Rio’s Night

Rio takes an appropriately laid back approach to after-dark activities – the crowds generally hit the streets around 10pm to sip chilled cervejas (beers) and enjoy bar snacks at a botequim (traditional Brazilian bar), before moving on to their chosen dance spot, live music venue or street party.

As the sun sets over Rio de Janeiro’s beaches, the city’s sun-kissed cariocas (locals) head home to wash off the sand and prepare for a night out on the town.

Balmy Rio nights are perfect for outdoor socialising. Image by Teresa Geer / Lonely Planet Balmy Rio nights are perfect for outdoor socialising. Image by Teresa Geer / Lonely Planet

Food and drink

The Portuguese didn’t only leave their mark on Rio de Janeiro in the shape of grand colonial architecture – a literal taste of the former ruler in the bars and restaurants is still popular with Brazilians today.

In the botequims patrons enjoy an informal vibe as they share a long neck of frosty beer and munch away on steaming fresh finger food known as salgados. The most popular include pastels (pastry pockets usually filled with cheese or meat), kibé (kebab), coxinha (chicken dough ball) and torresmo (pork crackling).

Crispy on the outside but with a gooey filling inside, pastels are a favorite Rio bar snack. Image by Teresa Geer / Lonely Planet

Crispy on the outside and with a gooey filling on the inside, pastels are a favorite Rio bar snack. Image by Teresa Geer / Lonely Planet

Enjoyed by cariocas and visitors alike, the caipirinha (a cocktail made from sugar cane spirit mixed with lime and sugar) is a great drink to start the evening’s fun. There’s no better place to experiment with the different varieties of Brazil’s national cocktail than at Academia da Cachaça in Leblon. As the name suggests, the bar’s specialty is cachaça, the native liquor of Brazil, and it stocks over 300 varieties that can be either sipped straight like a good whiskey or mixed up to make a crisp caipirinha.

Bar do Adão (bardoadao.com), in the Lapa neighborhood, serves the best pastels in Rio, stuffed with almost a hundred filling options from the traditional palmetto (heart of palm) to more creative options such as brie and date or shiitake mushroom and mozzarella.

Dance

Rio has a vibrant dance culture that has been here for hundreds of years.

Samba, the city’s theme tune, was born during the slave era, developed in the late nineteenth century, and still pumps through the veins of Brazil to this day. The best place to experience this passionate music and dance is in Carioca de Gema in Lapa, an authentic venue with two floors where you can shuffle the night away and a musical playlist packed with some of the best samba bands in Brazil.

Get your samba on at Carioca de Gema. Image by Teresa Geer / Lonely Planet Get your samba on at Carioca de Gema. Image by Teresa Geer / Lonely Planet

Forro is samba’s lesser known sibling, originating in the north of Brazil. The dance movements are all very much about close encounters – the steps are a little more rigid compared to the fluid moves of samba, but once you get the hang of it, it’s just as addictive. Every Tuesday night enthusiasts head to Estudantina Musical (Praça Tiradentes in Centro) to forro until the early hours of the morning inside the beautiful time-worn surrounds of a 1930s’ dance hall.

Street parties

Cariocas take advantage of their city’s balmy climate to hold regular alfresco gatherings throughout the week.

In the south zone, Baixo Gávea holds an informal street party that’s most popular on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays. Complete with a laid back, bohemian vibe, hundreds of 18-35 year olds start their evenings here before heading to the many nearby bars and restaurants.

Free sporadic entertainment is sometimes on offer and might include live bands, jugglers, pop-up theatre shows and skateboarders. You can while the entire night away under the stars here, meeting new friends and enjoying the cheap drinks sold by street vendors.

The south zone is a popular area for getting the party started. Image by Teresa Geer / Lonely Planet The south zone is a popular area for getting the party started. Image by Teresa Geer / Lonely Planet

Praça São Salvador is another lively option Thursdays to Sundays that draws the masses to fill the usually tranquil, traditional square in Laranjeiras.

Bar hopping

Lapa is the most popular area for bar hopping in the whole of Rio de Janeiro. Originally an edgy neighborhood where only artists or the less privileged would venture, it is now the most vibrant part of Rio de Janeiro post-sunset. There are hundreds of bars to choose from, all offering something a little different, whether it’s traditional samba, alternative rock or a ‘gringo’ Irish pub. The most frequented bar in is Rio Scenarium, famous for its antique decor and energetic live music sets.

Street music and bar hopping make Lapa the nightlife center of Rio. Image by Teresa Geer / Lonely Planet Street music and bar hopping make Lapa the nightlife center of Rio. Image by Teresa Geer / Lonely Planet

Another area for trying out some vibrant carioca bars is in Arcos do Teles. Enter through the historic arches and encounter a lesser-known side of Rio where quaint cobbled streets, colonial architecture and a thriving bar culture combine. Tables are spread across the paralelepípedos (cobblestones) and a more cultured crowd fills the seats at weekends after an evening of exploring the nearby galleries, museums and theatres.

Live music

Fundicão Progresso in Lapa is a diverse cultural center and one of the best places for a unique view of Lapa’s arches. During the day there’s plenty of activity in the dance studios and artsy on-site coffee shop, while at night the building transforms into a dynamic music venue with famous Brazilian artists like Monobloco, Jorge Ben Jor and Nação Zumbi having graced the stage here.

Music is an integral part of everyday life in Rio de Janeiro and a night out is no exception. Cafe Sacrilegio (sacrilegio.com) in Lapa creates a perfect warm ambience to enjoy a night of traditional Brazilian music. Whether it’s samba, bossa nova or pagode, the bar draws the local crowds and always plays the right classics to get everyone dancing and singing along.