Less than a decade ago, the downtown neighborhood of Lapa was virtually a no-go area for tourists, with its crumbling historic buildings home to less than salubrious nightspots. Today, the area has been given a new lease of life, and Lapa is the liveliest nightlife location in Rio.
See & Do
Lapa lies at the heart of Rio´s historic center, and the buildings here are some of the oldest in the city. Rua da Lavradio is a street flanked by tall and handsome colonial buildings, most of which now function as antiques stores or bar-restaurants. Nearby, the Arcos da Lapa (Lapa Arches) are an eye-catching former aqueduct and an iconic image of bohemian Rio.
The historic streets of Lapa are paved with relaxed bar-restaurants serving inexpensive ´prato feito´ (set meals, usually involing meat, chicken or fish with rice, beans, salad and fries), as well as buffet restaurants allowing diners to serve themselves from a staggering array of meaty and meat-free choices. Among the best for the price is Kilograma, which has a branch on Rua Riachuelo - one of Lapa´s main thoroughfares.
Forget the sleek and chic nightspots of Ipanema and Leblon, for the real Rio nightlife you need to head to Lapa. Until fairly recently a no-go area notorious for crime, the area has been given a major makeover and is now home to the liveliest nightlife in Rio. Spots such as Rio Scenarium and Manifesta Lapa are great places to dance, while a major street party happens by the Arcos da Lapa each weekend.
Lapa is home to some affordable backpacker hostels and, while these are not aimed at luxury travellers, they are comfortable and lively spots that are ideally placed for enjoying the hedonistic nightlife of Rio´s historic center. Lapa has good bus and Metro links to the beaches too, making hostels such as Lapa Hostel ideal for sightseers and partiers who don´t mind a bit of noise.