News 10 best things to do in Rio: a local’s guide

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10 best things to do in Rio: a local’s guide

Brazil's best-known city is not all carnivals and Copacabana. Just in time for Rio 2016, join our local reporter on the ground, Alice, as she shows us her favourite bars, restaurants and things to do in Rio de Janeiro.

Already in town for the Olympics? Share your experiences of Rio the comments section below and tip-off fellow travellers as you go!

1. Rio Scenarium

To get in the real spirit of Brazilian music, it has to be live and there should really be dancing. Visit Rio Scenarium, which is located in the middle of the hectic Lapa district: you’ll find it full of happy people dancing to local beats. The soundtrack is mostly samba, a Latino style deep-rooted in African rhythms and known for famous proponents like Selminha Sorriso, who carried the Olympic torch through Rio ahead of the opening ceremony. The venue, decorated with antique objects, is hip without being too try-hard, and it’s located on the third floor of a huge colonial mansion, so there’s plenty of space to try a few samba steps of your own! For more Olympic-standard landmarks and attractions outside Rio de Janeiro, browse through our gorgeous photo gallery of Brazil.


Rua do Lavradio, 20
Centro Antigo

Opening times?


2. Delirio Tropical

This unpretentious artisan cafe is where to come for a quick lunch in the midst of an intense Rio tour, or after an equally important lounging session on Ipanema Beach. Serving fresh salads, quiches and other lovely, healthy food, the best thing is the price – salads start from R$15 (about £3.60) but the menu rotates on different days so check the website for details). The main branch is located right at Ipanema beach, and there’s one in the city centre, too. Come to Rio for the beaches? Check out these other bright white shores while you’re in Brazil.


Rua Garcia D’Ávila 48
(21) 3624 8164

Opening times?

Daily, 9am-9pm

3. Bar Urca

Urca is the neighbourhood that surrounds Sugarloaf mountain. You can get one of the best views of Rio’s bay from this quiet, picturesque and residential area. It’s hard to imagine that there’s anything happening here until you arrive at Bar Urca at the end of the street and see the rows of people chilling out, drinking beers and enjoying good bar snacks like empadas (small pies) and pasteis – fried pockets with a variety of fillings. Go for shrimp (R$6), it’s a local favourite!


Rua Cândido Gaffrée 205
(21) 2295 8744

Opening times?

Mon to Fri 6.30am-11pm; Sat 8am-11pm; Sun 8am-8pm

4. Meza Bar

Meza is a great alternative to Rio’s regular bar scene – more of a gastropub with class. You are seated at a table and there are normally live DJ sets to enjoy. The food here is fabulous and served tapas-style in small bowls (from R$12), so as not to weigh you down before the evening’s got going! The chef’s philosophy is to keep you in the dancing mood and to make sure you have room left to enjoy their award-winning drinks menu, from ‘Lemon Pie’ shots, to a frothy rum cocktail known as ‘Moulin Rouge’. More than a couple of rounds here can stretch the budget, but it’s worth it for the atmosphere. For more mouth-watering places to eat in Rio de Janeiro, check out Alice’s gastronomic tour of the city.


Rua Capitão Salomão 69
(21) 3239 1951

Opening times?

Thu to Sat 6pm-3am; Sun to Wed 6pm-1am

5. Gilson Martin

If you want to buy cool gifts and souvenirs, this is the shop to come on your Rio visit. Find Pop Art-style accessories inspired by the city’s landmarks, cool vinyl bags, wallets and briefcases that come in all manner of shapes and sizes, plus a gallery of local artwork by the likes of Daniel Bo and Denise Berbert.


Rua Visconde de Pirajá 462b and Copacabana
(21) 2227 6178

Opening times?

Mon to Sat 9am-8pm

6. The Maze

Clocking in for a jazz night at The Maze is one of the best things to do in Rio de Janeiro. This place has an interesting origin story, too: inside a pacified favela (shanty town), a former BBC journalist bought a tiny house on the hill, converted it into a guesthouse and venue and began hosting live jazz bands. From the start this place has been packed with an eclectic crowd, all looking for quality live music, a decent bar and the main attraction: a panoramic view of Rio itself. To get there, you can take a taxi to the bottom of the hill and then a minivan or a mototaxi to get up top.


Rua Tavares Bastos 414, house 66. Catete (21) 2558 5547

Opening times?

Every last Friday of the month.

7. Palaphita Kitsch

This is a favourite spot to watch the sunset and enjoy long chats with a ‘Chico’ in hand – a zesty ginger, lemon and gooseberry concoction. The exotic Palaphita Kitsch bar is located on the edge of Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas and offers an incredible view over the city’s lagoon and beyond. It has a Balinese vibe and the chairs are made from Amazonian wood, some of which are even suspended among the trees. If you want a really alternative souvenir you can buy one of the chairs – they are all for sale! There is also a sister venue at the Brazilian Jockey Club.


Cantagalo Park, Avenida Epitácio Pessoa Kiosk 20
(21) 2227 0837

Opening times?

Mon to Sun 6pm – 12am.

8. Zero Zero

This sophisticated venue is one of the best places to go in Rio at night, with a sushi bar on the deck where the gay-friendly crowd assembles. The music spans a variety of dance genres, and is fairly mainstream at the weekends, leaving Thursdays and Sundays for a more adventurous musical experience with international guest DJs like Hector Fonseca, Mauricio Lopez and Flow & Zeo. Occasional drinks promotions (all-you-can-drink caipirinha, for example!) and discount entry before midnight on certain nights.


Avenida Padre Leonel Franca 240. Gávea
(21) 2540 8041

Opening times?

Tue to Sat 10pm-5am; Sun 5pm-2am.

9. Farm

"Inspired, and sold by, the beautiful girls of Ipanema" – that’s Farm’s philosophy, and it’s hard not to love it, along with their characterful shop. The clothing, shoe and accessory collections are colourful, feminine and young; this is a local brand, born and raised in Rio, but the grapevine tells us they even have a shop in fashion Mecca, Paris, now! Farm was founded in the heart of Ipanema’s General Osorio’s square, which is where you still find its flagship store, and there are others throughout the main shopping malls in town.


Rua Visconde de Pirajá 365
(21) 3813 3817

Opening times?

Mon to Sat 10am-8pm; Sun 11am-5pm.

10. Parque Lage

Parque Lage is one of Rio’s true hidden gems – a beautiful but strangely overlooked public park nestling beneath the Corcovado mountain. The mansion at the heart of the sprawling tropical gardens dates from 1840 and has a unique and surprising style. The house was remodelled by Italian architect, Mario Vodrel, and the grounds took inspiration from the Romantic gardens of the UK. If you’re feeling adventurous, climb the mountain trail up to Rio’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, one of the Seven Wonders of the World – ask the guards for directions, and bring a stout pair of walking shoes!


Rua Jardim Botânico, 414
21 3257-1800

Opening times?

Daily 8am – 6pm

Alice is a Brazilian entrepreneur who has worked as a journalist for the BBC and CNN in London. Alice is also the editor of Time Out Rio de Janeiro.

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*Published August 2016. Prices correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability.

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