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Best Places to Enjoy Al Fresco Eating, Drinking in Rio de Janeiro



The year-round hot (often scorching) sunny weather and spectacular natural landscape make outdoor dining in Rio de Janeiro an extremely enticing option.  And there's no shortage of opportunity to enjoy a bite to eat by the beach or a romantic meal under the stars in Rio. 

The beachfronts of Ipanema and Copacabana are lined with eating opportunities that range from smart bar-restaurants to simple kiosks selling sardines, French fries and bargain caipirinhas, while up in the hills of Santa Teresa diners can enjoy a meal in a magical setting at the tropical gardens of Aprazivel or an informal meal on the leafy patios of Cafecito or Rustico.

Sidewalk tables and chairs offer a chance to people-watch, admire the scenery and enjoy a meal at the same time, and even the most simple of establishments in Rio will usually offer a few outdoor tables - these tend to be hotly contested when the weather is fine (yes, it does rain in Rio, so make the most of sunny days and dry evenings) so arrive early to grab one if you have a specific destination in mind. Otherwise, simply stroll along busy drinking and dining strips such as Rua do Lavradio, downtown, or Rua Dias Ferreira, in Leblon, until you come across somewhere that takes your fancy. 


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Somewhat glitzier than your average Santa Teresa hangout, Explorer bar harbours one end of the famous Largo do Guimaraes square, but has a terrace with views overlooking the steep cobbled streets of this picturesque neighborhood. The drinks, like the food menu, aim to reflect the flavors of the world, with good quality imported gins and tequilas as well as the obligatory sugar cane rum for caipirinhas. Food is colorful and inventive - diners can enjoy traditional Brazilian pasteis or Middle Eastern mezze, among the many options, and the plates are good for tapas-style sharing between friends. Regular live music performances keep things lively, and the light-strewn terrace is simply a lovely place to be on a balmy Rio night.

Lucy's expert tip: Like many restaurants and bars in Santa Teresa, Explorer Bar is closed on Mondays.

Read more about Explorer Bar →


Largo das Neves
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson

Framed by a pretty whitewashed church and surrounded by laid back bars and restaurants, this neighborhood hangout feels charmingly like a village square despite being mere minutes from Rio city centre. On Friday nights, the square throngs with vendors selling caipirinhas and batidas (surprisingly delicious mixtures of condensed milk with sugar cane rum and fruit or even chocolate), as well as oven-fired pizzas, grilled meat and bowls of hearty soup. Children whizz around the center of the square while their parents relax with drinks, and everybody stays up until the small hours. Occasional live music performances and dance displays turn the square into a prime party location in Santa Teresa, but on an average Friday night it is the perfect place for parents to enjoy a fun, laidback and very inexpensive night out.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: This lively neighborhood square is surrounded by cozy bar-restaurants with outd.oor seating, and is a popular choice for local families

Lucy's expert tip: Head here on a Friday night for the liveliest atmosphere, the bars are still buzzing on Saturdays but the street vendors are absent.

Read more about Largo das Neves →




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.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: Leafy patios and sidewalk tables abound at this foodie strip in the upscale neighborhood of Leblon.

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

Read more about Rua Dias Ferreira →


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Ipanema Beach


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. 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.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: Beautiful views and beautiful people provide a glamorous backdrop to a meal at one of Ipanema's many beachfront bars

Lucy's expert tip: Rio's beaches are its social spaces - don't be afraid to try out your Portuguese if somebody catches your eye on the beach, just make sure they're not already accompanied before you try out your lines!

Read more about Ipanema Beach →


Bar do Bonde
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson


Take just a slight detour from Santa Teresa's main tourist trail and you'll find one of the neighborhood's best value bar-restaurants. Located just a few minutes' walk (follow the tram line uphill from the main square at Largo do Guimaraes), this laid-back little bar offers an excellent range of bar snacks and main meals at prices that compare very favorably with those down the hill at Largo do Guimaraes. There's also a decent cocktail list and a seriously well-mixed caipirinha. Saturday nights see live samba, jazz and bossa nova bands draw a sizable crowd of locals - get there before 8pm to grab one of the few sidewalk tables here.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: A lively local crowd gathers at Bar do Bonde from Thursday to Sunday, and it's less touristic (and expensive) than elsewhere in this bohemian neighborhood.

