Meet Cristiano Nogueira, an enthusiastic citizen of trendy Ipanema, but above all, the writer of the humorous city guide: Rio for partiers. Unlike what the title might suggest, this guide is not only about going out at night in Rio de Janeiro. It also covers lots of other stuff, ranging from the museums worth visiting and day trips outside Rio, to neighborhoods you should avoid. One of the great lessons from his guide: don’t wear white socks with sandals while visiting Rio; you’re not in France!
In eleven stops, Cristiano will take us to his favorite places in Rio de Janeiro.
Bar: Adega Perola
A bar hidden in the backstreets of Copacabana, where the average traveler won’t be seen very often. It’s located in the busy Siqueira Campos street, but then a couple of blocks away from the beach. You should definitely go there on a warm summer day in Rio and drink their chopp, a light and refreshing draft beer. Drinking a chopp in Rio is part of the rituals of the locals and this is one of the best places to do it. What sets Adega Pérola apart from other bars – or botecos as we also call them – is their range of appetizers (from Spanish or Portuguese origin). Try their the marinated octopus or the spicy squid.
Restaurant: Espírito Santa
This restaurant will take you to the artsy neighborhood of Santa Teresa, up in the hills of Rio. Eating there is an experience. On the restaurant bar you will find a small buddha statue overlooking the tables, while splendid artwork covers the wall. The chef of Espírito Santa, Natacha Fink, is from Manaus, giving her cooking an extra edge. She uses natural ingredients from the Amazon region and combines them with local and international cooking techniques, creating something new. The food is presented exquisitely, a real treat for the eye.
Street food: Esfiha
Personally I love a esfira filled with beef. You can eat two and it will fill you up. An esfira is savory pie, sold on the streets, beaches and bars. Shaped like a pizza slice, but then closed, filled with beef, mutton or spinach, esfihas are extremely tasty. Brazil has a huge community from Syria and Lebanon, who introduced Brazil many decades ago to typical snacks from the middle east, such as the esfiha. Now, it is part of the national cuisine. My favorite address to buy esfiha is Faraj in Ipanema, a small informal restaurant-bar, with great snacks.
No traveler normally will have a visit to the neighborhood of Laranjeiras on its itinerary. Everyone goes to Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon or the center. But Laranjeiras is an interesting place to go to and shouldn’t be overlooked. Home of a more progressive, intellectual crowd, and very bucolic, the neighborhood has plenty to offer. If you are in Rio on a Saturday, pop by the organic street market in the General Glicério street, where there are fresh fruits and vegetables, homemade patés, jams and cheeses. Around midday, local musicians gather around and play chorinho, a typical instrumental Brazilian music genre. Then, in the afternoon, take a taxi to another square, San Salvador and listen to live samba music. At night this square tends to get busy, while around it there are lots of restaurants and bars. Two bars not to be missed in Laranjeiras: Sonho Lindo (‘beautiful dream’) and Bar do Serafim.
Square: Praça Nelson Mandela
Don’t expect to find your typical square when looking for Praça Nelson Mandela in Botafogo. It’s next to the Botafogo metro station, and there is always lots of stuff going on, especially at night. There are small outlets with people selling craft beer and great quality burgers. Cheap and very good caipirinhas are sold there as well, sweetened with brown sugar and lots of fruit. Also, there are loads of street vendors, and several restaurants, with Asian food, traditional food and even wine bars. Sometimes there is a DJ or band at the square, either way, there is always something exciting happening. Since we are in Botafogo: I would also like to recommend two great hipster bars, both located close to each other: Bar Alice and Comuna. Craft beers and artesanal hamburgers of high quality and an energetic vibe.
Rio’s museum of Art, MAR, always has surprising exhibitions whenever you visit. It can be very eclectic in it’s always present relation between the art and the city of Rio de Janeiro. It is located on the beautiful Mauá square, also the address for the futuristic Museum of Tomorrow. The harbor is around the corner. Just a couple years old, MAR was built there in an attempt to bring back cultural activity to the docks of Rio. The museum is housed in a renovated classic building, all the while keeping a modern touch. When entering the museum, you start on the highest floor, which has a great views of the bay. Then you work your way down to visit the other floors and enjoy the different exhibitions. While you’re there, after leaving the museum, it’s worth checking out the 3.000 square meter mural around the corner, by street artist Eduardo Kobra from São Paulo; it’s awesome.
Gallery: The Moreira Salles institute
Instituto Moreira Salles is an incredible place composed by a mansion once owned by the family Moreira Salles (hence the name), and now a cultural treasure. Located in Gávea, close to the Two Brothers Mountain (‘Morro Dois Irmãos’), the institute is surrounded by trees making it a pleasant refuge from the busy city of Rio de Janeiro. One of its fortes is photography, with an archive of more than 2 million pictures, it is one of the most important institutes in Brazil dedicated to the area. It is recognized as well for its visual arts exhibitions, all featuring local and international artists. A great place to spend a quiet morning or afternoon.
Best View & Drink: Pestana Hotel Copacabana
The Deck Lounge Bar of Pestana just opened in 2017 and is one of those rooftop bars where you can spend the whole night enjoying the great views of Copacabana, including the Sugar Loaf Mountain and Niterói, the neighboring city across the bay of Guanabara. From Thursday till Saturday, DJs will be spinning their music, while you sip your cocktail. Additionally, there is a swimming pool to plunge into on a hot Rio style summer night. Having said that, if you are more of morning person, drop by for a healthy breakfast there, where the menu offers typical Brazilian food like tapioca.
Activity: Hang gliding
Rio is a city for the outdoors. People prefer to be on the street, the beach, in the park, instead of being in closed spaces. The whole day you see cariocas practicing typical sports such as beach volley, footvolley, beach tennis, running, and working out. But if you really want to do an activity in Rio you’ll never forget, hang gliding is your best bet. Rio is one of the few cities you should see from the air, and hang gliding is just the best way to do it. It’s the feel of tropical air in your face, plus the view to the most beautiful spots of the city. Hang gliding has a long tradition here and is very professionally organized, including insurance for the participants.
Forget for a second the famous beaches of Rio, like Copacabana or Ipanema, and start looking for Joatinga beach. In between the São Conrado area and the neighborhood of Barra da Tijuca, the beach is located in an area with grand villas of wealthy Brazilians on clifftops. You’ll need to bring your own snacks and drinks, because you won’t find any beach shacks there selling something. The water there is clear, the views beautiful and the rolling waves can be sensational; a surfer’s paradise. It is a small beach however, stretching up to 200 meters.
No, you’re not going to visit the city of Niterói, but you will be going to its beaches. Yes, Niterói has a number of sensational beaches that are worthwhile visiting. My favorites are Itaipuaçu and Itacoatiara. The first one is a beach only reachable by dirt road, generally pretty quiet and great for longs walks as well because of the stretch of kilometers of sand. Along the way restaurants and bars can be found. However, the sea can get dangerous and wild, so don’t underestimate the pull of the sea. Itacoatiara is a more visited beach, and popular with the surf crowd because of the waves. It can get crowded in the weekends, so you should try to go during weekdays.