Where to enjoy Rio's raucous nightlife
For all cariocas (Rio residents), an evening out is serious business. For many, in fact, it's more serious than the working day.
Dinner and beyond
To be in step with Rio time, a night out begins with dinner at 9pm or later. Most popular restaurants are still receiving dinner guests into the morning hours at weekends. Meals fall into two categories: small and intimate, or sprawling and raucous. For an intimate dinner, French and Italian restaurants with excellent views are favored. For a more over-the-top evening, you will be best served by steak houses called churrascarias, where cariocas gather with small armies of friends around long tables practically overflowing with food and drink. At night, Copacabana is traditionally the king of Rio, although a far better and more sophisticated selection of bars, clubs, and restaurants can be found in Ipanema, Leblon, and around the Lagoa and into Jardim Botanico.
For a night out on the town, Copacabana Beach is a good starting point. Sidewalk cafés run the length of Avenida Atlântica, and they act as gathering points for tourists and locals, where cold draft beer is the favorite order. Copacabana at night is like an Eastern bazaar. Street vendors will be hawking souvenirs, paintings, wood sculptures, and T-shirts along the avenue. Prostitutes (female, male, and transgender) prowl the broad sidewalk, with its serpentine designs.
The famous Copacabana Palace Hotel, known affectionately as ‘the Copa,’ was sympathetically refurbished in 2013, returning it to its glory days of the 1920s and 1930s when it attracted the rich and famous from all over the world. Indulge in a cocktail by the pool or a meal in the Cipriani Restaurant, even if you can’t afford to stay here. The Sofitel Rio also has a cocktail bar, from where you can watch the sun set over Ipanema.
Between Copacabana and Leme is the infamous red-light district. In the dark bars and clubs, even on the sidewalks, you will see Western men openly picking up prostitutes.
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Lapa, in downtown Rio, was once the red-light district, but in recent years it has become an exciting area studded with live-music bars and restaurants. The crowd tends to be fairly young. Don’t stray too far from the main streets if you want to be safe. Recommended venues include Carioca daGema, Semente, and Rio Scenarium, all with a varied program of Brazilian music, from samba to bossa nova, in atmospheric settings.
Lapa is also home to the Circo Voador (Flying Circus) music venue, originally a large tent where many leading Brazilian acts got their first break in the 1980s and 1990s. Another major Lapa venue for music shows is the Fundição Progresso, set in a historical building that used to be a factory. The main theater can hold up to 5,000.
For full-scale extravaganzas, the other leading venues are Vivo Rio (next to the Modern Art Museum), the Imperator in Méier, and in Barra, the Metropolitan, the Arena Olímpica do Rio, and Barra Music - all showcasing the best in Brazilian and international attractions. Plataforma, in Leblon, presents a nightly review of Brazilian song, dance, and Carnival that is pitched firmly at the foreign visitor.
For those of more erudite or classical tastes, venues of choice are more likely to be the Teatro Municipal and Sala Cecília Meireles in downtown Rio, and the Cidade das Artes in Barra.
Clubs in Rio
Popular nightclubs include:
Miroir on Avenida Epitácio Pessoa, Lagoa
00 on Avenida Padre Leonel Franca, Gavea
Melt on Rua Rita Ludolf, Leblon
Nuth and Zero Vinte Um on Avenida Armando Lombardi, Barra
Bukowski on Rua Paulo Barreto, Botafogo
Rio Scenarium on Rua do Lavradio in Lapa
Club Six on Rua das Marrecas, Lapa
Zozô on Avenida Pasteur, Urca
Popular with the LGBT community are Le Boy/La Girl on Rua Raul Pompeia and La Cueva on Rua Miguel Lemos (both in Copacabana), and The Week on Rua Sacadura Cabral, in the Saúde area of the city. It goes without saying that, as in any large city, what is hot and what is not will change on a monthly, even weekly, basis. If you are looking for jazz and bossa nova, the best call is Vinicius Bar on Rua Vinicius de Moraes, Ipanema; Miranda in Lagoon, Lagoa; and some of the venues in Lapa such as Lapa Café. To find out what's on, ask a local person or hotel concierge, or check the weekly Rio supplement of Vejá magazine.
Want to find out more about Rio? Insight Guides: Explore Rio de Janeiro covers the city's best routes, with practical maps and the best places to eat and drink along the way. Available as both an app or an eBook.
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