Samba is one of the most traditional styles of music that originated in Brazil. Cachaça, rum-like spirit used to make caipirinhas and unofficially Brazil's national drink, is consumed more than any other distilled alcoholic beverage. We've mapped out the best places to experience both at the same time.
Roda de samba da Pedra do Sal
Located in an area dubbed Little Africa for being a community formed by slaves and former slaves from the continent, this Samba circle is probably the most soulful that the city has to offer. The area is credited by many as being the birthplace of Carioca Samba. There were Samba parties in peoples homes with impromptu bands playing makeshift instruments using household items like plates, knives, palm, and gourds. These days the Samba circle has grown exponentially, it is still free, and the band is still composed of individual musicians coming together for an impromptu jam session, but now it's outdoors and the audience is a lot bigger. Now people from all over the world come to grab a beer or caipirinha, and acarajé from street vendors, and move their feet to Samba tunes. The gatherings are Mondays and Fridays from 20h-00 unless there is heavy rain. And the location is very close to Praça Mauá. Most taxi drivers know Praça Mauá, but not necessarily the exact location of Pedra do Sal, so a good alternative is to have them take you to Praça Mauá and walk a few streets to Pedra do Sal.
Tourists and locals of all ages find common ground at this gigantic, multi-level space in Lapa where live Samba, MPB, chorro and forró bands are given prominence on Rio Scenarium’s various stages. It’s nearly impossible not to get swept up in the dancing here. Similar to the music selection, Rio Scenarium also showcases lots of variety on it’s menu. After selecting a table, diners can choose between seafoods, meats, pastas and a good mix of appetizers. The festive ambience is refined by waist high antique vases, vintage phones, and gigantic whimsical chandeliers. The self-dubbed culture hall was once an antiques shop and later a film/opera house. Arrive around 9pm for a table. Just an hour later and the place is packed, by 11pm the line is out the door.
Clube dos Democráticos
Created in 1867, Democráticos is the oldest dance club in Lapa and home to the oldest carnival societies in all of Brazil. It started as a clubhouse for a group of Bohemians that called themselves Group XX. They were all about promoting their Samba balls and other types of entertainment and established a good report within the community. The dance hall has operated continuously since then and today is one of the most romantic places to spend an evening dancing. Although, Democráticos is a little less fancy than it was in it’s younger days, it’s still just as fun. The vibe is more for partnered dancing, and for single peeps, it’s easy to find a partner there and not be harassed after the song is over. From Wednesday through Saturday, Democráticos offers live bands playing forró, samba, MPB, and choro. Forró nights are generally the most popular.
Just steps away from Lapa’s iconic arches, Leviano bar is fast making a name for itself as a standout amongst Lapa nightlife. At 9pm, the lounge opens its space completely on both sides, leaving the sounds to blast freely out to the two main streets of Lapa: Mém de Sá and Riachuelo. Of course, this creates an unofficial party in the streets sometimes, when crowds of friends dance to music beer in hand, just outside Leviano. The inside is even more amped. Each night brings a different crowd. One of the most popular is the Digital Dubs party, a reggae party that sometimes invites dancehall and reggae musicians from around the world to play and always has good vibes. There is also a lively salsa and forró night on Thursdays and samba on Fridays. For a late night snack, Leviano’s next door neighbor, Bonde Sucos has some of the best dessert and fresh juices in Rio.
The Escadaria Selarón (Staircase of Selarón) is like a ceramic quilt that connects the neighborhood of Santa Teresa to Lapa, close to the city's center. When the artist that created the colorful stairs , Jorge Selarón, initially came to Brazil he moved into a home adjacent to the stairs. During this time, around the early 90s, the stairs were completely dilapidated. Selarón spent all of his money and went broke in the process of transforming the stairs into what they are today, a vibrant hodgepodge of different tiles affixed to the steps and the railing of the steps. The artist's personality was just as eccentric and striking as the stairs he created. He was the the type of person that never met a stranger and was happy to converse with the numerous pedestrians that used the stairs to get to and from Lapa. As his neighbors and travelers began to see the work he was creating, people began to show support by bringing tiles from all over the world for the artist to add to the steps. He was quoted as saying,"Behind every tile is a story. I had over 4,000 tiles placed on these stairs since I started, I have over 4,000 stories I could tell you."Sadly, Selarón died literally on the stairs a few years ago at the age of 65.
Arcos da Lapa
The Arcos da Lapa are one of the few remaining architectural giants in Rio from the colonial era. It's a mammoth structure 42 arches stretching 270 meters (885.83 feet) in length. In its early days, it served as an aqueduct to bring water from the Carioca river to Largo da Carioca, to combat water shortage in the city. Now the landmark serves as a popular meeting spot for a night of Lapa debauchery. On any given night, you may find drummers, samba circles, hip hop ciphers, rockers, skaters, and crowds of partiers, all hanging around the arches. On Thursday through Sunday drink vendors selling juicy and budget-friendly caipirinhas and food vendors selling items like brazilian hot dogs and burgers set up their tents near the arches. The popularity of the area also attracts pickpockets so be cautious while walking around even during the day.