The warm climate and Cariocas' predilection for parties have made Rio de Janeiro one of the most unique and edifying places for nighttime revelry.
I LOVE RIO winds through the vibrant districts of the city, climbs its hills and enters its bars from dusk to dawn to bring readers information on the most interesting nighttime recreations. Snooker bars, rock clubs, samba nights, street parades, parties and carnival rehearsals are unearthed, along with the most sophisticated, exotic and buzzing bars – food, beverages, music and clientele. I LOVE RIO helps visitors and residents make the very most of the city's eclectic, wild and wonderfully unique nighttime banquet.
BOHEMIAN AND CHIQUE, ALWAYS UNIQUE
Nightlife in Rio de Janeiro can be as diverse as the dozens of neighborhoods and musical rhythms that populate the city. Rio's nightlife is wholly unique and accepting - welcoming into its fold people of all tastes, backgrounds and orientations. It is filled with vibrant music, a spectrum of color, glitter, childishness and sensuality.
Carioca nightlife spans from large clubs playing modern music, to small establishments offering the best of rhythms such as Samba and Bossa Nova, while dozens of theaters entertain visitors and residents alike with plays, readings, ballet, and an ever-changing mix or performing arts.
The world famous districts of Ipanema and Leblon are home to a variety of chique and refined bars, restaurants, and clubs - with live music, pre-recorded, and dj's available at many locations with varied programs throughout the week.
The bohemian district of Lapa is now the place to go for live Samba music, small informal bars, and a very lively scene rich of kiosks, random drinks, and street performers.
Cradles of culture and musical styles, Rio's favelas have become the main theater for Funk music celebrations and concerts, staging ever larger parties attracting visitors and music lovers from all over the world.
In the months preceding the carnival celebrations, Samba offerings become the main theme across all neighborhoods of the city, with rehearsals and live performances happening in small bars, famous establishments, and public squares.
Rio de Janeiro's warm climate stimulates outdoor activities both during the day and at night, further inspiring a truly social and sparkling nightlife throughout the year.
In the mysterious after-dark, artists often find their talent enriched. Indeed, quintessential and celebrated Carioca music was largely born and developed in the shadows of the night, including jazz, Bossa Nova, Tropicalia, Samba and Funk Carioca.
Throughout the history of the city, the nightlife evolved according to local culture and world trends, mixing and developing in an uniquely Carioca way.
The arrival of the Royal Family in 1822 formalized Rio's nighttime recreations in line with Portuguese and European ballroom fashions. The tone and nature of festivities was set by the court and determined by the parties and balls that they threw. In 1889, an illustrious Royal ball was held on Ilha Fiscal, entertaining over 4,000 guests with a heady cocktail of feast, dance and fantasy. Unbeknownst to hosts and guests, the lavish party would mark the end of royal rule and usher in a new phase in the population's recreations.
Towards the end of the 19th Century nighttime culture was influenced by Parisian "boemia." A number of Parisian-style theatres were created, such as the Moulin Rouge in 1891. In 1909 the Teatro Municipal (Municipal Theatre) was inaugurated, one of the most striking and baroque buildings in the city, which still stands today. These establishments ran varied programs of theater, circus, concerts and balls.
To limit to some degree European dominance in the city, a law was passed in 1901, decreeing that cultural houses and landmarks be given Brazilian as opposed to European names, further stimulating the development of a local music and nighttime culture and resulting in today's iconic Carioca nightlife philosophy.
Chopp (beer) establishments began to emerge at the turn of the century ushering in an outdoor nighttime culture which perfectly suited the tropical climate. Women began to frequent these new communal spaces, as well as squares, theatres and concert halls, which had previously been exclusively male domains. Flirting, which had previously been confined to daytime salon visits, began to take on a more carefree nighttime nature.
