What to do in Rio de Janeiro at night: Your ultimate night out guide in the “Cidade Maravilhosa”

Overview of Rio de Janeiro with Christ, the Redeemer overlooking the Guanabara Bay
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What to do in Rio de Janeiro at night, an ultimate night out guide to this incredible city. Made by the friend and TV Producer, Felipe Atra. 

Rio de Janeiro, one of the Seven Wonders of the modern world, from Christ, the Redeemer, to the Sugar Loaf, from Leme to Pontal, believe me, you will never see anything like that, in the world…

Indeed, Rio has many reasons to be known as the “Cidade Maravilhosa” (Marvellous City). Reasons which go beyond all those beautiful post cards…

Rio is the birthplace of Samba, Carnival, Bossa Nova, Rock in Rio, Funk… Rio is the house of the bohemians.

And today, I will take you on a tour to see the traditional, symbolic and hottest places of the city, which will allow you to let your hair down and enjoy the “carioca” lifestyle (Carioca is the name given to people from Rio, as Scousers is given to people from Liverpool).

Welcome to Rio!

what to do in Rio de Janeiro
City of Rio de Janeiro

It’s Monday, time to go to

Dance a lot of samba! Two of the most traditional and historically samba round dances (the musicians gather in a circle and people stay around them) happen on Monday.  They really captured the true Monday Feelings way of life.

I feel sorry if you have to work until late. But, Rio de Janeiro is not for late workers… Although, if you are free, having a walk around the city, here are the place you have to go:

Pedra do Sal Samba

what to do in Rio de Janeiro
Pedra do Sal – * Photo from Flickr by Gian Cornachini *

It’s a historic place. The first slave market in the city was there, thus where the African Culture developed in Brazil. There were countless “Candomblé” houses over there (an African religion which has a lot of dance and music) and, as time goes by, the Camdomblé drums gave way to the tambourines and this mingling of rhythm gave birth to the samba we know today.

The Pedra do Sal is so symbolic that many renowned samba singers moved over here, such as Pixinguinha, Donga, João da Baiana. The walls around are full of art which tells the story of the African Negros resistance when they arrived in Brazil.

Currently, they host samba rounds on Mondays and Fridays, from 18h onwards.

You should get there early because the rock (rock = pedra, that’s why the name) becomes like a football grandstand, with people singing and clapping whilst the singers do the concert. If it is cloudy or rainy, don’t bother coming as the place is open air and the party is called off on these days. Seriously, personal experience of whom has left very frustrated. Pedra do Sal is at the Largo da Prainha, quite near Praça Mauá (Maua square) and the Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow).

Samba do Trabalhador

Also on Mondays, in another location which helps telling the story of the city as well, is the Samba do Trabalhador (Workers Samba). This one kicks off even earlier, at 16h. So, if possible, leave the beach out and head ASAP to Andaraí, because the queues are enormous to see the samba led by Moacyr Luz at the Clube Renascença, an old Negro movement’s stronghold, even older than the legendary Cacique de Ramos. The place was fully refurbished. It has a new face, but still jamming an old school samba.

Samba and history

Rua do Ouvidor

what to do in Rio de Janeiro
Imperial Palace

Also in Rio downtown, the Rua do Ouvidor (Ouvidor Street) is in the middle of an important cultural route. It is close to the Praça XV (XV Square), where the Imperial Princess Isabel abolished slavery by signing the Golden Law. Also, it’s on the way to the Arcos do Teles (Teles Arches) and near the harbour, the Praça Mauá, and the modern Museu do Amanhã, let alone being the Pedra do Sal neighbour.

Once one of the most important streets of Rio, now, it is the most musical of all.

In here, we have the Samba do Ouvidor, the Jazz do Ouvidor and the Forró do Ouvidor, where some of the best musicians get together amid the narrow street, surrounded by colonial buildings and charming bars.


what to do in Rio de Janeiro
The Bip Bip bar

This ancient corner in the middle of Copacabana was listed as Patrimônio Cultural do Rio de Janeiro (Cultural Heritage of Rio de Janeiro) and still opening its doors every day for the past 70 years.

BIP-BIP is one of the simplest place you will visit, but also one of the most original too.

The bar, led by the grumpy and lovable Alfredinho (who has unfortunately passed away), has no waiters, does not accept credit cards, you have to stand in the street, speak quietly, not allowed to clap, serve yourself with drinks… and, clean up your glasses at the end. Even still, there is not one single person who won’t fall in love with this magic samba stronghold.

They do not hire the musicians. If you like, you bring your own instrument and join them. However, the quality is such that, only the really good ones dare to pull one of the chairs.

