If You Like in Rio de Janeiro

Music

Finding music in Rio is as about as hard as finding the ocean. There is plenty of sertaneja, forró, MPB (translated literally as Brazilian Popular Music), bossa nova, choro, and irreverent funk carioca. Lapa is where you can get closest to the true pulse of the samba revival. Upscale bars in nicer neighborhoods offer classic bossa nova.

Bip Bip. One of the most traditional spots in the city for samba, this tiny Copacabana bar lets amateurs mix with the pros in impromptu jam sessions, while photos of various samba legends look on from the wall. Rua Almirante Gonçalves 50, Copacabana.

Rio Scenarium. The grande dame of downtown, and located a few shakes away from the Lapa aqueduct, the Scenarium’s interior—a cross between an antiques store and movie set—is certainly worth a look. The nightly shows feature different acts playing any of the above-mentioned styles. Rua do Lavradio 20, Lapa.

Toca do Vinicius. Named after Vinicius de Moraes, poet, singer, and one of the founding fathers of the form, this book and record store dedicated to all things Bossa Nova holds live music shows Rua Vinicius de Moraes 129, Ipanema. 

Outdoor Sports

Rio de Janeiro has been blessed with a varied geographical landscape—exuberant flora, miles of beaches, rugged mountains, and lush jungles—within its city limits. The more active and adventurous travelers can easily fill their days and nights with a multitude of adrenaline-pumping activities.

Biking. Rio has miles of bike paths around the city, a nice way of getting exercise while seeing the city from a different perspective. A citywide bike rental system makes it easy and cheap to hire a bike—look for the bright orange bikes parked at strategic locations across the south zone and downtown. Passes for the bikes can be bought at bikerio.tembici.com.br/. A great route runs along the beach from Leblon all the way to Parque do Flamengo.

Hang Gliding. There are a number of companies that can take you from mountaintop to beachside in what may be the most exciting (and longest) 30 minutes of your life. Watch them land at the Praia do São Conrado.

Hiking. Given the changeable weather and the harsh terrain, guides are recommended for all major walks and climbs in Rio. Our favorite hikes include the trail up Corcovado from Parque Lage and the trip through Tijuca Forest to Pico da Tijuca.

Surfing. If you're keen on not merely wearing all manner of surfing attire filling nearly every shop window but actually riding some waves, Praia do Arpoador is the most popular surf spot and has great breaks. Praia do Diabo, between Ipanema and Copacabana, is smaller, but the view and the waves are hard to beat.

Sidewalk Cafés

Much of Rio's famed easygoing nature can be found in its sidewalk bars and cafés, where you can chat the night away while sipping smooth, foamy draft beer or seemingly subzero bottled beers poured into tiny glasses. Called botequim, or simply botecos, these small, casual bars offer the aforementioned beer and plentiful appetizers, but more than anything, a taste of what makes this city by the sea so eminently livable.

Bar Garota de Ipanema. If you want to tell your friends that you sat where Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes wrote "The Girl from Ipanema," go to the bar that was renamed after their song. Rua Vinicius de Moraes 39, Ipanema.

Bar Luiz. Since 1927, locals have flocked to this bar for the best chopp (draft beer) in town. The chopp comes in light and dark varieties, both served incredibly cold. Nosh on sausages and other German specialties as you imbibe. Rua da Carioca 39, Centro.

Bracarense. Relaxed and straightforward, this popular local hangout spreads its tables haphazardly around the surrounding sidewalk, leaving plenty of room for the folks milling in between. Rua Jose Linhares 85, Leblon.

Overwhelming Spectacle

Without changing seasons to measure the passing of time, the orbit of the Brazilian year swings heavily around two events stuck at one end of the calendar, and between which nothing seems to happen at all. New Year’s (called Réveillon, from the French) serves to close the business of the old year, and Carnival allows everyone to max out on fun (or rest) in order to get in the proper mind-set to start it all over again. Rio's version of both these events is the shiniest, most produced, and in many ways, the center of national attention while the celebration rages. A lot of the city's natives flee during these dates, but none will deny that you have to experience the full glory of each holiday at least once—and each event has one spot where everybody wants to be.

New Year’s Eve on the Beach. In a tradition borrowed from the Candomblé religion, Brazilians wear white and jump seven waves at the turning of the year, sending flowers off into the waters. That means that when the 31st comes, everyone wants to be on the beach, and everyone flocks to Rio.

Sambódromo at Carnival. Though the party is citywide, this Oscar Niemayer–designed hybrid of stadium and street holds hordes of revelers who are willing to endure crushing crowds and sky-high ticket prices to see the glitz and feel the pounding power of the samba schools up close.

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