To the uninitiated, Monday nights in Rio de Janeiro can seem pretty subdued. Many bars and restaurants are closed, and, aside from a few tourist-focused Casas do Show, there's little by way of live music. But what many visitors don't know is that, as they sit sipping a beer at a half-empty beach kiosk, one of the biggest parties in the city is taking place away from the tourist trail.
Any Rio partier worth their salt knows that Monday nights mean one thing: the legendary Roda da Samba (live samba sessions) at Pedra do Sal, in the historic downtown neighborhood of Saude.
Throughout the city's history, this area of Rio – nicknamed "Little Africa" for the large number of freed slaves who settled there – has been a focal point of the samba scene, and it continues to attract some of the best musicians in town.
Rio's street parties attract a lively mix of revelers — Photo courtesy of AHLN
At Pedra do Sal, entrance is free; drinks, served from styrofoam boxes and makeshift caipirinha stands, are cheap; and the live music is some of the best you'll hear in the city.
All you need to bring is your party spirit!
The party takes place around a huge flat rock – the Pedra do Sal, or "Salt Rock," that gives the location its name – which functions as an outdoor dance floor once the music gets going.
The al-fresco nature of the party means that the fun grinds to a halt, or the party never takes place at all– if the rain begins to lash down. But on dry Monday evenings, there's no better place to hone your samba skills.
With an atmosphere that's less edgy than that at the (in)famous weekend street parties in Lapa, this is a party that breaks down social barriers, with samba fans young and old, rich and poor – all merrily rubbing shoulders . . . and an increasing number of out-of-towners coming along to join in the fun.
The party gets going soon after the workday finishes, so expect things to be lively after around 7 p.m.
As with almost all large gatherings in Rio, you'll need to keep your wits about you and take common sense safety precautions. The surrounding area – while at the heart of a major gentrification project prior to the 2016 Rio Olympics – remains less than safe to wander around after dark.
So take cabs to and from the party, getting out at the steep steps that lead up to the rock itself. Bring only the cash you need, and don't keep it in your back pockets, and try not to overdo it on the cooling and all-too-drinkable caipirinha popsicles!