Steeped in samba and studded in sequins, Rio de Janeiro knows how to party. Home to the world’s largest Carnival and South America’s most illustrious hotel, few places boast the legacy of the Cidade Maravilhosa — or “Marvelous City.” In the shadow of the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, overlooking the picturesque mountainous islands sprinkled throughout Guanabara Bay, there’s hardly a more idyllic setting for the celebration. And this year is a bigger party than ever as 2023 marks the 100th anniversary of the Copacabana Palace, the legendary hotel favored by countless celebrities — like Marilyn Monroe, Walt Disney, Princess Diana and Mick Jagger, to name a few — and the setting of dozens of famous movies, including the first on-screen pairing of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. But Rio isn’t just the place where celebrities go to party, it’s also where samba music, cachaça liquor and good vibes flow freely. This is a city that proudly flaunts its rowdy reputation in glitzy nightclubs as much as dingy dive bars, quirky pubs and open-air music venues. Keep reading to discover a few of our favorites.

Most Iconic

Rio Scenarium | Lapa

If you were only going to visit one bar in the city, Rio Scenarium should be your pick — quirky antique décor, live music and a steady stream of patrons fills all three levels of the city’s most well-known nightclub — and if you’re planning on visiting several bars, Lapa is the perfect neighborhood for a pub-crawl.

Most Trendy

Explorer Bar | Santa Teresa

Perched atop a hill overlooking the city, it’s easy to see why Santa Teresa is nicknamed the Montmartre of Rio. With its winding cobblestone streets, colonial architecture and historic, bright-yellow streetcars, the neighborhood is colored in charm — and Explorer Bar is no exception. The turquoise Victorian mansion is known for its inventive craft cocktails and polished tapas, best enjoyed on the magical, leafy terrace.

Best Local Experience

Bip Bip | Copacabana

If busy nightclubs aren’t your scene, head to Bip Bip in Copacabana. This tiny, unpretentious space is all about the music, and talking over it might get you a dirty look. Grab a drink (it’s all self-serve, on the honor system) and settle in for live samba, bossa nova and choro played with meticulous precision. If you’re lucky, you might also hear from Alfredinho — the bar’s philanthropic owner — with a short speech about the social cause benefited by the evening’s profits.


Botafogo: Quirky, themed bars and all-night clubs, best on Thursday nights and weekends

Centro: Ballet and symphony performances followed by all-night street parties at Arco de Teles

Copacabana: Tourist hotspot with a sprawling boardwalk along Rio’s most famous beach

Gávea: Upscale southside neighborhood known for hip bars and a bustling Sunday night street party

Humaitá: After dark, this market transforms into a lively hangout with cheap drinks and late-night bites

Ipanema: Iconic beach views and trendy, upscale bars with a young and energetic vibe

Jardim Botânico: Relaxing botanical gardens, chic bars and the occasional soap opera star sighting

Lapa: Rio’s most famous hub for nightlife, from dive bars to sprawling nightclubs and live music venues

Leblon: Rio’s foodie epicenter famed for its fashionable patrons, craft drinks and upscale botequins

Madureira: Northside Afro-Brazilian area known for its Saturday night R&B dance party, Baile de Charme

Santa Teresa: Charming hilltop neighborhood with bohemian bars and authentic snacks and drinks

Saúde: Historic downtown neighborhood with Afro-Brazilian roots and open-air samba performances

Urea: Waterfront views and bars with relaxed, unpretentious vibes at the foot of Sugarloaf Mountain

Best for a Mixed Group

Carioca de Gema | Lapa

Housed inside a 19th-century mansion in Lapa, this crowd favorite has it all: authentic Carioca vibes, live samba performances and some of the city’s best caipirinhas (Brazil’s national cocktail made with cachaça, sugar and lime.) Whether you prefer to get up and dance or sit back and relax, Carioca de Gema is your best bet for dependable fun, seven nights a week.

Most Lively

Bar Bukowski | Botafogo

You won’t hear any samba at Rio’s oldest rock club. Bar Bukowski is a different kind of party entirely. Three neon-drenched dance floors offer a mix of music, from live rock bands to DJs spinning a range of throwback vinyl jams. This place is popular — and for good reason — so arrive early to avoid getting stuck waiting in the queue outside.

Most Immersive

Pedra do Sal | Saúde

If Rio is the birthplace of samba, Pedra do Sal is the delivery room. Located on the site of a 17th century quilombo settlement, the square is painted in history — literally and figuratively. Walls surrounding the square are covered in colorful murals reflecting the resilience of the Afro-Brazilian community. On Monday and Friday nights, the Saúde neighborhood comes alive with a century-old tradition of live samba music and dancing atop the flat pedra or “salt rock” from which the square gets its name. Entry is free, drinks are cheap and the music is some of the best in the city.

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