Rio nightlife is all about the music — Photo courtesy of Daniel Jay HofmanThere's no questioning the fact that Rio is a party city like no other. This is the city that brought Carnival to the world's attention, after all, and the locals' love of showstopping outfits and sexy samba moves does not wane with the end of Carnival season.
Year-round hot temperatures mean that street parties and sidewalk drinking are always popular pastimes, while Rio's nightclubs range from hipster hangouts playing 1960s Tropicalia tunes to live music palaces where locals sweep around the dance floor to never less-than-impressive effect.
Much of the city's more laidback night spots can be found in Botafogo, Santa Teresa and Lapa, while Copacabana is home to seedier hangouts, and super-affluent Ipanema and Leblon are the places to find chic lounges filled with beautiful people who don't raise so much as an eyebrow at the sky-high prices for entrance, food and drink.
3 pm, Ipanema
Spend the afternoon on Ipanema beach, perfecting that tan in preparation for the festivities that await. It would be folly to begin drinking so early (and with the sun high in the sky), so keep yourself hydrated with plenty of coconut water, which will set you up for caipirinhas later on. Beach vendors pass by selling everything from grilled cheese on a stick to shrimp, so take your pick of beach snacks as the day wears on to avoid drinking on an empty stomach.
7 pm, Leblon
After freshening up at your hotel, hostel or apartment, head to Jobi in Leblon. This small bar may look unassuming, but it is a real Rio institution and a perfect example of the Rio boteco (laidback bar/restaurant) at its best. The bolinhos de bacalhau (crispy balls of cod and potato) here are arguably the best in the city and make a great companion to an ice-cold chopp (draught beer) or the first caipirinha of the evening.
Soak up the relaxed ambiance - Jobi is a world away from the more formal, somewhat stuffy bars that predominate in Leblon.
9 pm, Botafogo
Jump on the Metro and alight at Botafogo, a largely residential neighborhood that is home to many of the most interesting bars and clubs in Rio. Handily, it's located between the beaches of the Zona Sul and the downtown party district of Lapa, so it makes a good stopping-off point.
There's a large student population here, which lends a youthful vibe to proceedings, and simple pavement bars selling affordable food and drink are abundant. For a funkier hangout, try the hip cocktail bar Maldita.
As the clock strikes 12 on a Friday night in Rio, no self-respecting partier should be anywhere else but Lapa. The famously lively Friday night street party will be in full swing by now - with ample opportunities to sample dangerously drinkable fruity cocktails from street stalls, while taking in the street scene.
Warning: Fruit cocktails in Lapa really pack a punch — Photo courtesy of Daniel Jay Hoffman
Tens of thousands of locals and tourists alike descend on Lapa each Friday, and while there are numerous bars and clubs here (Manifesta Lapa is good fun with one of the most eclectic musical policies in town), it can be fun just to spend the night wandering from stall to stall, making new friends as you go.
A word to the wise though, pre-arrange a meeting point if you get lost from your group (the chaos, crowds and noise can be disorienting) and leave valuables at home as, despite an increased police presence, pickpockets continue to be an annoyance.