ELLE Guide To: Rio de Janeiro

There's more to Brazil than the World Cup

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Where to Stay in Rio

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Luxuriously renovated in late 2013 and set in the centre of Copacabana’s perfect crescent of sand, the Belmond Copacabana Palace (Avenida Atlântica 1702, +55 21 2548 7070, copacabanapalace.com) is Mario Testino’s favourite photo location. He’s shot everyone from Kate Moss to Gisele here – under the Baccarat crystal chandeliers in the sweeping marble lobby, in the sunlit rooms and on the breeze-cooled balconies. The upper floor suites in the classic art nouveau main building give the best Atlantic views and have hosted everyone from Mandela to Monroe and Princess Diana to Lady Gaga. Avoid the pokey modern annexe.

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David Beckham prefers it round the corner at the Fasano, above (Av. Vieira Souto 80, +55 21 2548 7070, fasano.com.br), where the view from the rooftop pool bar is spectacular: the Cristo (Christ the Redeemer statue) on distant Corcovado, gazing out over the Atlantic and an endless sweep of beaches. The modernist, modish rooms and public areas are tricked out with diaphanous Philippe Starck drapes, bold, bright colours and warm wood.

Rio’s second-rank beach hotels are uninspiring 1980s towers with little to recommend them but the view. Better options lie away from the beach in the hills that rise into rainforest around the feet of the Cristo. Jude Law likes Mama Ruisa (Rua Santa Cristina 132, 00 55 21 2242 1281, mamaruisa.com), a converted Belle Epoque mansion, whose French-themed rooms cling to a forested hillside above Sugar Loaf Mountain. Before he fell from favour Galliano stayed in La Suite, above (Rua Jackson Figueiredo 501, +55 21 2484 1962, lasuiterio.com), next to Pele’s house in Joatinga, whose neo-baroque rooms offset Versace colours and French rococo furniture, with fabulous views of the Dois Irmãos moutains and São Conrado beach – which is where the England team are camped.

Hidden Pousadas (hiddenpousadasbrazil.com) offer well under-the-radar stays – many of them in plush local apartments. They include the Copacabana penthouse once owned by former Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek, which has perhaps the best beach view in Rio.

Where to Eat in Rio

Rio is casual by day. When she’s in town Gisele can be seen lunching on açai and guaraná alongside at one of the myriad kiosks by the beach in Ipanema. At night they’ll join friends at Gero (Rua Aníbal de Mendonça, 157, +55 21 2239 8158, fasano.com.br) to eat light Italian, or Fasano al Mare, above for sea food (Av. Vieira Souto 80, +55 21 2548 7070, fasano.com.br), dressed in the latest from local designers Osklen (osklen.com) and Lenny Niemeyer (lennyniemeyer.com), and glittering with Vartanian jewellery (jackvartanian.com).

Photo Alex Robinson

Foodies head for Felipe Bronze’s Oro (Rua Frei Leandro 20, +55 21 7864 9622, ororestaurante.com) - the newest star on Rio’s burgeoning fine dining scene. In meat-loving Rio, this is one of the few restaurants that goes easy on the waistline (if not the wallet) - with tiny but delectable portions of Brazilian fusion dishes – like foie gras with tangy acai berry and sun-dried beef with Pernambuco pumpkin. Oro vies with neighbouring, San Pellegrino -award-winning Sudbrack , above (Av. Lineu de Paula Machado 916, +55 21 3874 0139, robertasudbrack.com.br) for top molecular gastronomy restaurant in Brazil.

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Where to Go Out in Rio

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The Fasano may boast the best sundowner view in the city,above, but Rio’s slick hotel bars are for tourists. Fashionable locals in the know head for the boteco – or Rio street bar. The hottest is Felipe Bronze’s six-month old Pipo (Rua Dias Ferreira 64, Leblon, +55 21 2239 9322, piporestaurante.com) where ice-cold caipirinhas are served alongside gorgeous gastro petiscos (Brazilian tapas).

These are perfect preludes to partying in the city centre neighbourhood of Lapa – where Rio dons a short skirt and skin-tight top to dance samba. Rio Scenarium, above (Rua do Lavradio 20, Lapa, +55 21 3147 9000) – a huge converted townhouse filled with old theatre props (including a complete apothecary’s shop) remains the samba club of choice for Rio’s well-heeled.

Where to Shop in Rio

Shop for beachwear on and around Garcia D’Avila street in Ipanema. At Amir Slama (Rua Garcia D’Avila 134, +55 21 2521 0622, amirslama.com.br) you’ll find the classic one-pieces and tiny bikinis worn by Gisele in a shoot for July’s Elle Canada.

Other brands include Salinas (Adrian Lima and Valeria Mazza’s brand of choice, Rua Visconde de Pirajá 547, +55 21 2274 0644, salinascompras.com.br) and local favourites Blue Man (Rua Visconde de Pirajá, +55 21 2247 4905, blueman.com.br) and Farm (Rua Rua Visconde de Pirajá 367, +55 21 3813 3817, farmrio.com.br).

São Conrado Fashion Mall (Estrada da Gavea, +55 21 2111 4444, fashion mall.com.br), near England’s world cup hotel, has the pick of the most fashionable Brazilian labels including Lenny Niemeyer (the hottest label for swimwear and post-beach casual, lennyniemeyer.com.br), UMA (one of the stars at the Winter 2013 São Paulo fashion week, uma.com.br) and for him - Osklen (Brazil’s answer to Ralph Lauren, osklen.com).

What to Wear in Rio

By day: Amir Slama bikini, Brazilian-bought Havaianas (from their shop at Rua Farme de Amoedo 76 A, Ipanema +55 21 2267 7395, havaianas.com), beach bag by Poeira (Rua Dias Ferreira 480, Leblon, +55 21 2580 0513, poeiraonline.com) or Gilson Martins (Rua Rua Visconde de Pirajá 462, 55 21 2227 6178, gilsonmartins.com.br), and a chapeu de palha straw beach hat . By night, light cotton dress by Lenny (Loja 114 Rua Visconde de Pirajá 351, +55 21 2523-3796, lennyniemeyer.com.br) and bead jewellery from the Ipanema Feira Hippie street market (held every Sunday in Praça General Osório, Ipanema, feirahippieipanema.com).

Don’t Leave Rio without

Photo Alex Robinson

Oleo Seve, Pimenta Rosa, by Natura (in the international terminal at Rio airport and throughout the city, natura.com.br) - soothing and hydrating oil perfumed with Brazilian Pimenta Rosa flower and used by locals post beach. Keeps that Rio tan for the maximum possible time.

Beauty SOS

For a full day’s pampering book a treatment at the Belmond Copacabana Palace Spa, above (Avenida Atlântica 1702, +55 21 2548 7070, copacabanapalace.com). There’s a long list of treatments, many using natural Brazilian ingredients like energising açai berries and guaraná nuts. The 135 minute Pali massage and mask is the best for post-flight exfoliation and muscle soothing.

English-speaking hairdressers can be hard to come by in Rio. You’ll find them at the Belmond Copacabana Palace and the HBD Spa (Rua Barão de Jaguaripe 182, Ipanema, +55 21 2522 0669, copacabanapalace.com).

Alex Robinson (alexrobinsonphotography) is an award-winning writer and photographer and author of Footprint Rio de Janeiro (footprinttravelguides.com)