Partiers looking to discover the hedonistic heart of Rio de Janeiro won't find it by the beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon. For the true taste of nightlife in Rio, there's only one neighborhood to head for, and that's Lapa. Located at the historic center of Rio's downtown, this party district has long been synonymous with alcohol-fueled excess, and until recently had become something of a hotbed for crime and a somewhat seedy nocturnal scene. Today, many of the crumbling mansions have been given a lick of paint and transformed into hip bars and lively nightclubs, as part of an ongoing gentrification that has also seen an increased police presence and an influx of cosmopolitan clubbers heading in from Rio's affluent Zona Sul. Locals rub shoulders with the ever-growing number of foreign visitors heading here to dance the night away in clubs such as long-standing favorite Scenarium or to exchange chat up lines at the legendary weekend street parties that pack out the area around the iconic Arcos da Lapa. While some mourn the fact that Lapa's down-and-dirty dive bars are becoming wiped out by the new wave of hip hangouts such as Leviano and Barzinho, there's no questioning the fact that this remains the destination of choice for those who like to party hard. A few words to the wise - leave valuables at home (pickpockets remain a problem), wear comfy dancing shoes and prepare to party until dawn.
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