In just a few years, Rio de Janeiro's downtown Lapa neighborhood has been transformed from a somewhat seedy hangout to the city's undisputed nightlife hub. At the heart of the area's gentrification has been the historic Rua do Lavradio.
The last half-decade has seen an increased police presence lend extra security to an area of the city that was once a virtual no-go area after dark, and as the legendary weekend street parties have become the focal part of nocturnal activity for tens of thousands of locals and visitors, the surrounding area has seen a rush of new bar and nightclub openings that are a world away from the simple hole-in-the-wall spots that once surrounded the iconic Lapa arches.
Rua do Lavradio is a lively place by night — Photo courtesy of Fabiano Caruso
And while some longtime Lapa fans feel that the gentrification has come at the expense of the neighborhoods rough-around-the-edges charm, there's no doubting that Lapa now offers nightlife options that cater to pretty much every taste.
Nowhere is this better illustrated than at Rua do Lavradio, a historic street that attracts antiques collectors by day and partiers by night. A short walk from the famous arches, Rua do Lavradio until recently featured on the tourist nightlife radar solely because of Rio Scenarium, a classic samba club housed in the unusual confines of an old movie props warehouse.
While until fairly recently Scenarium was considered safe to visit after dark only by taking door-to-door taxis, today it's in good company, thanks to some interesting nightspots that have opened up nearby.
Barzinho is a particular standout, a cool and kooky little hangout that prides itself on quality live acts from samba to hip hop, along with DJs that span the musical spectrum. Regular vinyl-only nights have made Barzinho a hit with Rio hipsters, while promotions such as two-for-one caipirinha happy hours attract enough trade from passing partiers to ensure that it's in no danger of becoming an elitist hangout.
Elsewhere, the pavement cafes housed in tall and handsome colonial buildings draw trade from local workers and visiting antiques collectors during daylight hours. But by night, they see a lively crowd gather to listen to live bands and chatter over an ice-cold beer.
Come here in the early evening on a Friday to see the street transform from after-work gathering point to full-on party central.
After a few drinks in the relatively refined surrounds of this street, you may feel it's time to head on down to Lapa Arches and the more raucous gathering that is the famous Lapa Street Party. Things only really get going after midnight, but the booze-fueled flirtathon carries on until dusk.