Copacabana Beach comprises four kilometers of natural beauty right in Rio de Janeiro’s urban area. The beach is joined by Atlântica avenue, a landmark in the neighborhood and an important road in the city. Imagine yourself commuting while cherishing the beauty of Copacabana Beach and its charms.
With a calm sea and low tides, it’s perfect to take a walk by the sea, unwind over the sand or diving. The open sea vista is truly a movie scene and has already been depicted in several films. Ella Fitzgerald, Nelson Mandela, and Santos Dumont are some of the famous personalities who marveled at the charms of the world-renowned shore. The place gathers a handful of attractions for every taste.
Along the entire beach there’s the popular Copacabana Beach sidewalk. The Portuguese stones that form the waves built in it are also known worldwide. The current project is a creation of the landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx and was first seen in the 70s. The sidewalk itself is an important meeting spot for citizens and tourists alike, and seems to have a life of its own, which shifts between day and night activities.
During both day and night, it is common to see artistic performances of mimics and musicians, art exhibitions, sand sculptures, and other artistic expressions that can even be purchased on site. Kiosks of every kind offer shelter, coconut water, and small meals that can be savored by the wonderful Copacabana Beach vista full of visitors.
Whether it’s day or night, citizens and tourists that regularly visit the Copacabana sidewalk take a stroll or engage in physical activities on the bicycle lane. On Sundays, the tour becomes complete because the lanes at Avenida Atlântica are closed for car transit between 6am and 6pm, or 7pm in Summer, between Francisco Otaviano Street and Prado Júnior Avenue, turning it into an outstanding leisure alternative for both children and adults of every age.
Another attraction at Copacabana Beach is Confeitaria Colombo at Forte de Copacabana, which offer tourists sophisticated breakfast menus, meals, and afternoon tea that can be appreicated on top of a unique landscape over the shore of our Wonderful City.
The statue of the great poet from Minas Gerais, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, also deserves some attention. It was inaugurated in 2002 and became a point for tourists who love the best of Brazilian literature. The neighborhood also has a bronze sculpture of the Brazilian musician from Bahia, Dorival Caymmi, and his guitar, since 2008.
Copacabana Beach is ever so present in the life of Rio citizens and is an open place so wide and friendly that is also used to host big concerts and other events. It was host of some competitions of the 2016 Olympic Games.
Copacabana is also the neighborhood with the largest aggregation of the elderly. They’re over 40,000 elderly residents comprising a third of the area’s total population, which has three hillsides, six side streets, five avenues, and 78 streets that cross 100 blocks of Copacabana, which are always full of people, stories, and energy.
A big party takes place in the Copacabana Beach and its neighborhood every December 31. The so-called Copacabana Reveillon is famous worldwide. The beach becomes a huge stage for a fireworks show, while companionship and hope bring citizens and tourists together in an ocean of people wearing white clothes and wishing for many positive achievements for the day that’s beginning. The fireworks show lasts for 15 minutes and usually employs around 20 tons of fireworks, and famous foreign and Brazilian artists go there to perform for an audience of over a million people. Zeca Pagodinho and the North-American band Black Eyed Peas are some performances already confirmed for this year’s Reveillon.
This range of attractions makes Copacaba one of the most traditional areas in both Rio and Brazil. The enormous amount of commercial activity on business days is completed by an incredible tourist and night life filled with bars, restaurants, and night clubs for every taste.
Past History of Copacabana Beach
The neighrbood known today as Copacabana was called Sacópenapan by the Tamoio Indians. In the area, the Engenho d’El Rei was built around 1575, but the project did not work because of the sandy terrain and the issues caused by the Rodrigo de Freitas lake and the mountains that surrounded it, now parks called Paisagem Carioca, José Guilherme Merquior, Morro do Leme and Sugarloaf Mountain. The area gained, since then, in 1738, a chapel for Nossa Senhora de Copacabana, a saint praised in Peru. And it floundered until the opening of the Real Grandeza tunnel on July 6, 1892. Known today as the Old Tunnel, the construction work helped to integrate that area with the rest of the city. This date also marks the official creation of the neighborhood, a moment when, by public documents, its borders were defined.
Cashew and pitanga tress, along with fishermen, lived in the area in the beginning of the 20th century. The Leme Tunnel, called the New Tunnel, was opened in 1904 and encouraged the occupation of the neighborhood. The Copacabana Fort construction works started on January 5, 1908, in the same area where the chapel created for the regional saint existed. The construction was opened on September 28, 1914. The advanced post is part of national history as the stage of the famous Fort’s 18, when the military, unhappy with the political panorama then, rioted againt it and marched on Atlântica Avenue on July 6, 1922, when the city of Rio de Janeiro was the capital city of Brazil and was still called Guanabara.
