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Shopping with Rio's Chic Elite on the Streets of Ipanema



Rio de Janeiro is a city full of temptations, and the window displays of the chic boutiques and bikini stores of upmarket Ipanema will have shopaholics reaching for their credit cards in an instant. Shopping in Ipanema is a pleasure for anyone with a little cash to splash, although budget visitors to Rio might find themselves wincing at some of the prices. Bargain hunters prepared to do a little haggling can pick up arts, crafts and clothing at the long-standing Sunday 'Hippie Fair', while those who are looking to spoil themselves or somebody else can pick up on-trend bikinis at the legendary swimwear store BumBum, or browse for chic beachwear and designer shoes and clothing at stores such as Espaco Fashion. 

Rio de Janeiro is a fashionable yet casual city, and Ipanema is home to the city's chic elite, so it is no surprise that the streets are paved with stores offering beautiful, curve-enhancing clothes for the ladies and laid-back but attractive tees, jeans and sneakers for male shoppers. Ipanema is also a good place to pick up food and drink with healthfood stores such as New Natural offering nutritious goodies and upmarket supermarket chain Zona Sul packed with quality wines and deli goods. 


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This small but stylish Ipanema shopping center is one of the best places in the neighborhood to pick up beachwear and bikinis, as well as stylish shades and casual-chic clothing. With a branch of bikini store BumBum located here you can be ready to sizzle on the beach in a snap, and with several beauty salons located here you can get nails and hair looking good too. The store attracts the kind of young, affluent beachgoers that Ipanema is so famous for, and the mall is easily as well-maintained as its pristine clientele. For those looking to splash some cash without blowing the budget sky-high, this is a good option.


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. Thanks to an abundance of beach vendors, this is also an excellent place to pick up sunglasses, sarongs and beach dresses. 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.




Colorful bags with a distinctly carioca style are the hallmark of designer Gilson Martins, with his distinctive purses, beach bags and clutches often emblazoned with images of Rio landmarks or with the green, yellow and blue of the Brazilian flag. There are three Gilson Martins stores in Rio's Zona Sul - two in Copacabana, and another in Ipanema. Prices begin at around R$100 for a beach backpack, and rarely reach the insanely high prices of many designer stores in the city. The pocketbooks and mobile phone cases make great, lightweight gifts for friends and family back home and, hey, why not treat yourself to something at the same time?


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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.




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.




Located a few blocks from Ipanema beach and right next door to the strip of backpacker lodgings dubbed 'Hostel Alley', this health food store, buffet restaurant and snack bar offers a huge range of wholesome ingredients for self caterers as well as a range of eat-in dishes that are every bit as tasty as they are nutritious. While there is plenty of choice here for vegetarians, New Natural is not entirely meat-free, with low-fat chicken and fish putting in a few appearances on the menu. The buffet operates on a pay-by-weight system, and prices here, while on the high side, are reasonable for the neighborhood. There's an air conditioned lounge upstairs and a couple of sidewalk tables and chairs, making New Natural a favourite spot among backpackers looking for a quick, healthy lunch.




Style conscious locals love this fashion-forward space just a couple of blocks back from the beach. The store prides itself on keeping abreast of international trends, and shoppers can be up seriously stylish womenswear and accessories here. An expansive footwear collection provides the ideal companion to sexy but sassy minis and floaty, flirty dresses, many of which can be worn with flip flops for a casual beach look, and glammed up with heels and eye-catching jewelry to hit the bars and clubs of Rio after dark.


Farm is the go to fashion store for the fashionable young things of Ipanema, and stocks colorful, fresh-looking fashions for both girls and boys about town. Fun, flirty dresses and floaty fabrics are hallmarks of Farm's ladies' wear section, while board shorts and tees in bright colours are staples in the menswear section. Formal wear has little place in the social lives of most young cariocas, and this store is a great place to pick up versatile fashion items that can be transformed from daytime to nighttime as fast as you can change from flip flops to heels or smart trainers.


Ipanema Hippie Fair
Photo courtesy of Janice Waltzer/Flickr

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. The event is further enlivened by the presence of local musicians and skilled soccer players keen to show off their ball skills and make a few reais at the same time.


Stylist-turned-swimwear queen Lenny Niemeyer is the woman credited with re-inventing the Brazilian bikini, making it less - 'dental floss' and more about 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.


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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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