Shopaholics in Rio de Janeiro are sure to take much pleasure in browsing the boutiques, stores and makeshift stalls of the city. But if you want to maximize your shopping experience, then it's time to head out to Barra da Tijuca.
This wealthy West Zone neighborhood has earned itself the nickname as the "United States of Barra," thanks to its wide avenues flanked by tall condominiums and sprawling shopping malls, making it feel more like Miami than Rio de Janeiro.
But while it may lack a real sense of Carioca charm, this modern beach suburb – which will be the hub of sporting activity during the 2016 Rio Olympics – offers no end of opportunity for shopaholics to indulge their passion.
Barra Shopping is Brazil's largest mall — Photo courtesy of Sadi Junior
Of several malls in Barra, the largest is Barra Shopping (In a rather avant-garde spot of linguistic liberty-taking, Brazilians call shopping malls "shoppings."), which is home to over 700 stores as well as multiple drinking and dining options.
The mammoth mall recently merged with neighboring Shopping New York City Center – famous for its large-scale imitation Statue of Liberty – to become the largest in Brazil. Today it offers a multi-screen cinema (showing Hollywood blockbusters, what else?) as well as some genuinely appealing dining options, even counting private medical surgeries among its many amenities.
The center covers almost a mile, taking in landscaped gardens and cultural spaces for live theater and musical performances.
But shopping is the main reason to come here, and visitors could easily while away an entire day browsing the stores, which range from designer bikini stores and intimate boutiques to high-street fashion stores and electronic goods retailers.
The culinary options are many and varied, with options for quick bites – whether in the form of fast and healthy juices, giant burgers and hot dogs or cheese-filled pastries – sit-down sushi or even the familiar feel of Starbucks.
As a rainy day option for families and the fashion-conscious crowd, Barra Shopping is a good bet. And while its location some 30 minutes' cab ride (on a traffic-free day) from Copacabana or Ipanema is a bit of a drag, transport links are set to improve in 2015, as the neighborhood gears up to host the lion's share of events, and the Olympic Village, during Rio 2016.
Planned metro stations and fast bus corridors will help Barra feel less removed from the rest of Rio, and they may even entice visitors to explore its other major attraction: a 14-kilometer white sand beach.