On Fridays, who leads the samba are the women. And on Sundays, there are political debates. Besides that, there is choro and partido alto every night (variation of samba).

People used to come to Big-Bip to get Alfredinho’s blessing, be told off for no particular reason and stay until the end in order to help him out with the chairs – RIP!

If we are talking about night out, let’s head to Lapa

If Brazil is famous for big parties, Lapa is the heart of it! The neighbourhood started being occupied on the XVIII century and since then it has been a party destination.

The restaurant and coffee shops were the main destination for intellectuals, samba writers and artists until the 40s. It went through an abandoned and decaying process, when around the 90s, it recovered its prestige and went back on again.

Surrounded by hundreds of bars, restaurants, clubs, street handcraft markets, Lapa is a must for party goers in the Carioca night, for all tastes, budgets and tribes.

Circo Voador

Ladies and Gentleman, I introduce to you the most famous and emblematic showroom in Rio de Janeiro… the Circo Voador (The Flying Circus)!

The aka Circo started as a gigantic improvised tent in ArpoadorIt was moved to Lapa in 1982 and has been a landmark of the city ever since.

Here, it hosted bands such as Barão Vermelho with Cazuza, Blitz with Evandro Mesquita, from Maluco Beleza of Raúl Seixas to Tim Maia as well! All of them, icons of the Brazilian music.

If you are around Rio at any time of the year, it is always worth checking out their website to see the lineup, which is almost always the case excellent! Let alone the fact that it is right below one of the main Rio’s tourist attractions, the Arco da Lapa (Lapa’s Arch).

what to do in Rio de Janeiro
Lapa´s Arch near Circo Voador

Fundição Progresso

Pretty much in the same street of Circo, the Fundição Progresso is another very special showroom. And one of the biggest in Rio too. The place is an old amphitheatre which hosts big concerts today. It is another part of Lapa, which deserves your attention.

Rio Scenariun

Also known as Pavilhão da Cultura (Culture Pavilion). It was elected by the illustrious British newspaper “The Guardian” as one of the world’s ten best bars. But it goes beyond just a bar. In fact, it is a mix of bar, restaurant and nightclub.

In here, there are samba bands, forró and all sorts of Brazilian music. The ideal place for a gringo (how Brazilians call foreigners) to feel what Brazil is like. There it goes, that explains the newspaper’s award.

On the top floor, there is also a sort of a nightclub, with pop, electronic and house music. The gringos go crazy… Ah, my mother loves it too!

And it makes totally sense. It is a chateau built in XIX century, with almost 10.000 square feet, decorated in a very Brazilian way, with good food and drinks. Yes, it is indeed one of the most tourist nightclubs in Rio. It’s at the charming Rua do Lavradio (Lavradio Street) and you can walk to the Arcos da Lapa.

But to be fair…

As I said, Lapa is a place with endless possibilities. In order to not leave any of it behind, let’s quickly pop in some of them, have one cheeky little pint, and carry on with our tour…

Forró dos Democráticos

Every Wednesday, there is the Forró dos Democráticos (Democratic Forró), always attended by interesting people, and it always has a band which will make you dance a lot. It’s on Riachuelo Street and it goes on until about 4 am.

Semente Bar

The Semente Bar is the MPB (Brazilian Popular Music) stronghold. It is not unusual to see figures like Chico Boarque or Yamandu Costa around there. And the music is always of the best quality.

Depósito da Ladeira

There is also the famous Depósito da Ladeira (Storage Slope, don’t ask us why!), in a very “boteco” style (a Brazilian pub, with no doors, plastic tables and chairs, beers sold by big bottles and finger food). It is simple and surely the cheapest in Lapa. A perfect place to have a last drink before getting into a club, or a good stop for those heading to Escadaria Selaron.

what to do in Rio de Janeiro
Felipe Atra (Tomate) and us at Escadaria Selaron

Cachaça Bar

In this similar style, there is the Cachaça Bar, where you can taste more than 1000 types of the most traditional Brazilian spirit. Usually, everyone goes there to have that one for the road and it seems that the place never shuts and it is always crowded.

The Carioca da Gema also always have good samba groups and it has live music every day.

The Rio 40 Graus is more like the Rio Scenariun. It’s indoor, with live music, crowded, flirtation, tourists, it has all!

The not-so-loud places to go in Rio de Janeiro at night

Enough of loud music, I want you to sit down, drink and find a date


The most famous bar in the South Zone opened its doors in 1956 and, despite being located in the most posh neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, it is very simple and traditional. Yet, it has all the charm of the Leblon’s girls.

