Also known as the Cidade Maravilhosa, Rio de Janeiro is sure to be an experience you won't want to forget. This list shows you the best places to get reminders of the sun, sand, views, dancing, and pure alegria (happiness) that make up the city.
Praça XV (Quinze)
This square was named Praça XV (Quinze) de Novembro after Brazil declared itself a republic on November 15, 1822. Before this, the square was known as Largo do Carmo and later The Palace Square (Praça do Palácio). Several events important to Brazil’s history have taken place here, like the coronation of Brazil's two Emperors (Pedro I and Pedro II), the abolition of slavery and the overthrow (deposition) of Emperor Dom Pedro II in 1889. The square is bordered on one side by the Guanabara Bay and the other by the Rua Primeiro deMarço- which used to be the busiest street in Rio. The Royal Palace (Palácio Real), which was the former home and government building of past Kings is now the largest existing building in Praça XV. Today the plaza is bustling with businessmen and women that work in the area. Others meet in the restaurants surrounding the plaza for lunch. Also, the ferry station to Niteroi is located here and many people who live in Niteroi and work in downtown Rio arrive to Praça XV for their commute. On Saturdays this is the place where hundreds of bargain hunters, collectors gather to buy and sell antique and vintage goods. Although the praca is busy during the day with 9 to 5ers, it is all but empty at night except when skateboarders gather and do tricks on steps and ramps.
Saara is a labyrinth of discount stores situated between Rua Uruguaiana and Avenida Presidente Vargas in the city's center. The 11 blocks are distinguished by colored flags that swing overhead from the light poles. You'll also know you are there when you see a dense crowd of people, packing the streets in search of great deals. Saara is a magnet for an average 70 thousand people per day. The area dates back to the 18th century, when Arab and Jewish merchants established the area as a place to trade and sell their wares. Today shoppers find
clothing, jewelry, souvenirs, costumes (carnival), party supplies, toys, hair supplies… there is a store in the area for almost everything. An insider tip is to pick up your Havaianas or Ipanema flip flops, beach kanga (lightweight beach towel Cariocas use), and souvenir t-shirts here rather than the beach or more touristy areas – and you will be left with a few more reais for coconut waters and caipirinhas. However, be cautious of purchasing electronics as they may be more expensive and of lower quality than you might find at home.
Hippie Fair Ipanema
What started out as a small outdoor market by a group of hippies in 1968, has now turned into a maze of 700 vendors selling everything from clothes to paintings and food. The market's official name is Feira de Artezanato de Ipanema (Handcrafts & Art Fair of Ipanema), but if you're asking a Carioca about the market, call it The Hippie Fair, as it is still known. A great stop if you're looking to pick up something made by local craftsmen. Some cool stand outs are the jewelry, Brazilian musical instruments, and leather bags, shoes and purses (you can even get short leather shorts in bright colors). Fashion designer Giorgio Armani, popularized the handmade leather sandals from the Eron booth, when he bought a pair. There is also an entire gallery section of paintings for sell, often of the local landscape. And make sure to sample some of the food as you walk around. Grab a buttery ear of corn, or a tapioca crepe made with cheese or chocolate from one of the smaller booths. If you like seafood, make sure to stop by the Bahian booth. You can't miss the ladies in head-to-toe white selling acarajé, a type of corn bread fritter stuffed with shrimp or frigideira de bacalhau, similar to a codfish omelette. The market has never missed a Sunday in Praça General Osório since it's inception, but take a cue from the locals and go after 3pm for the deals.
Homegrown is a Carioca-bred shop that integrates clothes, sneakers and art. Contrary to its nondescript facade on popular Rua Maria Quitéria, Homegrown boldly delivers beauty urban style. This is the shop you stop by to pick up a skateboard to join the locals rolling down Ipanema streets. Their art shows draw Rio's cool crowd monthly to view local artists, often some of the city's most popular street and graffiti artists. Homegrown also promotes art meets design collaborations. Items like internationally known graffiti artist MENT's caps produced in collaboration with 9Fifty/New Era make great gifts. While their moleskine-type journals covered with various designs by local street artists make great souvenirs. Sneakerheads would appreciate Homegrown's collection, including many limited editions.
