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From Chic Swimwear to Samba Records - the Best Shopping in Rio de Janeiro



Brazil's weakened economy means Rio is once again an affordable destination for foreign visitors, and savvy shoppers can find great bargains on everything from miniature Christ statues to chic swimwear. Those looking to splurge will find plenty of opportunity to do so at upmarket boutiques, with Lenny and BumBum Ipanema standouts for those looking to make waves on the beach. 

The Feira do Rio Antigo - a Saturday antiques fair at Rua do Lavradio in Rio's historic center is a great place to browse for new and vintage clothes and accessories as well as antiques and collectibles. 

The shopping centers of the affluent Zona Sul (South Zone, home to touristic areas such as Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana) are chockful of stylish, if pricey, boutiques, while those on a tighter budget would be wise to head downtown, where there are real bargains to be found if you know where to look - the vast indoor market at Uruguaiana, and the surrounding shopping streets known as the Saara, are a good place to come for throwaway fashion, beauty products and the like, but be warned that designer labels are almost always fakes.

A quick heads up - shopping in some Rio stores can be confusing - it's often necessary to take your goods to one desk to register them, before being given a price ticket, which is then taken to a second desk for payment and to pick up the items. 


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Santa Teresa
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson


There's more to Rio de Janeiro than its beaches, and the artistic heart of the city can be found up in the jungle-clad hills of Santa Teresa. Here, pastel-colored colonial mansions have been converted into lively bars, friendly guest houses, artists' studios, vintage stores and some of the best restaurants in Rio. The lofty location makes for some terrific views over the city. Start your visit to Santa Teresa at Largo do Guimaraes, the busy square at the start of the city, and follow the steep cobbled streets to discover vintage clothes stores, bustling drinking dens and some of the friendliest locals in the city.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: Santa Teresa is the place to come for kooky gifts and retro fashions.

Lucy's expert tip: Head to Santa Teresa on a sunny Sunday afternoon to catch craft fairs, street samba and a welcome change from the packed beaches of the Zona Sul.

Read more about Santa Teresa →


Bazar Centro do Saara
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson


Saara - the maze of downtown shopping streets that attracts bargain hunters like bees to a honeypot - should be the first port of call for anyone looking for colorful carnival costumes at bargain prices. Along with scores of stores selling everything from full-on spangly samba outfits with feathered headdresses to animal fancy dress and glitter wigs, the stores of Saara sell the type of fast fashion that is ideal for anyone who wants to look like a local in a snap and without spending a fortune. Think teeny tiny denim shorts, flip flops and boob tubes for the girls, surf shorts and casual tees for the boys.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: This hectic maze of shopping streets is the antidote to all those chic but expensive Rio malls.

Lucy's expert tip: Be extra careful with your belongings in the crushed streets of the Saara, and wear backpacks on your front, never your back.

Read more about Bazar Centro do Saara →




For a shopping experience with a difference, it's well worth making the bus or cab ride out to the North Zone neighborhood of Sao Cristovao, and the famous 'Feira Nordestina' (Northeastern Fair). This vast part-covered market honors all things from Brazil's arid northeast, including handicrafts and delicious food and drink. Live bands play the sultry, accordian-led forro music that is native to the northeast, and on weekends you can shop all night long as the fair opens at 10am on Friday and stays open until 10pm on Sunday, attracting drinkers and dancers from across the city. It's around 10-minutes cab ride from Centro and the cruise port.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: This is a lively spot to shop, dance and dine all in one place

Lucy's expert tip: Spice lovers will want to check out the bottles of colorful chili peppers for sale, in varying sizes and heat strengths

Read more about Feira Nordestina de São Cristóvão →


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If you want to look as hot as the locals on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, make a beeline for this chic swimwear store. As well as the barely-there bikinis that Brazil is famous for, BumBum Ipanema (pronounced 'boomboom' and an inoffensive slang term for the derierre, the name reflects the national prediliction for displaying ample amounts of buttock flesh on the beach) sells sexy one-pieces and some more modest bikinis. Thankfully for visitors not blessed with year-round scorching temperatures, the dental floss bikini is no longer considered chic beachwear, and BumBum bikinis, while revealing, enhance curves and aim to flatter the rear.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: BumBum Ipanema stocks some of the best Brazilian bikinis on the market.

Lucy's expert tip: Leave the skimpiest models to the locals if you don´t want to feel ultra-self conscious on the beach.