Lucy's expert tip: If you can't decide what to order, go for a few portions of petiscos (light snacks to share).

Read more about Bar do Bonde →


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 handsome colonial buildings offer plenty to offer architecture buffs. Fittingly, many of the buildings have been converted into antiques stores, while others now serve as bars and restaurants. On the first Saturday of each month, the street packs with vendors, shoppers and sightseers when the famous Feira do Rio Antigo - an antiques, fashion and arts fair - takes place.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: Rua do Lavradio is lined with pavement cafes that offer a chance to eat, drink and people-watch on this lively street.

Lucy's expert tip: The Feira do Rio Antigo is a must-visit for anyone in town on the first Saturday of each month.

Read more about Rua do Lavradio →




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.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: The poolside restaurant at Copacabana Palace is famous for its wonderful weekend brunches.

Lucy's expert tip: You don't need to be a guest at the hotel to dine at Pergula, but make an effort to look as casually-chic as possible if you want to make it past the doormen.

Read more about Pergula →


Rustico
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson


The team behind Santa Teresa's acclaimed Cafecito cafe-bar have expanded into the floor above their much-loved establishment, transforming the leafy courtyard into a dining space that is arelaxed in ambiance and as rustic in decor as the name suggests. The menu takes in some interesting vegetarian options such as a delicious grilled brie and pineapple salad as well as grilled ribs and other meaty favourites. It's hard to go wrong with pizzas from the wood-fired oven, and the light, crispy vegetarian option that skips the cheese and piles on the grilled eggplant, cherry tomatoes and black olives is a refreshingly light way to indulge. Staff are attentive without being pushy, the choice of wines and beers is impressive, and the location at the heart of Santa Teresa can't be beat.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: The outdoor setting overlooking Santa Teresa's street scene seems to make the wood-fired pizzas at Rustico taste even better.

Lucy's expert tip: Enjoy a light meal and a bottle of wine here to set you up for a night exploring Santa Teresa's lively bars.

Read more about Rustico →


Copacabana Beach
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson


There's no danger of going hungry at Copacabana beach. While vendors stroll the sands selling simple snacks and sandwiches, the boardwalk is lined with bars and restaurants that range from cheap and cheerful to seriously sophisticated. Here you can tuck into everything from a plate of fried sardines to smoked salmon washed down with a glass of genuine French Champagne. When it comes to relaxed dining, this is really the way to do it, and the leisurely pace of life here means you can linger as long as you like over your meal and drinks. With some kiosks open into the small hours, this is a great place to start or end a night out.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: Crashing waves and white sands make the perfect backdrop to a meal and drinks, and prices tend to be affordable too.

Lucy's expert tip: Come in your swimwear - that way you can tan as you eat and drink.

Read more about Copacabana Beach →




Located high on a jungle-clad hillside in Santa Teresa, Aprazivel is worth a visit for the views alone. Wisely making the most of the sweeping vistas over downtown Rio, the owners have made al-fresco dining the order of the day, here, with grass-roofed gazebos sitting amid lush tropical gardens visited by toucans and monkeys. At night, the scene is lit by candles and flickering fairy lights which, when combined with the views and the delicious French-Brazilian dishes on the menu, makes this one of the best spots in Rio for a romantic meal. Chef Ana Castilho has combined Brazilian culinary influences with tricks of hte trade learned during her training in France, and the result is a menu of light dishes that add some chic French touches to the wealth of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood available locally.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: Aprazivel's huge tropical gardens, stunning city views and inventive menu makes it one of the most romantic spots for a meal in Rio.

Lucy's expert tip: Call ahead to book tables if you want to sit outside - these seats are extremely popular on balmy evenings.

Read more about Aprazivel →


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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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