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Copacabana

Copacabana (5)

In the 17th century, this area was called Sacopenapã.  But it changed to Copacabana, the name of a Bolivian city located on the shores of Lake Titicaca, where there is a basilica to the virgin that is much loved, especially by sailors, because they say it protects them and brings them luck: The Virgen de Copacabana. 

Bolivian fishermen and silver traders settled in the area and built a chapel in honour of the virgin, and people started to identify the chapel with the neighbourhood. 

Unfortunately, you won't find this chapel, since it was demolished in 1914 to make way for the construction of Fort Copacabana.

In 1917, Copacabana had 45 streets, an avenue and four squares. But things would soon change...

In 1923, the Copacabana Palace Hotel was built on the beach, then just a few steps from the sea, with its magnificent pergola and majestic rooms. In the 30s, 40s and 50s, Copacabana gained splendour and lively nightlife, with bars, theatres and restaurants. Carioca culture and bohemian life began to leave the area of Lapa to come here. Copacabana gave rise to numerous events and artistic movements, giving the neighbourhood the special feel of a world ruled by art and literature, a bohemian air that still permeates the streets today.

From the 60s onwards, the neighbourhood's growing fame started attracting more people than the area could comfortably cope with, and Copacabana suffered from property speculation: extremely high prices for minute apartments. 

The place became a Brazilian microcosm, uniting families of different classes in a narrow piece of land between the sea and the mountains.

This rich blend of cultures led to the neighbourhood becoming the birthplace of the bossa nova in the early 60s.

The current formation of Avenida Atlântica and the beach was inaugurated in 1971 with the landscaping project of Roberto Burle Marx. 

In 1976, the festejos do Reveillon started. This is considered the world's largest New Year's Eve party. 

Currently Copacabana is one of the most famous neighbourhoods in the city. It is bursting with restaurants, bars, shops, cinemas, banks, synagogues (it is traditionally home to the carioca Jewish community), shops and theatres. It is also one of the most densely populated areas of Rio and the world. It is home to more than 147,000 people, of all social classes, who are spread throughout its 109 streets. It is said that if everyone in the Copacabana neighbourhood went to the beach at the same time, there wouldn't be enough room for everyone.

Always lively, come rain or shine, Copacabana is a neighbourhood to enjoy by both day and night. There are small and large restaurants everywhere. Luxury restaurants sit alongside cheaper alternatives where you'll leave satisfied for a fraction of the price. There are even a quilo buffets where you pay for the weight of the food you eat. Try the rodizio de petiscos, which are similar to Spanish tapas. The same can be said for the bars. There's a huge variety, from cool places that attract the most fashion-conscious customers to small, modest botecos (bars), where you can enjoy a cold beer or açaí sorbet. This super-refreshing, deep purple sorbet has a unique, exotic flavour and is made from açaí berries, which grow on a species of palm tree with the scientific name Euterpe oleracea, a native species that only grows in the Brazilian Amazon. The fruit is dark purple, like a black grape or a blueberry. Açaí pulp is mixed with guarana syrup, which is derived from another fruit of the Amazon and has a stimulating effect similar to caffeine, which gives it a sweet, delicious taste. A flavour reminiscent of a mixture of berries and chocolate, a little like wild raspberries with a hint of grape.

And thanks to the large amount of minerals and vitamins in the fruit, it is an antioxidant and remineralises the body, perfect for the Brazilian heat. If you get the chance, be sure to try it.

At night, Atlântica Avenue hosts the feirinha until midnight. This is the perfect place to buy souvenirs, casual clothes, crafts, instruments and paintings. But we recommend you go to the Hippie Fair in Plaza Osório in Ipanema. This is held every Sunday and sells authentic crafts and high-quality goods. An open-air market that also offers options for eating, enjoying a drink, listening to live music... it's well worth a visit.

And if you want to enjoy the beach, just head to any of the kiosks along the waterfront. A caipirinha or a chope gelado (learn to say it properly, since you'll definitely order more than one on your visit to Rio. It's simply a very, very cold beer) and amazing scenery. What more can you ask for?  

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