Read more about BumBum Ipanema →


Copacabana Beach
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson


This is one of the best places in Rio to shop for keepsakes and gifts for friends and family back home - and you can do it all from the comfort of a beachfront bar. Vendors stroll along the beachfront, selling all manner of goods from replica christ statues (scaled down, of course) to hats, t-shirts and sarongs. In the evenings, a market opens along Copacabana beachfront, selling everything from crotchet bikinis and hand-made dresses to plastic models of the Christ statue, replica Brazil soccer shirts and 'I've Been to Rio' tees. A stroll through the night market is a pleasant and relaxing way to shop in Rio.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: Shopping from beneath your sun umbrella is a quintessential Rio activity

Lucy's expert tip: If you're not interested in buying anything from a vendor, give them a quick 'no-no' finger wave and they'll get the message.

Read more about Copacabana Beach →


Stylist-turned-swimwear queen Lenny Niemeyer is the woman credited with re-inventing the Brazilian bikini. The designer has made stylish Cariocas less interested in sporting the famous 'dental floss' and more concerned with beautiful cuts and curve-enhancing designs. Niemeyer launched her Lenny brand with this Ipanema store in the early 1990s, and today the chain has 18 branches in Brazil while the brand is stocked by the chicest of swimwear stores in Europe and the USA. Head here for super-stylish bikinis, one-pieces and beachwear, including some beautiful sarongs that work equally well as skirts, dresses and beach towels. If you want to give the locals a run for their money in the sexy and stylish stakes, head here.

Read more about Lenny →


A little off Santa Teresa's main eating, drinking and shopping strip, this quirky outdoor art studio is well worth seeking out. At Atelier Chamego Bonzolandia (or just Bonzolandia), local artist Getulio Damado and his son Victor upcycle trash into distinctive works of art from their self-built studio modelled on Santa Teresa's famous yellow street cars. Across the street, tethered to the outside wall of Santa Teresa's only supermarket, a replica bonde (trolley) complete with seats, steering wheels and bells invites children (and the occasional selfie-taking adult) to climb aboard. During Carnival and other major parties, the replica tram takes to the road with delighted children aboard it, but the rest of the time it provides a great photo opportunity and a worthy distraction for younger visitors while grown ups take a look at the colorful sculptures and paintings. Many, but not all, are for sale - be sure to give a fair price as the family are very active in holding free community events for local families.

Read more about Atelier Chamego Bonzolandia →


Ipanema Hippie Fair
Photo courtesy of Janice Waltzer/Flickr

Held every Sunday for well over six decades, Ipanema's 'Feira Hippie' is a real Rio institution. The name 'hippie fair' may conjure up images of flowing kaftans and incense sticks, but this colorful market, held in Ipanema each Sunday for some 60-plus years, is in fact a great place to pick up everything from local arts and crafts to fashion finds. Set aside a good few hours to browse all the stalls and don't be afraid to bargain with sellers - you can often bag a bargain if you buy more than one item from the same stall. Eagle-eyed shoppers will be able to find everything from vintage designer shades to hand-made dresses in funky fabrics.

Read more about Ipanema Hippie Fair →




If you're in the mood for some serious retail therapy, it's time to jump on a bus or grab a cab and head for Barra da Tijuca, the wealthy, modern suburb to the west of the city that has been nicknamed 'the United States of Barra'. Here, sprawling shopping malls line the wide avenues, and Barra Shopping is the largest of them all - with food courts and entertainment complexes housed inside, along with all manner of chic boutiques and high street fashion stores. You can even work out mid-shopping spree, should you feel the urge, as there are workout stations dotted around the mall.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: This is the largest shopping mall in Rio, and one of the largest in South America.

Lucy's expert tip: Barra da Tijuca's beach is an impressive seven miles long, so it's worth making a day of it and soaking up some rays before you hit the shops.

Read more about Barra Shopping →


Feira do Rio Antigo
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson


The historic center of Lapa is the setting for a lively street market, held on the first Saturday of each month (and every Saturday in the weeks before Christmas). Browse for everything from antiques and folk art to handmade fashions and vintage accessories. The sound of live samba music fills the air, the streets throng with shoppers and sightseers, and the many pavement cafes and bars occupying converted colonial buildings do a brisk trade as groups of friends linger over a reviving coffee, refreshing beer or energy-replenishing meal. The market is a great place to pick up Chris gifts and keepsakes as well as vintage clothes, accessories and vinyl records. Local designers also sell their creations here - often at surprisingly accessible prices.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: The Feira do Rio Antigo is a great opportunity to shop and get acquainted with Rio's historic center at the same time.

Lucy's expert tip: Browse the market before making a purchase rather than snapping up the first thing that takes your fancy - there are lots of tempting things to choose from here.

Read more about Feira do Rio Antigo →


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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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