Copacabana: Beachside Paradise

By Martin Kocandrle, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – Guarded by the Morro de Leme (Mountain of Leme) to the north and surrounded by tropical hills, three favelas and the ocean, the variety of Copacabana’s surroundings have made it a legendary part of Rio’s urban makeup. It is a thriving commercial and residential neighborhood located on a huge, stunning beach which has earned it worldwide fame and a history as colorful as the sights that envelop it.

The wavy sidewalk of Copacabana will lead you along the picturesque coastline, photo by Felipe Menegaz/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

Copacabana started off as a small fishing village but has developed into one of the most well known neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro. Named after the patron saint of Bolivia, it was officially incorporated into the city in 1892 after the blasting of the tunnel that currently connects it to Botafogo, and from there on it began its assimilation into the city and the slow but steady climb towards the limelight.

After enjoying exposure in Hollywood films during the 1930’s, the crème de la crème of the worlds jet-setting elite began to settle the otherwise undeveloped neighborhood. In the Seventies, as it increased in popularity it became one of the most densely populated urban areas in the world, and despite losing some of the glitz and glamor to neighboring areas of Ipanema and Leblon, Copacabana could be considered to be more representative of the different social classes that Rio is made up of, and still holds a rich history among its local population along with numerous foreigners, retirees and favelados.

Retreating from the beach to the interior of the neighborhood, the density of the buildings becomes apparent. Due to the impenetrable hills that surround Copacabana, growth in the Seventies could not spread outwards so it went upwards in the form of apartment buildings. The streets are lined with them making the sighting of a two story dwelling a rare occurrence, although it is still possible to find the odd Art Deco building from the 1930’s Real Estate boom.

While most of the high class shopping has left Copacabana and gone to areas such as Leblon and Ipanema, it is possible to make some good finds at cheaper prices. In fact some adventurous entrepreneurs have endeavored to construct a shopping mall inside an apartment building on 55 Rua Santa Clara, where curious shoppers can wander around the ten floors of shops, and numerous gyms can be found at cheaper prices than Arpoador and beyond.

The white sand beach stretches for miles and is great place to catch a tan when it is sunny, photo by Christian Hauger/Flickr Creative Commons License.

Both long term and short-term options for accommodation abound in Copacabana however one must pay for the privilege of location. There is no shortage of hostels and hotels such as the famous Copacabana Palace, for those looking to stay on a short-term basis. Likewise for those seeking longer-term accommodation there are numerous options available.

Prices depend on the number of people, length of stay and personal preferences. A basic one bedroom apartment can be rented from R$500 upwards, and for those looking to buy prices start at around R$200,000. Two bedrooms start at R$300,000 and top out around R$550,000 while three bedrooms can range anywhere from R$400,000 to R$800,000. Due to the prevalence of high rises finding a house for sale is difficult and can fetch upwards of R$4,000,000.

Copacabana has seen many changes throughout its lifetime which are plainly evident throughout the urban fabric that has been weaved in its streets. Set to receive a major boost ahead of the Olympics when it will form the nucleus of one of four zones of activity, its fortunes are set to turn after several years in the ‘fashionable’ wilderness.

With the beach now adorned with state of the art bars and wi-fi and three metro stations serving the length of the neighborhood, attention is once again turning towards its real estate, and while now is still a good time to uncover a bargain in one of the world’s most iconic postcodes, it is unlikely to last for long.