Last update: 30 Mar 2017.
Lapa is one of the most famous nightlife points in Rio. Among ‘cariocas’, however, it’s far from being an unanimity. Not everyone loves, but something they can all agree: Lapa is democratic. It has almost everything. That’s why I recommend that you act like a local and do not decide anything in advance. Just go and decide when you get there.
First tip: it’s better going on Fridays rather than Saturdays. It’s the most cheerful day and it has more options.
What to do: bars and parties
As I told before, the best thing is to go and see which place is the most attractive to you. Lapa is very eclectic, so I’m sure you will find something that matches your taste. To help you out, I will give only some suggestions, along with some useful information about each one of them.
1) ‘Botecos’ (this is how we call bars that are not fancy). All of the times I go to Lapa, I start my night at the cheerful Bar da Cachaça (corner of Gomes Freire w/ Mem de Sá) . And 90% of these times I just hang out there and I don’t get in any party, hahaha. It has two bars, one next to another, specialized in cachaça, a typical sugarcane liquor produced only in Brazil. They have a great variety of flavors and the price is fair enough (average price of R$5,00 for a small glass) Some popular flavors: honey, Gabriela, ginger and the one who’s especially popular at the moment: jambu. It’s made of a fruit that leaves your mouth with a tingling sensation.
It’s always crowded in a good way and it’s considered to be more of a ‘alternative’ spot. Sometimes there are people that makes jam sessions, but most of the time it’s just people talking and drinking. If you go a little further, across the street, there is a bar known as Litrão, which is one of the cheapest places to drink beer and it gets also packed. Arco-Íris da Lapa is another boteco, which serves cheap beer and good appetizers.
2) Circo Voador: I dare to say that its the most traditional concert house of Rio. You need to check the schedule, but it’s usually artists and Rock or Brazilian music bands of great quality. The price may vary according to the event, but it’s around 40 to 60 reais the half-entrance (mainly students, but other policies may be specified). The previous tip of not planning it’s not so good for concerts, since for most of them you should buy in advance. Fundição Progresso also has a good concerts schedule, but for being a closed space is not so delighting as Circo.
3) Bar Semente: live music of great quality. The schedule is varied and you can check it on their website. They have jazz, bossa nova and chorinho, but the speciality is samba. The price for the entrance also varies, but it’s around R$40,00.
4) Rock n’roll: to prove how democratic Lapa is, I will give you three suggestions of places to hear rock. Lapa Irish Pub (Evaristo da Veiga, 147), Boemia da Lapa Cavern Pub (Praça João Pessoa, nº 02, corner of Gomes Freire with Mem de Sá) e La Esquina (Av. Mem de Sá, 61). The latter is more eclectic, so its especially advised to check their schedule through their site on the link, which is btw very complete and it has even a virtual tour around their space!
5) Leviano Bar (Av. Mem de Sá, 47): I went there twice, and one thing that I noticed is the variety of musical genders. On Fridays and Sundays, they usually throw parties with several kinds of music, from funk (the Brazilian, not the American one, haha) to samba, but always focused on Brazilian music. At Thursdays, they have live salsa! Check the schedule through their site, since it’s can be modified at any time.
Pre/post night snacks
To eat, Lapa has also a lot of options, with infinite bars and restaurants. However, if you need to grab something to eat fast, before or after getting in some party, here are some suggestions:
- In the area near the Arches, you will find a lot of tents selling drinks and some of them seeling food, such as BBQ sticks, hamburguers, etc. Well, it’s up to you to decide whether the place seems tidy enough for you to trust. But one of these tents that I can recommend is Burguer Lapa. The price is good (from 7 to 12 reais, aproximately), it’s clean and the sandwiches are tasty!
- At the gas station near the Arches, there is a Bob’s store, which is the Brazilian version of Mc Donald’s, haha. At this gas station, there are the only 24h ATM’s available.
- Contemporâneo Lapa (Av. Gomes Freire, 625): one small restaurant that serves some delicious food, such as lamb sandwiches on cheese breads (pão de queijo, a typical brazilian bread, as I talk about in this post). The service was great and fast.
- For pizza, I suggest Pizzaria Guanabara (Av. Mem de Sá, 17), which is very traditional and remains opened for long hours or Vezpa (Rua do Lavradio, 198), which also serves slices.
- Bonde Sucos (Av. Mem de Sá, 47): right next to Leviano Bar (nº 5), it’s a sandwiche and juices bar. If you’re looking for healthy options, it’s the right place for you!
- Little money? What about these for only 1 real? It’s really good, I’ve tried it already! You can find it at Rua do Lavradio, 172. Its a family business and they keep this price since 2003.
What not to do
- Being a foreigner, there’s a huge chance that people suggested you to go to “Rio Scenarium” to have fun in Lapa, right? Well, this place is kind of nice, but the problem is, besides being expensive, it’s a place attented almost exclusively by foreigners. Local people usually don’t go there. So, if you want to have a more authentic perspective of nightlife in Lapa, you’d rather go somewhere else.
- Another place that I, in particular, don’t like is Teatro Odisséia. Huge lines of under-age studentes with false IDs and pop/rock indie music.
- Avoid drinking tequila shots at the streets or any other drinks of less trustable places. The same applies for buying drugs. Since in Brazil other drugs besides alcohol and cigarettes are prohibited, the quality of it is very poor, which can be more dangerous than the drug itself.
- Be careful with cellphones at your pockets or with value objects. Robberies are more likely to happen only in deserted places around Lapa, but pickpocking usually happens in places full of people.
Lapa by day
During the day, you get to see the Arches and Selarón Steps (Rua Joaquim Silva) at the daylight.
Besides, every first Saturday of the month, the traditional Feira Rio Antigo – an open-air market – takes place in Rua do Lavradio, which gets floaded by tents selling crafts, antiquities and other cool stuff. A lot of nice restaurants are opened for lunch and sometimes there are music groups presenting.
How about pulling your day and getting up to Santa Teresa, one of the most charming neighborhoods in Rio? Take the tram at Largo da Carioca (only between 8am to 4pm, from Monday to Saturday, R$20) or bus nº 007 from Gomes Freire Av.
See what you can do in Santa Teresa in this post.