Feira de São Cristóvão
The São Cristóvão fair (Feira de São Cristóvão) started in 1945, with Northeastern immigrants who congregated in front of the pavilion as a community. Often the immigrants brought food and music to their gatherings, these gatherings grew to be the Feira de São Cristóvão. Now the fair is held in the Luiz Gonzaga Municipal Center and it is massive! Visitors can browse over 700 stalls offering a diverse range of products from the northeast of Brazil. The stalls offer a wide variety of crafts, like hammocks and handmade decorative items. As well as, food items like Goiabada, doe de leech and spices. The fair attracts over 300,000 people every month. The most popular time to go is on weekends, when you can see live bands and cultural productions on the two large stages. The fair has about 35 restaurants serving authentic Northeastern cuisine. Try escondidinho at Asa Branca, it's an unforgettable dish made wtih cured meat at the bottom and potato and cheese at the top.
Santa Teresa is the bohemian heart of Rio de Janeiro, and many original and creative goods can be found throughout its cobblestone streets. As is true for most bohemian enclaves, the area is popular with artists and intellectuals. And its hills make it one of the most scenic places to shop. Much of the original architecture and the character of the neighborhood have been preserved and it offers views of the entire city below. The best place to start is Largo do Guimarães, which can be viewed as the social center of the area. Largo do Guimarães often (but sporadicly) has individual craftsmen in the plaza setting up shop selling handmade jewelry, paintings and t-shirts. From there you can go walking from shop to shop. From the central point of Largo do Guimarães (the train/bus stop, walk across the street and up the stairs to the whimsical shop alongside the popular cafe Cafecito(http://www.cafecito.com.br/). Here you'll find interesting honey, jellies, coffee, beers, wines. After Cafecito, walk north and visit the other shops along Rua Almirante Alexandrino. Don't leave without visiting Vereda (http://www.lavereda.art.br), which is packed with high-quality art and goods by local craftspeople and artists.
One of Rio's newest museums has recently opened one of Rio's newest design stores. Novo Desenho, housed in the Museu de Art do Rio is much more than a simple museum gift shop. Although the store sells items in relation to their latest exhibits, the focus is primarily on the promotion of local Brazilian designers. And the museum itself just won a design award so they know what they're talking about when it comes to design. Smartly-crafted children's toys, home furnishings, jewelry, decor, and accessories all displayed as if the room is another annex to the museum. And all of the products are made in Brazil. From the stools made using leftover goat leather from Espírito Santo by designer Jacqueline Chiabay to the waterproof Bike Bags, perfect for cruising Rio's beachside bike lanes by designer Pierro Carolina, the store is a design conscious shopper's wonderland. And many of the items would make great locally-constructed souvenirs like the small sculptural trays crafted by designer Marcos Duarte from discarded wood in Parque Large. After your tour of the museum and Novo Desenho, finish it off with a walk to the rooftop, its view of the Guanabara Bay is unforgettable.
Sobral specializes in fashion and home accessories as vibrant and (punchy, whimsical, unplanned, fun) as Brazil. The Brazilian born, Sobral, started out by selling his accessories at local crafts markets and now he has stores all over the country and in the US. Most of the brightly colored accessories (baubles) are made of resin, giving the appearance of smooth, sometimes solid colored, more often multi-colored river rocks. Sometimes they are so psychedelic the look candy coated. Sobral even has handbags made of resin. Travelers may want to take home the Corcocvado ring as a souvenir. Or the Corcavado statue as keepsake from Rio for the home. With the tapline "O amor pelo Rio em forma do objects poetics" (The love for Rio in the form of poetic objects).