Take a famous song, add a long stretch of powdery white sand, endless rolling blue surf and sprinkle with taut, tanned bodies and you have one of the most desirable travel destinations on the planet. Beautiful Ipanema beach is the stuff of legends. It entered the rest-of-the-world’s imagination with the haunting ballad ‘The Girl From Ipanema’, written by Antonio Carlos Jobim, one of the pioneers of the bossa nova sound. Jobim used to hang out on Ipanema’s sidewalk cafes and bars along with other artists, intellectuals and liberals, forging Ipanema’s reputation as ‘leftist’ (albeit affluent) enclave until many of them were forced into exile in the coup d’ etat of 1964. Like all of the world’s great beaches, Ipanema has its own unique culture. The beach is subdivided into sections called postos (or ‘posts’) which give in turn have their own character, making Ipanema feel a times more like a series of community microcosms. Posto 9 is the most famous; a fascinating mixture of the young, tanned and beautiful and leather-skinned hippies. You’ll find volley ball and soccer players at Posto 10 whilst Posto 8 is distinctly more working class. The gay section is located in front of the Rua Farme de Amoedo. Jobim wrote ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ from one of Ipanema’s famous cafes (it was inspired by a local teenage beauty who used to pop in to buy her mother cigarettes) and the neighbourhood has preserved its rich café culture and musical heritage. Fans of the bossa nova should visit Toca do Vinicius (Rua Vinícius do Moraes 129) a music store and museum dedicated to Vinícius de Moraes, one of the movement’s greats. More iconic shops can be found along the streets behind Ipanema Beach (conveniently organised into a grid layout) including the best high fashion and jewellery boutiques in Rio. | Since 2006 Holiday Velvet offers Rio holiday apartments.