Kick Back and Relax at Rio de Janeiro's Best Beach Bars



Nothing says 'welcome to Rio', more than kicking back with a tangy caipirinha cocktail at a Rio de Janeiro beach bar.

The combination of crashing ocean waves, white floodlit sands and refreshing sea breezes make for an intoxicating combination and just a few sips of the national cocktail will really have your head in a spin.

Whether you are people watching at Copacabana, taking in the ocean views at Ipanema or admiring the stylish locals at Leblon, drinking at a Rio de Janeiro beach bar is always a feast for the senses. 

Rio de Janeiro beach bars are as varied as they are plentiful - simply stroll along the sands at Ipanema or Copacabana and you'll be spoiled for choice. Both beaches are lined with bars that range from simple family-run kiosks with plastic tables and chairs to sophisticated bar-restaurants serving imported Champagne and elaborately-constructed cocktails. 

And while drinking in these fashionable quarters of the city can be expensive, stiff competition among beachfront vendors means that prices are generally lower than in more formal bars. 

Visitors looking for something a little more upmarket have plenty of choice, too.  Just steps from the beaches lie some of the city's favorite A-lister hangouts, such as Baretto-Londra, and cool bar-restaurants such as Bar Astor. 

You won't find our top pick at these legendary beaches, but Bar e Restaurante Urca is worth the diversion from the main tourist track. Grab a caipirinha and a bite to eat and join the locals propped up on the harbour wall to enjoy chilled al-fresco drinking with a gorgeous backdrop of boats, beach, mountains and the Christ Statue. 



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At Ipanema´s farthest point from Copacabana, a small canal marks the division between Praia do Ipanema and Praia do Leblon. Flanked by the towering Dois Irmaos (two brothers) mountains and with waters that are slightly calmer than elsewhere on this stretch of sand, Leblon beach is a popular spot with the wealthy families that live in this most exclusive of neighborhoods It is also popular with locals living in the favela that cling to the mountainside, and the very different social groups create an interesting beach scene. the simple bars along the beachfront are a good place for a caipirinha and a spot of people-watching at any time of the day or night.


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This retro-chic bar in front of Ipanema beach maintains a sense of fun while taking its food and drinks seriously. Top foodie picks are the seafood and pasta dishes, while the cocktail list is staggeringly long- there is even a menu entirely dedicated to gin and tonics. Meanwhile, beer drinkers can make themselves comfortable - waitstaff stroll around the bar selling ice-cold, freshly-poured chopp (draught beer) to customers right at their tables. The sidewalk patio is a wonderful place to watch the sun make its dramatic descent over Ipanema beach.


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In a neighborhood where many bars are formal and a little stuffy, Jobi is a breath of fresh air. The early-opening, late-closing Leblon institution is a fine example of the Rio boteco - botecos being informal bars serving food and good company to a relaxed crowd. Locals and out-of-towners alike flock here for perfectly-kept draught beers, well-mixed cocktails and an extensive range of bar snacks that includes moreish versions of local staples such as bolinhos de bacalhau(fried cod and potato balls). The bar opens late and closes early, so you???re sure to be able to fit in a visit - whether it be for an early morning coffee, early evening food and drinks, or an end-of-the-night cocktail.


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Ranked the best hotel bar in the world by style bible Wallpaper, this hip hangout at the upmarket Fasano Rio hotel is open to non-guests - but be prepared to book well in advance and pay steep prices for your immaculately-prepared drinks.The bar mixes British punk attitude with Italian flair, and sees vintage album art hung on the walls, and luxurious leather armchairs for lounging in. The regular clientele here includes models, actors and footballers, and with A-listers such as Madonna and supermodel Gisele popping in occasionally, you'll need to pull out all the wardrobe stops if you want to fit in.


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For the ultimate indulgent Rio experience, head to the Pergula, the elegant poolside restaurant at the enduringly elegant Copacabana Palace hotel. Less formal than the hotel's fine dining Italian restaurant, Cipriani. at Pergula you can dine in your (suitanbly stylish) swimwear and sarong. Watch beautiful people splash around in the pool as you sip Champagne cocktails and dine on seafood and light pasta dishes, or head here for the famous breakfasts and brunches, which include salmon and even caviar washed down with a spot of bubbly. The likes of the Obamas, Will Smith and Madonna have all dined here, so keep your eyes peeled for A-listers.


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While Copacabana wins out as the most picture-perfect city beach in Rio, Ipanema is easily the more chic of the two neighboring stretches of sand, and this is a wonderfully scenic spot for a late-night drink. Less flanked by high rise hotels than its neighbor, Ipanema is the ideal place to while away the hours just working on that tan and watching the beautiful people glide by. There are scores of kiosks selling tempting food and drink, too. The towering twin peaks of the Dois Irmaos (two brothers) mountains frames the beach scene in spectacular fashion, and visitors will find the beach informally divided into social groups. Head to Posto Nove (Lifeguard post 9) for a young, hip crowd, or look for the giant rainbow flag if you're looking for gay-friendly sunbathing and socializing.


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Thanks to an enviable location at Copacabana's closest point to Ipanema, Atlantis offers stunning views that take in the length of Copacabana beach. An outdoor seating area makes the most of these sweeping vistas, and the food on offer is just as appetizing as the visual feast. There are some solid renderings of French and European dishes, but locals flock here for the Saturday feijoada, the perfectly grilled picanha steak, and the famous Sunday seafood buffet. With attentive service and a perfectly-crafted caipirinha, this is one of the best spots in the city to enjoy dinner with a sea breeze.


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Garota da Urca
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson


 

This welcoming spot by the beach in the gentile neigbourhood of Urca is actually part of a Rio bar-restaurant chain, but is no less appealing for that. The location, right by the sands and within a few minutes' stroll from Sugar Loaf mountain, is unbeatable, the service is snappy and the wait staff friendly, and the menu features a good mix of local main dishes and finger foods. Try the portion of pasteis (small pastries filled with shrimp, cheese, or meat) for a snack to share, or the fish dishes for something more substantial, and wash it down with an ice cold beer (there's a good range of bottled and draught here) or a tangy caipirinha.


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Copacabana Beach
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson


 

Copacabana´s beach bars have come a long way since the turn of turn of the millennium, when they were little more than a collection of yellow-roofed kiosks serving beer and caipirinhas to tourists lounging on plastic chairs. While these cheap and cheerful options can stull be found should you choose to look for them, there are any number of more sophisticated places to drink and dine too. Take a walk along the promenade and take a peek at the many sleek glass kiosks to be found here, stopping for a cooling drink at whichever spot appeals the most. Hungry visitors can take choose to dine on anything from pizza to traditional Brazilian fish stews, while those who opt for liquid refreshment only will be spoilt for choice too.


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Urca, the tranquil neighborhood that is home to Sugar Loaf mountain, warrants a longer visit than many tourists permit for in their itineraries, and there are few better spots in the city to linger over a beer and a bite to eat than this wonderfully relaxed bar-restaurant. Attracting a mix of locals. famous faces and tourists, the simple hole in the wall spot stands out for its stunning harbor-side location - after making your order at the bar, you can eat it propped up outside, taking in a view of the Christ statue as you watch fishing boats bob up and down on the calm waters. Forget any culinary pretensions and, indeed, calorie-counting, and enjoy local dishes such as fried polenta with shrimp, and towering stacks of fried potato or aipim (cassava).


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Meet Lucy Bryson

Lucy is a British freelance writer living in Rio de Janeiro since 2007. While there are some things she misses about her home country, the lure of year-round sunshine has proved too powerful to resist.

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