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. In this wealthy, modern suburb to the west of the city center, sprawling shopping malls line the wide avenues. The largest of the malls, Barra Shopping, is in fact the biggest in South America. Eye-catching Christmas displays make this a popular spot for children in the run up to Christmas, although all the snowy scenes are a little at odds with the baking heat outside. The mall is home to high street stores and exclusive boutiques, as well as plenty of stores offering typically Brazilian gifts such as Brazil soccer shirts and replica Christ statues.
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.
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 (the name reflects the national predeliction for displaying ample amounts of buttock flesh on the beach) sells sey 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. As a mark of how much Brazilian beach fashion has changed in recent years, the store now has a wide range of sexy one-pieces.
Funky arts and crafts with a social conscience can be picked up at this colorful store in the heart of Ipanema. Brasil & Cia brings together the works of various local artists, and is a fantastic place to pick up anything from painted wooden replicas of the Christ the Redeemer statue to intricately-crafted miniature versions of favela buildings and bars. Ceramics are another good buy here, with the ceramic black and white spotted hens cute pieces of local folk art to take home as a present for yourself or someone else. As an alternative to mass-produced plastic Christ statues and 'I Heart Rio' tees, this is a great option.
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.
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.
Funky Havaianas are synonymous with beach life in Rio de Janeiro, and the sheer range of colors, styles and sizes - from tiny baby flip flops to adult male sizes - will have style conscious shoppers watering a the mouth. Luckily for those who struggle to control their shopping impulses, prices are more than accessible - starting at around R$15 for basic models, and rising to around R$35 for the season's latest styles. At these prices, it's well worth picking up a few pairs as they make great Christmas gifts for folks back home - as well as couple for yourself, of course.
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.
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.
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.