Rio. It’s a wonder that this single word can conjure up such a plethora of evocative images. The pulse of a carnival. The swish of a samba dress. The clink of a cocktail. And the faint echo of revellers singing the Copacabana…
With cold temperatures across Europe and North America, it’s no wonder backpackers and budget seekers are heading to Rio de Janeiro in droves.
Rio Carnival (Feb 28th – Mar 4th 2014) is just around the corner, so use this guide together with our best party hostels in Rio post if you want to eat, sleep and breathe party times. If you’re visiting outside of carnival season, don’t worry – Rio is a year-round nightlife city.
So, ready to find out where to party the night away in Rio? Here are our hot tips on where to drink, dance and romance in this Brazilian beach paradise…
Where are the best places to DRINK in Rio?
The term ‘carioca’ means Rio native, and carries with it notions of a sunny, laidback lifestyle. Indeed, it seems that when defining themselves under this term, citizens of Rio must necessarily adopt the party-hard attitude that comes with it. No doubt, Rio de Janeiro’s nightlife is one of the best in the world. So, if you’re looking for a place to booze and schmooze, why not check out one of the following…
Bars in Rio
For a laidback night of music and passion, you can’t beat a visit to one of Rio’s delightfully unpretentious neighbourhood ‘botecos’.
Bar do Mineiro: One of Santa Teresa’s most traditional botecos, Bar de Mineiro triples up as a bistro, art gallery and antique shop! Make sure to check out the amazing variety of cachaça (a potent sugar-cane liquor found in caipirinha cocktails).
Rua Paschoal Carlos Magno 99 Santa Teresa
Lord Jim’s: For fans of football, there’s no better way to experience a match than with a beer at Lord Jim’s. Watch international sports, listen to live music, munch on fish and chips or take part in the quiz night at this traditional British pub…it even has red telephone booths by the doors! A great choice for homesick Brits seeking solace from other expats.
Rua Paul Redfern 63 Ipanema
Bar Bracarense: A classic Leblon hotspot, Bracarense is a relaxed pavement bar frequented by everyone from beach frolickers to after-work drinkers. Don’t forget to sample the delicious bolinho de Bacalao (cod balls) and bolinho de quejo (cheese balls).
Rua Jose Linhares 85 Leblon
Emporio: As a long-famous meeting point for alternative music lovers, Emporio retains an ongoing popularity despite being rather overcrowded. You’ll find many visitors enjoying their cocktails and conversation in the warm summer air out front of the bar. A great place for meeting other tourists and getting into the local rock scene.
Rua Maria Quiteria 37 Ipanema
What are the best clubs in Rio?
For those who fancy something a little wilder, Rio’s club life typically starts at midnight and continues until the following morning…or the following afternoon depending on how much of a party animal you are!
Casa da Matriz: An 18th century mansion transformed into a two-storey nightclub, Casa de Matriz feels just like a house party! A great atmosphere and local crowd keen on dancing, drinking cocktails and having an all around great time. Head down on Friday for a Brazilian music party, or come on Saturday for a first-floor rock fest.
Rua Henrique de Novaes 107 Botafogo
Baronetti: The ultimate in exclusivity, Naomi Campbell’s favourite Baronetti nightclub plays home to designer labels, plush furnishings and modern designs. Sorry boys, expect to pay through the roof for entry to this one (although the girls will most likely get in for free)!
Rue Barao da Torre 354 Ipanema
Fosfobox: There’s no better place to get your freak on than at this alternative underground club. Expect a crowded dance floor, electro funk tunes, warehouse style décor and some unusual displays of performance art continuing until the wee hours of the morning.
Rua Siqueira Campos 143 Copacabana
00 (Zero Zero): Housed in Gávea’s planetarium, 00 is a restaurant by day and sleek nightclub by eve. A flawlessly designed contemporary space favoured by the crème de la crème of Rio’s fashion pack. If you have a chance, make sure to sample some of the cutting edge contemporary cuisine (the salmon burger being our personal favourite!)
Avenida Padre Leonel Franca 240 Gavea
Where to samba dance in Rio
Fancy a taste of samba? Well, you’re certainly in the right place! In Rio, feel free to shake it carioca-style just about anywhere – from bars to beaches, markets and malls.
Of course, for those keen on being slightly more conventional (and slightly less exhibitionist!), there are a range of specialised dance clubs that are dedicated to practising those sweet samba moves. Otherwise known as ‘gafieiras’, these samba bars are typically congregated in the bohemian district of Lapa – an area of old Rio built in the 18th century and having undergone a revival in the past decade.
So, for those keen on some sweet cardio action, why not pay a visit to one of our favourites …
Rio Scenarium: There surely can be no better place to start on the carnival circuit than at the Rio Scenarium – the largest and most famous Samba Dance Club in Rio de Janeiro…and perhaps even in the world! This gigantic 27,000 square foot three-level restaurant, bar and live samba studio is choc-a-bloc with random vintage treasures – from grandfather clocks to Venetian mirrors, 1950s mannequins and a 1928 Ford car. It’s the perfect place to get your freak on.
Rua do Lavradio 20 Lapa
Carioca da Gema: As one of the first clubs to bring samba back to Lapa, Carioca de Gema is slightly smaller, more intimate and mature than the massive Rio Scenarium. The entire main room is a dance floor, with a band playing on the stage up front and a seating area upstairs. Servers will roam the dance floor with drinks, so there’s no need to interrupt your samba fest with an annoying trip to the bar.
Avenida Mem de Sa 21 Lapa
Democráticos: A samba club housed in a 19th century mansion! Upon walking through the large entry foyer, ascend to the second floor via a marble staircase. Here, you will be greeted by a live samba band and a ballroom of hardcore dancers shaking their stuff. The perfect locale for cariocas (and tourists!) who are serious about their samba.
Rua do Riachuelo 91 Lapa
Centro Cultural Carioca: A great choice for those wanting to escape the crowds, Centro Cultural Carioca is slightly less of a tourist haunt than its fellow Lapa samba institutions. The handsomely restored 19th-entury building serves up a great variety of Brazilian dance classes, in addition to showcasing various artistic, cultural and theatrical events.
Rua do Teatro 37 Centro
Where to stay in Rio de Janeiro
As a favourite haunt of backpackers and budget travellers, there are plenty of options for cheap hotels and hostels in Rio de Janeiro. For those keen to be in the heart of the action in Copacabana, try Lisetonga which has a terrace bar, hammocks and a laid-back house party vibe, plus is only three blocks from the beach. Beds start from €11.93 per night.
Another favourite is the Favela Vidigal Guesthouse overlooking Leblon and Ipanema Beach, which received the HostelBookers’ Award for Best Atmosphere in February 2011. Located in a favela, it offers a look at another side of Rio life in a safe ‘n’ secure environment with super-friendly hosts. Beds start from €6.12 per night.
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- Sweating Out the Caipirinhas
- Best Party Hostels in Rio