It seems like Rio is the city that doesn’t sleep. These are the best spots to experience Rio’s nightlife.
I was studying in Rio for 5 months and during the time when I didn’t have a lot of classes I went out about 4 times a week. I was 27 then and when living in Israel you would probably have to convince me to go out to a party or to a bar even if it’s once a week.
Rio’s nightlife is so different, especially during the months preceding Carnival (around January). In Rio, you will find there’s a party for any type of music, crowd and day of the week. The best way to find out about parties that are not touristic is to like the Facebook pages of some of the spots I mention below and check out the events in the area (Facebook will let you know of events nearby).
But, before giving you this extensive list of amazing places here are some warnings:
These words of advice apply to almost all the places in this list, but especially to public places and outdoors hanging out spots such as Lapa.
Always have extra cash hidden on you in case you get robbed. Do not come wearing jewelry or anything ostentatious. Do not talk on the phone or have it out unless you need it to order an uber back.
If someone touches you, pushes you, taps your shoulder or gets too close to you in any other manner immediately check if you have your personal belonging on you. Do not engage with intoxicated people in the area.
Don’t get separated from your group or wander to isolated spots (even if you want to take a leak, do it where everybody else does).
The recommended way to get to those places after sunset is with an Uber or Cabify. It’s cheap and safer than taking the metro and walking at night.
Now, after saying all of this let me tell you something, I was robbed in Rio and so did many of my friends. Most of the times it happened because we weren’t careful. More importantly, do not let this list of warnings intimidate you! Rio’s nightlife is absolutely amazing! it’s diverse and there is something for everyone. Do not miss out on this experience.
So, you can enjoy Rio’s nightlife hanging out at different bars and clubs but the best way is to enjoy it is by going out to the streets of Rio. So I’ll first start with those public spots.
For some more safety warnings for female solo travelers click here.
Pedra do Sal: samba at its best
By far the best place to experience Rio’s nightlife and samba music. Every Monday and Friday night, Pedra do Sal (Rock of Salt) is coming to life as musicians begin to gather at the square at the bottom and the steps that surround it is filled with the crowd.
These “events” are called Roda de Samba (circle of samba) and are mainly spontaneous. The band playing is not paid and there is no equipment to broadcast the music throughout the square. The band simply plays with their instruments and the crowd serves and the choir.
The place has deep origins that connect it to samba since it was a quilombo village (quilombos were formed by slaves) and was recognized for as a Cultural Heritage site. The history of this place is fascinating, read more about it here.
It’s located close to the business district of Rio and the streets that lead to the square you are usually filled with people buying caipirinhas with unconventional fruits like kiwi.
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NOTE: the best way to get there is by Uber but, on your way from the south region of Rio (where you will most likely stay) the GPS might take you or your driver through the favela of Providencia ( known as the first favela of Rio). This is of course not recommend and in case your driver is not from the area, you should try and make sure he or she knows not to pass through there (most of them do).
When to go: every Monday and Friday at 7:30 pm
Address: Praça Mauá (near Largo de São Francisco da Prainha)
Lapa: party in the streets of Rio
Another classic place to experience Rio’s nightlife can be found in the streets of Lapa. You might have been there already during your trip if you visited the colorful steps of Selarón during the day so you might recognize the white arches on top of which the yellow Bonde (tram) passes).
After you go through the arches in the main street there are different clubs and bars to your right and left. In Lapa, I would actually recommend going to a tourist place just because the ones that are not touristic play hardcore funk music and even a huge fan like myself struggled dancing to this music for more than an hour.
The most important thing to remember is that this area is not the safest even during the day so at night it gets even worse. Especially for the ladies. You might get touched here and there but just walk stick to your group and you’ll be fine.
Lapa is probably the #1 location for robberies. Naturally, you will be drinking, taking pictures and paying the vendors. So there are more chances you will let your guards down, and even if you won’t, the robbers of Lapa are pretty clever. If you won’t take note of the warnings I gave above your fun night out might end on a bitter note so please make sure you’re having fun while being careful.
When to go: on the weekends. Friday is generally the best day.
Address: Arcos de Lapa
Botafogo: have a beer with Rio’s students
One of the neighborhoods in Rio’s southern zone (the tourist area) is Botafogo. In the recent decade, this neighborhood became very popular among students and young people and it’s the perfect place to mingle with these crowds. Along the main road of Botafogo (at the exit from the metro stop: Botafogo) you will find many bars and casual dining spots.
When to go: on the weekends
Address: all around Rua Voluntários da Pátria
Copacabana: have a beer with the ocean breeze
After a day of exploring the city, you will be exhausted. If you still want to go out but not go far simply go to one of the bars along the Copacabana beach. After sunset, these bars transform from serving coconuts to the beachgoers to serving drinks. If you’re lucky you will get to one that has a live band playing Brazilian classics that will make you want to drop your beer glass and start dancing.
When to go: every evening (but Sunday)
Address: along Copacabana beach
Pedra do Leme: from the beach to the bar
Copacabana’s beach strip ends with the Leme Rock that marks the beginning of Leme neighborhood. In Front of this rock, you will find a couple of bars. These bars are usually very busy and the prices might be just a little bit highe but this is an excellent spot for you to sit with some fries and watch the sun setting over the Copacabana beach.
When to go: every evening
Address: Pedra do Leme
Fosfobox: different party lineups and LGBTQ oriented
This club is at Copacabana and has a great variety of lineups- from Britney Spears and 90’s music to Brazilians oldies. They have a party almost every night which is great if you won’t be in Rio over the weekend but still want to party. You can access their calendar of lineups here. I was there on a night with all my favorite Brazilian classics and love it. The place is pretty small and is below the ground. It’s also known as LGBTQ oriented club but in reality, you will find a diverse crowd (So if you want a strictly gay club this might not be the place for you).
When to go: Whenever they advertise a party on their Facebook page
Address: Rua Siqueira Campos, 143 – Copacabana
Price: 30R$(varies between men and women and according to the lineup)
Palaphita: dancing till the sun comes up
This club is more similar to what you will find around the world and includes mainstream and Latin American music. What makes it special is the tropical decor and the fact that it’s some parts of the bar are open and some are covered by a cabana-like roof. The place is pretty big and has two bars, a lounge area, and a dancefloor. So it takes some time until it fills up but oftentimes, the later you enter the more you pay so you might considering getting there early having a drink in the meantime.
Palaphite has 3 clubs and the closest one for tourists (and the one I’ve been to) is in the Lagoa. During Carnival, they will have a great show with pretty famous Brazilian singers. I was lucky to be in one of those parties and loved it.
When to go: Whenever they advertise a party on their facebook page
Address: Palaphita Lagoa- Av. Epitácio Pessoa, S/N
Price: 30R$- 60 R$ (varies between men and women and according to the lineup)
Alto Vidigal: partying in the favela
On top of the favela of Vidigal, you will find a hostel with a dance bar that allows you to party with the view of Rio from its balcony. I will be honest, we weren’t that excited about this place since it’s filled with tourists and while it’s in the favela, the favela population cannot go into the bar since the cover is too high. So, it’s a bit controversial. We ended up there because they had a special Setanejo party, which I love. In order to get there you will have to take an Uber to the entrance of the favela and then take a moto taxi or wait for the white van to take you to the top of the favela. If you made it, make sure you stay till the sunrise. Note: this is not a Baile Funk- the funk party advertised for tourists, but a normal club in the favela.
When to go: Whenever they advertise a party on their Facebook page
Address: Top of Vidigal
Price: around 50R$