the walls, black-and-white photographs of past diners, including Rita Hayworth, Rudolph Nureyev and Brigitte Bardot, evoke the charm of old Rio.
Where to go out in Rio
If you can’t make it for carnival, don’t despair. Rio is always up for a dance. Studio RJ, which opened in October, is Ipanema’s hot new live venue, hosting performances of carnival music by acts inspired by blocos (street bands). Rio Scenarium, in the lively Lapa district, is an old fave where the choro, forró, samba and everything in between are danced, on three storeys of dancefloors in a space crammed with old furniture.
Need to know:
What: Rio de Janeiro was Brazil’s capitaul until 1960 and is its second most populated city (6.3million), after Sáo Paulo.
When: January to May are bright and dry and the spring months of September and October are Wonderful. Carnival takes place during Lent – great if you love crowds but horrendous if you don’t.
Fly: Direct from London with BA or TAM in 11 hours.