Destinations | Perfect Weekend

Daniella Helayel’s Rio de Janeiro

The Brazilian designer established the Issa label in 2001. Celebrated for its bold prints, the spring collection was inspired by Helayel’s hometown of Rio de Janeiro.

February 20 2012
Mark C O’Flaherty

“I sleep late when I’m in Rio. No one likes to wake up very early here, as everyone goes out for dinner the night before at around 10pm or 11pm. I certainly do the same on a Friday, then get up the next morning and go to the beach for a run. Every beach is different in terms of culture and mood, and I really like Prainha Beach. It’s where the surfers hang out, and there are cute little bars that sell delicious food. In Rio, everything is focused around the beaches.

I’ve always liked dressing up to go to the sea. Sometimes I’ll wear one of my colourful ponchos, or a sarong and bikini. Women in Rio have a very distinct look – they love heels, and they all wear wedges. After my run, I have breakfast at home, or with one of my friends who lives opposite São Conrado beach, where you can watch the hang gliders. Otherwise, I might go to Confeitaria Colombo. There’s one on Copacabana and another downtown, which is a very historic café dating back to 1894. It’s very grand and beautiful, and a nice place to go for a fruit platter and some queijo Minas, a delicious white cheese that you can only get in Brazil.

After lunch, I’ll do something I’ve done many times before and go to the top of the Corcovado, to the statue of Christ the Redeemer. The view is incredible – you really get a feel for the beauty of the city.

In the afternoon, I’ll head across the water to Niterói, where I grew up. If the traffic isn’t terrible – and it often is in Rio – I drive across the bridge, which is an amazing piece of engineering; or I take the ferry. Then I’ll stop at the Museu de Arte Contemporânea, one of Oscar Niemeyer’s most iconic buildings. It really represents a whole different take on architecture – when he was designing and building Brasilia, no one was doing anything like it. I love his work.

Afterwards, I might ride a bike along the coast, or go sailing, and then visit my grandmother before heading back across the bridge to the Leblon district. There’s a great Portuguese restaurant there called Antiquarius that serves excellent cod and potato dishes. I also love Celeiro, which is very chic, with a terrace in the middle of the best shopping area. It serves healthy, yummy food. Despite what people in fashion think, Brazilians really aren’t very skinny; they love soufflé, and one of the most popular cocktails is made with condensed milk and coconut. I prefer lighter food, which is why I like Celeiro.

Later in the evening I’ll go to the Baixo Leblon area, which is really buzzy, and drink some caprioskas. The best bars are Jobi and Pizzaria Guanabara. There’s also a lot going on in the old district of Lapa – the Rio Scenarium, for example, is a huge samba place that can be quite amazing.

On Sunday morning, I run along the sand at Prainha again, before lunching somewhere close by, in my bikini. Or, if I am in the mood to dress up, I go to the Copacabana Palace and have brunch next to the hotel’s elegant pool, at the Pérgula Restaurant, where they serve a huge seafood buffet with non-stop spumante.

Rio isn’t a shopping city in the same way that São Paulo is, and most shops are closed on Sunday, but it’s nice to visit Feira Hippie de Ipanema market, where they sell crafts and traditional jewellery.

The beaches are crowded on Sundays, but the Jardim Botânica is always tranquil. It’s an amazing place, between the edge of the rainforest and the lagoon, full of trees and plants unique to Brazil, as well as sculptures and greenhouses.

I end my Sunday watching the sunset at Arpoador – a large rock that marks the junction of Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. I wouldn’t want to go to a bar; I’d just want to be outside. The colours – orange, pink and so many shades of blue – are totally divine. Nature was very generous with Rio.”

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