Copacabana – The Big Apple of Brazil. You’re humming the song …. I’m humming the song. There’s four long kilometres of beach and it’s home to over 160,000 Cariocas (Rio locals). Copacabana will always be an unmissable spot in Rio, since it caters for people from all walks of life.
This guide to Copacabana neighbourhood highlights where you’ll see the locals drinking, eating and reveling. You’ll discover why the residents of Rio de Janeiro choose to live here and not “tourist” here. Be prepared for a fair share of walking and some hidden gems that I picked up after four years of living in the marvelous city.
You may also enjoy our 15 Essential Ways to Enjoy Ipanema.
1. Eat All the Meat You Can Dream of at Churrascaria Palace
Churrascaria Palace is the best all-you-can-eat Brazilian BBQ house in Rio. This all you can eat meat buffet stands out from the crowd because they hold monthly food festivals and cook uncommon but irresistible meats.
Premium meats and cuts I would try at Churrascaria palace are:
- Ostrich (avestruz)
- Duck heart (coração de pato)
- Duck picanha (picanha de pato)
- Pirarucu (a large, air-breathing Amazonian fish)
- Pork belly (barrigo de porco)
- Porco preto brazuca (a fatty pork steak)
- Assado de tira (beef short-ribs)
- Wild Boar (javali)
2. Get Sporty at Copacabana Beach
Every Sunday the avenue by the coastline of Rio de Janeiro is cleared for pedestrians. From Leblon to Gloria you can enjoy the three lane wide concrete path to practice your skateboarding/ rollerblading/ bike riding skills.
In Brazil skateboarders are not exclusive to the subgroup of hairy, floppy haired teenage boys. No, skateboarding is a classic way of getting from A to B. Around the gas station near Posto 3 there is a charming rollerblading/ skateboarding hang out on Sundays.
Copacabana has the largest sand areas of the Zona Sul beaches. This means there are vast spaces for ball sport courts. If you have a group, you can take a net and set up in any of the free spaces. Beaches in Brazil are public. The most common sports are beach volleyball, peteca, beach tennis and futevolei.
3. Go Monkey Watching
Duque de Caixas fort is an easy hike with unique views beginning at the military village in Leme. Read a detailed overview in our post on Where to See Monkeys in Rio. Bring your phone you WILL see monkeys.
4. Live Music at Copacabana’s Beach Bars
Copacabana beach is lined with little bar/ restaurants known as kiosks. The food is usually average, the caipirinhas are precarious BUT there is live music and beach views to rival bars around the world.
Some options for live music are these bars:
- Quiosque Globo has live music and sometimes dance classes.
- Skol Kiosk usually have music at the weekends.
- Deck Nine Zero kiosk has a variety of live music styles.
In the day buy a coconut water, which come inside a fresh coconut!
Note: the toilets do not belong to the kiosks and thus, being public, you usually have to pay … but it is 20 US cents. Restaurants charge a cover fee, if there is music. Usually, nothing more than R$20.
5. Bar do David
Bar do David is on the entrance to the favela of Chapéu Mangueira, at the back of Copacabana.
David is a former fisherman whose bar focuses on appetizers, known as petiscos in Portuguese. The original location is at Ladeira Ari Barroso 66, Leme-Chapéu Mangueira, and after its success, the second location opened on Rua Barata Ribeiro 7, Copacabana.
If you are interested in Brazilian favelas and sustainable tourism, this post explains more about Visiting Favelas Responsibly.
6. Sample a Variety of Brazilian Cuisine
A neighborhood with a Hollywood famous name, which draws tourists form the far flung stretches of the universe, as well as lots and lots of Brazilians. This means a TONNE of food. As a consequence you can also easily trip up and grab yourself a unpleasantly dank meal. Therefore, we will start you off with some of our favorites.
Amir – this restaurant near Copacabana Palace has a variety of Arabic food. Try the kibe cru (raw beef), tabule (a citrus, bulgar wheat salad) and the falafel.
Bar do Adão specializes in pasteis. These are special fried pastries filled traditionally with cheese, meat or shrimp. I love this restaurant because the menu is chocka with all the fillings you can think of.
Peixe Vivo – Fresh fish prepared flawlessly. Reasonable prices.
7. Try a Local’s Bar
At the back of Copacabana there is the bar Adega Perola. A tiny establishment that overflows at weekends. Usually you have to stand and drink. It boasts those same questionable bathroom tiles and decor as many classic corners of Rio de Janeiro. Clinging to decor choices from the 50s, also means they’ve clung to traditions like the Portuguese deli counter and booze on offer.
Try a classic lime caipirinha with Seleta cachaça.
