Rio de Janeiro makes good on its civic anthem, "Marvelous City," thanks to a trio of geographic blessings: verdant mountains, a sparkling bay and miles of beaches. But Brazil's second-largest metropolitan area is buzzing with activity as public- and private-sector investments tied to the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 summer Olympic games beget real-estate developments and new companies and enterprises.
Cariocas, as Rio's 6 million residents are known, are taking the near-term inconveniences of all this activity in stride as they see the benefits in the form of new and refurbished hotels, Class-A offices, more sophisticated dining choices and expanded entertainment and shopping options.
"We are proud of the Carioca way of life, meaning samba, sun and fun," said Felipe Goes, Rio de Janeiro City Secretary for Development. "But with the recent boom in the oil and gas industry, the rocketing growth in the tourism sector and the prospects of the international events the city will host, Rio is becoming more and more business-oriented."
Most visitors spend their time in the Zona Sul, or the southern zone, with its beachfront districts of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon. If you don't have rime for a swim, stroll along the patterned sidewalks for a taste of Rio's famed outdoor-driven lifestyle. Don't be fooled by the preponderance of sunbathers and joggers: Among the crowd are local executives, talking deals and doing business on smart phones.
Copacabana has the higher concentration of entertainment options and tourist lodgings like the historic Copacabana Palace hotel, opened in 1923; the sleek JW Marriott Rio de Janeiro; and the 525-room Windsor Atlantica, a former Le Meridian that has been renovated and has had a soft launch under the new affiliation since late 2010.
At one end of this beach is the Forte de Copacabana, the military base that contains the Museum of the History of the Army, as well as the Cafe do Forte, a popular spot for breakfast, snacks or coffee with great views.
Ipanema and, to an even greater extent, Leblon have a higher percentage of residents. Just one or two blocks from the beach are some of the most elegant places to shop and dine. In Ipanema, swimwear boutique Lenny and sportswear retailer Osklen have helped put Brazilian fashion on the map.
Dozens of trendy restaurants can be found along Dias Ferreira Street in Leblon. In Arpoador beach, where Ipanema and Copacabana meet, the restaurant Azul Marinho...