The neighborhood’s fortune started to shift with the opening of Copacabana Palace in 1923 at the Copacabana Beach. The hotel was built by the businessman Octávio Guinle on the suggestion of the president, Epitácio Pessoa. The Golden Room at Copacabana Palace, opened in the 30s, was one of the first music halls in Latin America. The hotel halls were part of a scene for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the film “Flying Down to Rio”, recorded in 1933. These events helped Copacabana to become part of the international imagination.
A group of concert halls between numbers 21 and 37 of Duvivier Street made Copacabana go down in the history of Brazilian music. The night clubs Baccara, Little Club, and Bottle’s Bar belonged to the brothers Alberico and Giovanni Campana, and were opened in the 50s. The place, which became known as Beco das Garrafas (Bottle’s Alley), was home to Bossa Nova in the 60s. The journalists Carlos Miele and Ronaldo Bôscoli organized the first performances of Elis Regina, Jorge Ben, and other great names of Brazilian Popular Music (MPB) there.
In the 70s, Copacabana Beach took its current shape with the doubling of the Atlântica Avenue lanes and the enlargement of the sand stretch, between 1969 and 1971. The works put forth the Rio traffic and homed, since then, ocean interceptor, the largest basic sanitation work in town until then.
Copacabana Beach Today
Copacabana never stops. A new version of Beco das Garrafas, opened in 2014, offers the concerned public daily concerts of bossa nova, jazz, and mixed genres. The neighborhood is getting ready to host the new head office of the Sound and Image Museum, which should be opened in 2016. The building’s provocative design was made by the American architecture agency Diller Scofidio + Renfro. The 8-story building with almost 10,000 square meters will work as a sanctuary for Rio culture. A night club, a restaurant with a panoramic view, and a theater for 280 people will be some of the museum’s attractions, located at Atlântica Avenue.
As of today, the fishermen community at Copacabana Beach is very active and it’s possible to buy fresh fish from them in the morning.
Getting to Copacabana Beach is easy. The neighborhood is served by the subway stations Cadeal, Arcoverde, Siqueira Campos, and Cantagalo. Buses that move around the area depart from different areas of the center and the North, South, and West sides of town. The area is 25 kilometers from the Galeão airport and 10 kilometers from Santos Dumont airport. Check our Public Transportation Guide.
The wide variety of hotels and restaurants and the pulsing commerce make Copacabana an interesting destination for people who are looking for a place to stay in Rio de Janeiro.
Citizens use, as a way to know where they are at the beach, the areas set by the lifesavers’ post, which the fireman are in charge of. In these small buildings there are bathrooms, showers, and other paid services offered for tourists and locals.
What Nobody Talks About
Although Copacabana Beach is one of the most famous Rio locations, some problems regarding it are ignored by tourists because they are not talked about on touristic media made for visitors. But we believe it is important for our tourists to know that both the Copacabana neighborhood and its beach have issues, such as:
- Thefts and robbery may ruin the trips of unwary tourists. That’s why we highly recommend you avoid exposing your electronic equipment unnecessarily (cameras, cellphones, smartphones, etc.) Unfortunately, some of these situations may lead to violence. We recommend you always move around the city carrying only things you can’t do without and in a discreet manner, keeping an eye on purses, bags, and wallets.
- Prostitution is clearly focused on tourists. These professionals usually gather at some areas of Atlântica Avenue, mostly at Praça do Lido and its surroundings, near parked cars on the sidewalk to the other side of the beach and usually are not at the Copacabana Beach itself or on its sidewalk. In general, they start to go there at night and don’t approach potential clients in offensive or explicit ways. Considering the avenue’s width and its median strip, many times they can’t be seen from the sidewalk. Also, there are night clubs in the Copacabana neighborhood that cater to erotic entertainment; however, they also look very discreet.
- The Street Population is also an issue in Copacabana, but in general the adults avoid conflict and only ask for money to buy food. The youth and street kids are usually more energic. Sometimes they’re selling candy, sometimes asking for money, but it’s important to pay attention because small thefts occurring at the coast are usually done by kids and teenagers that wander on the streets. We recommend you do not display valuable items, and if you wish to contribute to them somehow, we suggest you do not give them money, but actually buy them some food.
Credits for the used images in this Copacabana Beach article: Sheila Tostes, Rodrigo Soldon e MAHM.