The Liveliest Nightlife in Rio's Buzzing Downtown Party District

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 caipirinha-fueled excess. 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 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 LapaWhile some mourn the fact that Lapa's down-and-dirty dive bars are disappearing and being replaced  by the new wave of hip hangouts such as Leviano, 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 - things don't really get going here until after midnight. 

Rua do Lavradio
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson


Visitors looking for the historic heart of Rio won't find it by the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, but in the heart of downtown Lapa. Rua do Lavradio was one of the first streets to be built in Rio de Janeiro back in the 1770s, and its...  Read More



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...  Read More



A stone's throw from Lapa's frenzied street party activity, Febarj is the best spot in the city to find a hip-hop heavy playlist. On Friday and Saturday evenings the three floors of this former colonial home shake to the sound of rap from the...  Read More



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...  Read More



In the heart of Lapa but a little off the main drinking and dancing circuit, this lively cafe-bar-cultural center is a top spot for a daytime coffee and cakes or a night time drink and a spin on the artfully-appointed dance floor. The list of...  Read More



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...  Read More

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...  Read More



Samba lovers of all ages flock to this downtown dance house, where the fleet of foot and supple of rump shimmy and shake around the dance floor. The club is housed in a tall and handsome colonial building, with a balcony overlooking the...  Read More



The biggest - literally - nightlife option in Lapa is a four-floor behemoth offering live music, restaurant dining, several bars and pool tables. The Lapa hotspot (the name is a reference to the city's searing summer temperatures) celebrates...  Read More



Much more than a concert venue, this multi-functional spot in the heart of Lapa hosts hip local bands and international visitors, as well as holding some of the most popular regular club nights in the city. In addition, dance and percussion...  Read More


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.