The right choice at any day of the week, at any hour of the night. The Jobi has been always very busy and full of beautiful people. It’s not guaranteed you will sit down, but you will surely drink well and find yourself a date!

It is on Ataulfo de Paiva Street, just two blocks away from the beach.

Very close to Jobi is the Belmonte, another good choice, also very popular and sought after. This one, however, with the budget and the atmosphere of Leblon.

Baixo Gávea

The Baixo Gávea, aka BG for those who knows, is a street with a few options of bars and restaurants. Some are more sophisticated and some are quieter. But, the “thing” really is to stay in the street, exchanging glances, meeting new people and having good conversations.

From Wednesday to Sunday the crowd is guaranteed. If happens to be a match day, then, you will feel like you are in Maracanã and not in the Santos Dumont Square!

Mureta da urca

The pint is cold, there are interesting people passing by, but something is missing…

Where are Rio’s beautiful landscapes?

To be in a carioca land is to be sure you will have fun. But even better if you have a beautiful view, isn’t it? Then, Rio is just the best.

There is nothing compared to an afternoon at Mureta da Urca.

Or having a beer watching the sunset toasting with the Baía de Guanabara (Guanabara Bay) is remarkable!

The Wall (mureta) is full of people, but you really want to stay in front of the Bar da Urca (Urca Bar).

Da Laje

Wait a moment, who said there is nothing compared to Mureta da Urca? Especially if we are talking about beautiful views.

Then, my dear, the Da Laje Bar puts up an ugly fight – well, not ugly, really impressive!

Da Laje is one of the trendiest and hipster bars in Rio de Janeiro. It’s nestled at the top of Vidigal Hill, a very quiet, nice community (favelas) that has one of the most beautiful views of Rio de Janeiro. You can see the whole South Zone coast from there.

what to do in Rio de Janeiro
The view of the Morro Dois Irmãos

The bar has live music, beautiful people, feijoada on Saturdays (a typical Brazilian dish with black beans and pork) and the view. Have I mentioned the view yet? Apologies, but yeah, the view is breathtaking!

To wrap up the fun, the tip is to go up there in a motorcycle taxi. The tour around the community will be extra beautiful experience!

The proper night-out in Rio de Janeiro

Are you warmed up already? So Let’s get down on it!

“What’s the difference between charm and funk? One dances beautifully, the other elegantly.” As the old funk says…

One of the legacies of Rio de Janeiro for the Brazilian music scene, it’s the funk! What has begun as a hit only in the favelas and suburbs of Rio, it nowadays takes the country by storm. I dare anyone not to shake that when hearing the beats of funk.

Baile Charme de Madureira

A variation of funk, the “baile charme” (something like the “charming dance”) is the new sensation of the moment. It is a dance which everyone follows the same steps, in a great choreography. The result is very interesting.

Even for those less fortunate with the rhythm, to join the dance, following the steps and moves with sensuality, it’s something rather fun.

And it is in the north zone of Rio the most baile charme of the city happens, the Baile de Madureira (Madureira Dance). The place itself is an interesting site because it happens under the Viaduto Prefeito Negrão Lima (Mayor Negrão Lima Flyover), open air, amid a modern and urban scenario. It starts around midnight, every Saturday, and it has no time to end.

Castelo das Pedras

Those who really want to feel what truly a Baile Funk is, has to head to Castelo das Pedras (Castle Rock). It is in the heart of the Rio das Pedras community and, despite being of difficult access, it is a pacified favela and the party has already become a tourist destination. It is always full of gringos and curious people who wants to hit the dance floor.

Hey drummers, the time is now

It doesn’t matter the time of the year. If you are in Rio de Janeiro and you HAVE to see a samba school.

what to do in Rio de Janeiro
* Photo from Flickr by Prefeitura de Florianopolis *

To feel the power of the drums, the feelings of the community, the colours of the carnival and, of course, the beauty of the dancers, is to live an unique spectacle in the world.

For this reason, we left for last the attraction which has more to do with Brazil and Rio de Janeiro.

No matter your favourite samba school, MangueiraPortelaSalgueiro, Imperatriz or Beija-Flor, I am sure you will sing until you lose your voice and dance until the sun rises.

About the Author
what to do in Rio de Janeiro
Felipe Atra, aka Tomate, has worked in some Brazilian TV shows such as CQC, scriptwriter for Xuxa, writes for Multishow, Globosat travel programmes, and, currently, is directing a programme for the Off Channel. This is only in his spare time, as his night and bohemian side of life still occupying most of his agenda. Therefore, no one better to open up the door of the Carioca’s night.
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