Fun at the feet of the Sugarloaf Mountain
Copacabana is dominated to the east by Sugar Loaf Mountain and circled by a line of hills that stretch out into the bay as you’ll see when you’re cruising the Atlantic Ocean with MSC Cruises.
The town’s expansion as a residential area has been restricted by the Morro de São João, which separates it from Botafogo, and the Morro dos Cabritos, a natural barrier to the west. Consequently, Copacabana is one of the world’s most densely populated areas as well as a frenzy of sensual activity.
Of course, Copacabana hasn’t always been as it is today, and traces remain of the former fishing community that dominated the area until the first decades of the twentieth century. Each morning before dawn, the boats of the colônia de pescadores (the descendants of the fishermen) set sail from the Forte de Copacabana, returning to the beach by 8am to sell their fish from stalls at the southern end of the beach. Rio’s sophisticated beach culture is entirely a product of the twentieth century.
The 1930s saw the city’s international reputation emerge and “flying down to Rio” became an enduring cliché, celebrated in music, film and literature. Nonetheless, Rio’s beaches are first and foremost the preserve of cariocas: rich or poor, young or old, everybody descends on the beaches throughout the week, treating them as city parks. Copacabana is amazing, the over-the-top atmosphere apparent even in the mosaic pavements, designed by Burle Marx to represent images of rolling waves.
The seafront is backed by a line of prestigious, high-rise hotels and luxury apartments that have sprung up since the 1940s. Some fine examples of Art Deco architecture are scattered around the bairro.