Who doesn’t fancy a good drink once in a while?! Whether you are relaxing on vacation or are a local ‘Carioca’ looking for a good conversation, Rio de Janeiro has some of Brazil’s top bars.
Unlike in many countries, bars in Brazil always offer food of some sort. Sometimes this is a proper dinner and sometimes this is just a little something to whet your whistle. Either way, Bromelia Rio Travel chose each bar on the list to fit whatever mood you might be in when you need a drink in Rio de Janeiro.
Best traditional Brazilian bar: ARMAZÉM SÃO THIAGO
Ask any Brazilian what their favorite past time is, and the word boteco is sure to come up. A boteco is a local Brazilian bar that serves salgados or warm salty snacks. Amarzém São Thiago, is one of the oldest in the city! Situated on top of the neighborhood of Santa Teresa, this Rio institution fits your expectations of a typical rustic watering hole. The premise is simple: ice cold beers, large plates of fresh Brazilian snacks and a crowd of locals.
Best beach bar: K08
Where do I go for a drink in Rio’s West Side? While Ipanema Beach draws the masses, Barra da Tijuca draws the local West Zone crowd, with its large beaches and all day beach bars. Peppered around the infamous Pepe’s beach, you will find a small handful of beach bars with the obligatory colorful Adirondack chairs, happy reggae music, hammocks and generous fruit cocktails. My absolute favorite place, is K08. You can lay out on a wicker lounge chair, lie on an outdoor sofa or sit around a large table with your toes in the sand. For a satisfying light bite, the classic casquinha (stuffed crab shell), is exquisite. This bar is an all-day affair. Bring your swimsuit, take periodic dips in the large Barra waves, snack and transition seamlessly into happy hour.
Best place to sit at the bar: ASTOR
In Europe, there is always a seat at the bar. The intimacy of chit chat with the bartender, watching what goes on behind the bar and sitting on the high stools is oh-so satisfying. There are few places in Rio that offer this, as Brazilians prefer to dine with their entire families or sit in large groups of friends on a night out. Astor originally comes from São Paulo and has a New York style bar: lots of bottles, a long counter top and a dozen seats to accommodate the solo drinker or the couple bar go-ers. With a focus on good cocktails and a killer menu to accompany it, the bar at Astor never fails.
Best underground bar: BUKOWSKI
Rio de Janeiro loves its Rock. Appropriately situated in the hipster neighborhood of Botafogo, Bukowski, is the city’s top underground rock bar to go for a drink in Rio. The scene- located in a converted Portuguese colonial mansion – is buzzing with the city’s more avant-garde. The music is energetic and the ambiance is cool. But if you need your drink just a little faster, simply hop across the street to the local boteco, providing good snacks and cheep beer.
Best tropical ambiance: PALAPHITA KITCH GÁVEA
With its straw roof, tree trunk furniture and front row view of the lagoon, Palaphita Kitch bar feels like a holiday from your holiday. Local Cariocas love to come out for a walk and enjoy the peaceful lake, especially on the weekends, so count on excellent people watching! In the evening, the soft café lights and twinkle from around the lake leaves you murmuring: “I cannot believe I am in Rio de Janeiro!” When we need a holiday from our holiday, we grab a wooden sofa with colorful cushions to enjoy a drink in Rio.
Best local bar: BOTECO SAMBUGOSA
If you are staying in Rio, even for only a layover, you will definitely find yourself in Ipanema at some point. While I am slightly partial, as it is my local bar, everyone whom I have brought there simple adores it. Sambugosa is your quintessential beach boteco. The service is provided with a smile, especially if you are seated with a local. Situated under a large tree, just one block from the heart of Ipanema Beach, one could easily pass a whole afternoon enjoying beers and frango passarinho (tiny pieces of garlic fried chicken). A local’s note: Weekday lunch specials are fresh and reasonably priced. My favorite pairing for my drink in Rio, is the salmon with broccoli rice.
Best outdoor bar: CANASTRA
The busiest bar in Ipanema, Canastra, is a very clever mixture of French class with Brazilian simplicity. Arrive early to grab a seat, or just order a drink from where you are standing on the sidewalk. The small tapas-style plates are all delicious and made from locally sourced farmers (I am speaking from experience as I have literally tried them all). Their selection of Brazilian wines are some of the top and most affordable in the city and ambiance is electric. Every foreigner living in Rio, local fashionista, well-travelled, or just simply interesting local has sipped on a beverage at Canastra at least once.
Best bar style: BAGATELLE
Following in the footsteps of its global counterparts, Bagatelle is one of the city’s most glamorous bars to see and be seen. The latest in the famous chain, also found in Dubai, Monte Carlo and Ibiza is located at the Jockey Club near the neighborhood of Gavéa, and the setting could not feel more regal. Reminiscent of a South Beach meets European restaurant, a night here should involve a wardrobe of high heels and slacks.
Whatever your taste is, there is sure to be something to please you in Rio de Janeiro. From beach to urban, classic to trendy, there is something for every mood. If you would like to have all ‘the little details’ planned for you and / or accompanied by an English speaking local, we would be tickled to show you around Rio de Janeiro!
By Lauren Quinn, Bromelia Rio Travel & Tours