The district was originally called Sacopenapã until the mid-18th century. It was renamed after the construction of a chapel holding a replica of the Virgin of Copacabana, the patron saint of Bolivia. It was incorporated into the city on July 6, 1892.
According to Riotur, the Tourism Secretariat of Rio de Janeiro, there are 63 hotels and 10 hostels in Copacabana.
Copacabana beach stretches from Posto Dois (lifeguard watchtower Two) to Posto Seis (lifeguard watchtower Six). Leme is at Posto Um (lifeguard watchtower One).
There are historic forts at both ends of Copacabana beach; Fort Copacabana, built in 1914, is at the south end by Posto Seis and Fort Duque de Caxias, built in 1779, at the north end.
Hotels, restaurants, bars, night clubs, and residential buildings dot the promenade.
Residential buildings eleven to thirteen stories high built right next to each other dominate the borough. Homes and two stories buildings are rare.
Three major arteries parallel to each other cut across the entire boroughe: Atlantic Avenue, which is a 6 lane 4 km avenue by the beachside, Nossa Senhora de Copacabana Avenue and Barata Ribeiro/Raúl Pompéia Street both of which are 4 lanes and 3.5 km in length. Barata Ribeiro Street changes its name to Raúl Pompéia Street after the Sá Freire Alvim Tunnel. Twenty-four streets intersect all three major arteries, and seven other streets intersect some of the three, but not all .
On December 31, 1994, the New Year's Eve celebrations featured a Rod Stewart concert, which featured over 3.5 million fans, making it the largest concert crowd ever. More recently, the beach has been a site for huge free concerts unrelated to the year-end festivities. On March 21, 2005, Lenny Kravitz performed there in front of 300,000 people, on a Monday night. On February 18, 2006, a Saturday, the Rolling Stones surpassed that mark by far, attracting over 1.3 million people to the beach. On July 7, 2007, the beach hosted the Brazilian leg of the Live Earth concerts, which attracted 400,000 people. As the headliner, Lenny Kravitz got to play the venue a second time, with Jorge Benjor, Macy Gray, O Rappa and Pharrell as the main opening acts. Copacabana was also used for the filming of Dhoom 2 , which in the movie, was mispronounced as "Cocobanana" by Ali (Uday Chopra).