Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro $$$$
Concierge.com's insider take:
Far and away the most famous hotel in the city, the Copa has long relied on the aura and mystique of its glory days, when guests like Orson Welles and Marlene Dietrich strutted its halls and the beach outside. (Framed photos of those guests in the halls serve to remind.) Built in 1923, the stucco-fronted neoclassical edifice was modeled on two Côte d'Azur classicsthe Negresco in Nice and the InterContinental Carlton in Cannes. But she ain't what she used to be, despite the updated furnishings and blush of glamour Orient-Express brought back when it took over in 1989. The grand old dame finds herself, quite simply, in the wrong neighborhood: There's no mistaking the transvestites who lurk around at night, nor the general state of shabbiness nearby. The 245 rooms are comfortable enough, especially the suites in the main building with their high ceilings, while those in the Tower Wing (built in the 1940s) have better views. Orson Welles would still recognize the decor: Turkish-style rugs, dark wood furniture, heavy drapes. Modernity comes in the form of TVs that rise from cheesy mirror-covered islands in the middle of the room. In short, you won't be wowed, but there simply isn't anything else as grand in the city. The single best feature is still the ground-level pool, situated in an interior courtyard, with views through the windows to the beach on one side and flanked by the restaurant Cipriani on the other. Bathers cannot but feel pretty fabulous, especially when live musicians start playing in the evenings.
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