Citizens of African descent started to attend popular spaces, resulting into a significant impact on their engagement and influence on Brazilian music, coinciding with the emergence of Samba and carnival. In the 1920s, Jazz, Charleston and Samba dances filled the clubs and bars of the city, leading Olavo Bilac, a renowned journalist of the time, to declare Rio, “the dance city."
Lapa consecrated itself as the city's bohemian heartland in the 1920s, replete with cabarets, bars and casinos. It was known as the tropical Montmartre in allusion to its Parisian influences and, like its French forefather, the region brought together artists, intellectuals, aristocrats, politicians, and a variety of people from all walks of life. It was a highly cosmopolitan neighborhood, home to a vast spectrum of musical genres, including Classical Orchestras, Jazz, piano and Samba. Artists and writers of the time spoke of two co-existing Lapas – the overt, intellectual milieu and the darker, more covert underworld.
With the formation of Cinelândia towards the middle of the century, along with other widespread urban reforms, Lapa was largely abandoned by intellectuals and artists, and left to its more subversive counterparts, until the districts redevelopment and discovery of the last decades, restoring Lapa to its original charm and glory.
In 1934 the "Casino da Urca" became the biggest performance theatre in South America, offering a decadent fusion of gambling, theatre, cabaret, music and dance. Following the re-legalization of gambling in 1930 hundreds of casinos, from sophisticated establishments to rough-and-ready joints, emerged to accommodate the tastes and incomes of the population. In 1946 gambling was prohibited across the country, drawing a close to casino culture in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil.
In the 1990s Lapa went through a series of urban reforms, altering its somewhat transgressive image and giving it a new wave of cultural effervescence. The district has therefore gone full circle, re-emerging as cultural cornerstone of the city by night.
On Fridays and Saturdays, in particular the main stretch of road by the famous Lapa aqueduct arcs, comes to life with vendors selling cocktails, beers and delicious street food, such as barbecued meat and pastries. A diverse cross-section of the city's population and visitors mingle in the vibrant atmosphere, while groups of dancers and singers form small circles and perform to enraptured audiences.
A wide range of clubs line the streets of the district, playing traditional music, such as Samba, Forró and Funk. The neighborhood is now is a highly esteemed musical theatre, where some of the most celebrated Brazilian and international artists regularly perform.
A key component of the nighttime culture of the city are the local bars called "boutequims." A continuation of the early beer houses of the city, these bars tend to have a simple and unembellished décor, which adds to their homely feel, while tables and chairs mounted on the pavement outside lend them open-air warmth. They sell an assortment of traditional bar foods, including meat and bean dishes, pastries, cod balls, soups and shrimp, as well as more daring and inventive creations.
A mix between bars, restaurants and music houses typically Carioca establishments welcome visitors with both local dishes and live performances, with high-end locations normally spread in the southern zone of rio, along the main avenues of Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon and in the western zone throughout Barra da Tijuca. Furthermore, many of the luxury hotels in the region pride themselves with boutique bars geared toward high-end crowds and international music offerings, often with live dj's.
Another central and unique characteristic of Carioca nighttime is its gravitation towards the city's plazas and squares. Baixo Gávea (Lower Gávea), located in the vicinity of Praça Santos Dumont (Saint Dumont Square), is a synthesis of trendy informality in Rio. Cariocas flit between bars and vendors, meeting old friends and making new, drinking cold beer and snacking on toasted peanuts or pastries. Nestled between the districts of Laranjeiras and Flamengo is Praça São Salvador, which comes to life each night with music, dance, laughter and conversation. It epitomizes the relaxed charms of Rio's outdoor night culture, where musicians congregate to play a vast array of rhythms, most notably Samba, Chorinho, Jazz and acoustic guitar. These performances are enjoyed by merry and enraptured audiences, who tend to break out into dance when the mood strikes.
Colorful, lively, and welcoming to all, Rio de Janeiro by night offers a truly wide and diverse range of entertaining options, for all budgets and tastes as rich of surprises as it is of energy and vibrancy.