You pay for small plates by their weight. We love the octopus vinagrette (polvo ao vinagrette).
8. Hotel View at Top
Othon Palace hotel is the highest hotel on the main beach avenue of Copacabana. It has a bad habit of casting an enormous shadow on the beach in front of it, but on the other hand the views are awesome from the top.
This classic building features a flash drive up area, endemic of the 1950s glory days. Though you have a chance to make the most of it’s luxurious views without necessarily spending all your backup funds.
Walk right up past the reception and hop in the elevator heading to the rooftop restaurant. Prices are typical of the city, but the view you get is priceless.
9. Bossa Nova Shop
This gem of a shop Bossa Nova e Compania is great for budding musicians or those who have a soft spot for Brazilian rhythms. You can buy musical scores for Chorro, Bossa Nova, Samba for any instrument that usually plays it.
As a flautist, I bought several for flute scores that I’ve never come across elsewhere. In a day and age where you can get everything from the internet, this is truly special.
You can also pick up old school CDs, a great way to whittle down some classic Brazilian music without having to take on the INTERNET. Sometimes it can be therapeutic to peruse the aisles and take the slow way of music discovery.
10. Go to the Theatre in Copacabana
Hidden in the Shopping Cidade Copacabana gallery near Siquiera Campos Metro station is the Teatro Claro Rio. Sponsored by a large telecommunications company, Claro, this small theatre brings in star performers to more intimate crowds.
Brazil residents that pay for a Claro service (phone, internet) can enjoy half price tickets at this venue.
11. Rent a Stand Up Paddle (SUP)
Copacabana beach is more protected than Ipanema, especially near the Copacabana Fort. On some days the waves are calm enough to allow you to rent a stand up paddle board. If you are lucky, you might even spot a sea turtle.
Rent a SUP board from any of the business below:
- Sup Cup Rents boards at Av. Atlântica, 4206.
- Stand up paddle and trekking at Av. Atlântica S/N Posto 6.
- Pranchas de Stand Up – Eco Clube Sup at Av. Atlântica, 4112.
- Copa Paddle at Av. Atlântica, 3772.
- Soul Rio Surf at posto 6 (they also offer surf lessons)
12. Enjoy a coffee or breakfast at Copacabana Fort
Strategically placed to ward off potential invaders, the Copacabana Fort is an active military base. There are three cafes on the premises. The most famous Confeitaria Colombo is a bakery with Portuguese specialties.
To enter the Fort you must pay R$6.
On Tuesday entrance is free.
Any day between 18pm and 19pm entrance is also free. The Fort closes at 19pm.
13. Check Out Copacabana’s Open Air Market
Copacabana’s souvenir market is a good place to pick up cheap Rio de Janeiro memorabilia. Browse the stalls in the evening when they open after about 17pm. You can also find some affordable local art that can add some colour to your walls.
14. Visit Copacabana Palace
The most well-known hotel in Brazil, Copacabana Palace is a neighbourhood icon. Inside the hotel are several restaurants, a H. Stern jewellery store, an ice-cream parlor and a Gucci store. Recently, the hotel renovated their 1950’s classic 332 seat theatre. There aren’t many events scheduled, but check out their page for updates.
- Pérgula (Traditional Brazilian cuisine)
- Mee (Michelin star sushi)
- Ristorante Hotel Cipriana (Italian)
15. Wander into Leme for Food and Surf-Watching
The far end of Copacabana blends into the Leme neighbourhood. Most of the traffic steering through Copacabana veers off through the tunnel to Botafogo, just before Leme. This means it is a quieter corner of the region. A great place to relax and dine.
A new group of plant-loving restaurants has sprung up in Leme. They ooze a bohemian vibe with dangling plants, cosy chairs and fabric draped ceilings.
- Joaquina has fusion Brazilian food made with organic ingredients. The owners from Minas Gerais set up a first location in Humaita, before heading to the Copacabana beach.
- S Bistrô in Leme recommend their Tuba Miso and Tartar.
- BarTínez has plenty of seafood options.
Should You Stay in Copacabana?
Finally it is definitely a feasible option with some cracking discount prices on offer staying in Copacabana. I like to describe Copacabana as a Carioca roots neighbourhood, since you will be living side by side an eclectic spread Brazilians. Grannies, hustlers, workers, young people, rich kids, they all congregate here.
However, I wouldn’t stay in Copacabana if you are looking for peace and quite. There is a constant buzz and so many things to discover, but also as a tourist you probably won’t blend in. This may mean you are pestered. Some people love that, some people don’t. Therefore, decide which one you are before setting up home in Copacabana.