Synonymous with luxury in Brazil since its opening in 1923, Copacabana Palace has been feeling the heat since the opening of Fasano Rio in 2007, and not just that rising off the illustrious sidewalk. It should come as no surprise then that the hotel known for accommodating the likes of Madonna, Mick Jagger, Lady Di, Carla Bruni, Bono and Orson Welles has decided the time is ripe for a revamp. First rising to international fame back in 1933 thanks to a cameo role in Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers ‘Flying down to Rio’, the palace is now nearing its ninetieth birthday, and for some the ageing landmark can no longer be considered in the vanguard of luxury lodgings.
Owners of the hotel since 1989, Orient-Express insist that continuous dedication to improvements mean this latest project will simply ensure the Palace is maintained at the forefront of its game, yet at a cost of a cool R$30 million (US$15 million) it’s no minor project and began with a well publicized auction of furniture and engravings used and abused by the former list of famous guests. Though the chance to lay your hands on the dressing table once sat at by Lady Di has now passed, rest assured the ‘golden room’, home over the years to performances from the likes of Edith Piaf and Nat King Cole, will remain intact as work gets under way.
The palace’s lobby on the other hand, unchanged since the hotel’s inauguration in 1923, is set to double in size as part of the grand plan; first impressions do count after all. Guests comfort lies at the heart of many of the changes planned and while sixty of the apartments and ninety of the bathrooms undergo modernization, the annex which houses the Cipriani and Pérgula restaurants, Bar do Copa and the hotel’s spa, will continue to function and receive guests comme d’hab. Overseen by French architect Michel Jouannet, work is due to finish in November. And in Brazil where deadlines are treated more as rough guidelines, the hotel has laid on a workforce of approximately 300, operating in three separate shifts, to guarantee refurbishments are completed on schedule.