Best Nightlife in Rio de Janeiro

Rio Nightlife: Drink and Dance in This Legendary Party City

As might be expected of a city that is famous across the planet for its hedonistic, flamboyant carnival and its spectacular New Year's celebrations on the beach, Rio de Janeiro is no wallflower.

This is a place where party animals and exhibitionists will feel instantly at home - whether showcasing some samba steps in the nightclubs and street parties of downtown Lapa or charming the locals with their attempts at Portuguese at casual bars such as Santa Teresa's enduringly popular Bar do Mineiro.

While the summer season, especially the build up to carnival, is the time when Rio de Janeiro nightlife is at its liveliest, the city can be at its best when visited off-season. This is when the tourist crowds dispel, leaving more room on the dancefloor and making for what could arguably be described as a more authentically Brazilian experience.

However, nothing says 'I'm in Rio' more than slipping into a sparkling head dress and spangly swimwear (that goes for guys and gals alike) and dancing the samba along Ipanema beachfront - an experience that is all too likely a possibility when carnival fever takes hold, and those potent caipirinha cocktails take effect.

Whatever time of year you visit, and whatever your nightlife style, Rio de Janeiro will welcome you with open arms.


This Santa Teresa bar-restaurant was opened by a family of Spanish settlers in Brazil in 1919, when it doubled as a grocery store. The official name, Armazem Sao Thiago references this, but for decades this most inviting of watering holes has been affectionately known as Bar do Gomez in honor of the affable owner. Visually, little has changed here over the years, and it maintains a historic charm that makes it one of the best-loved botecos (bar-restaurants) in Rio. Along with an extensive list of bar snacks and nibbles, there are some good sandwiches and main meals on offer - including hearty plates of grilled meat with salad, rice, beans and fries. Wash it down with a cold draught beer or one of the 60 types of cachaca on offer.

Read more about Bar do Gomez (Armazem Sao Thiago) →

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.

Read more about Jobi →

With a prime location on the main drinking and dining strip in leafy, artsy Santa Teresa, Bar do Mineiro is the focal point for the neighborhood's famously lively social scene. As the name suggests, the menu bears the culinary influences of the owner, a 'Mineiro' (native of Minas Gerais) who over the years has built up a loyal fanbase drawn to his hearty plates of meaty dishes. For a lighter snack, the portions of 'pasteis' (small, deepfried pastries filled with cheese, meat, beans or shrimp) are widely considered to be among the best in the city. But it's the lively atmosphere that is the real draw here, with locals and visitors gathering here to eat, drink and chat well into the night.

Read more about Bar do Mineiro →


Rio is synonymous with samba, and the city's historical downtown district of Lapa should be the first port of call for anybody looking to hear the real thing played live. At Rio Scenarium, the kooky factor is ramped up to 11 thanks to the fact that this vast venue for samba shows is also a storage space for antiques and film props, so fascinating costumes, masks and other historical artefacts form the backdrop to the dancing, eating and drinking. Even if you have two left feet it is worth a visit here just to see the highy skilled locals show how samba dancing should be done, and there's a restaurant serving sit-down meals for those who just want to take in the show.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: This popular spot buzzes every night of the week and is a great place to admire the locals' samba skills

Lucy's expert tip: Too shy to take to the dancefloor? Sip a caipirinha or two and feel those inhibitions slip away.

Read more about Rio Scenarium →

Ranked among the best hotel bars 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.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: This is one of the smartest bars in Rio and a favourite with international celebrities.

Lucy's expert tip: Dress to seriously impress if you want to get past the doorstaff here.

Read more about Baretto-Londra →

Brazilians like to combine drinking with dining, and this upscale nightspot, located inside Gavea's famous planetarium, no less takes both activities extremely seriously. There's a formal dining room as well as a lounge and a dancefloor, and a mezzanine level for those who prefer to nibble on sushi and other sophisticated finger foods while watching the beautiful people glide around the dance floor. If you're looking for pure Brazilian spirit this is probably not the spot for you, but if you want to shake your stuff to US hip hop and European house music then you'll be in for a good time.

Read more about 00 (Zero Zero) →

Clube dos Democraticos
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson

An eye-catching - if somewhat weather-beaten - art deco building is the setting for some of the longest-standing samba parties in Rio at this much-loved venue. Clube dos Democraticos was founded over a century ago as a carnival society uniting musicians, dancers and others imbued with carnival spirit. Today, the club continues to attract live music lovers, with regular samba sessions packing out the vast dancefloor. For a change of musical scene, it's worth checking out the Wednesday night Forro sessions - this popular weekly event is a great place to get aquainted with this sultry musical style from Brazil's northeast. And if you can't dance a step, don't worry - the fleet-footed locals will be happy to show you a move or two.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Studio RJ is one of the best spots in the city to hear old-school Brazilian jazz and MPB

Lucy's expert tip: Can't dance, won't dance? Just sip a caipirinha and sit back and admire the dancers' skills as they whirl their partners around the floor.

Read more about Clube dos Democraticos →

For a night out among Rio's fashionable elite, make a beeline for Rua Dias Ferreira, at the heart of upmarket Leblon. This tree-lined street is lined with so many fashionable bars and upscale restaurants that it has become the go-to spot for foodies and socialites visiting Rio, and new eating and drinking spots seem to bloom like wildflowers along this well-maintained street. Cariocas rarely drink without eating, so many of the bars also serve as restaurants, and the culinary offerings are as sophisticated and attractively presented as the privileged location demands. Put on your glad rags, grab a cab here and just see where the evening takes you.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: This Leblon street is lined with hip bars, just stroll along and take your pick.

Lucy's expert tip: Current hotspots include Venga, for Spanish Tapas, and Stuzzi, for Italian Stuzzichini (small plates).

Read more about Rua Dias Ferreira →

Along with the beaches, the Christ statue and Sugar Loaf mountain, another postcard-perfect image of Rio are the mammoth white arches that stand in city's historic center. At night, revelers gather below the arches as a huge street party unfurls - head here on a Friday night to see Rio's party spirit at its liveliest. The area around the arches is taken over by hundreds of stalls selling all manner of tempting treats to eat and drink, from fresh-baked pizzas and beers to Northeastern acaraje and fruity-but-potent cocktails. Surrounded by bars and clubs pumping out everything from hip hop and favela funk to samba and pagode, the Arcos da Lapa are the starting point for many a memorable night out in Rio.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Lapa is the hedonistic heart of nocturnal Rio, and no partier should leave Rio without a visit to the street party.

Lucy's expert tip: Keep valuables hidden and don't bring cameras here at night - while safety has improved in recent years, Lapa's street party continues to attract petty thieves.

Read more about Arcos da Lapa →

In the historic heart of Lapa, this reformed colonial mansion home has received a colorful makeover with illuminated artworks on the brick walls, vibrantly-colored cocktails and an equally bright and breezy playlist. An eclectic musical menu takes in electro-heavy club nights, more gentile jazz-fests and live samba sessions, and downstairs dancefloors are packed well into the small hours almost every night of the week. A mezzanine balcony provides ample space for sipping drinks and chatting - should you be able to make yourself heard over the pumping music. Alongside an extensive cocktail list, some tempting finger food. Groups of friends may want to opt for the mixed platter, which includes tasty finger foods such as rosemary and garlic breadsticks, focaccia, sundried tomato paste and little oven-baked pastries.

Read more about Leviano Bar →


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.