The famous Christ the Redeemer statue overlooks Rio

Heading to Brazil for the World Cup? In this three-part series, we chat to local experts who reveal the best bars and restaurants in Brazil’s biggest cities – and this week we tackle Rio de Janeiro. 

Ask anyone who's been to Rio de Janeiro and they will tell you there's nowhere quite like the cidade maravilhosa (marvellous city). Overlooked by the iconic Sugarloaf Mountain, this feisty city is renowned for its hedonistic nightlife and delicious cuisine. 

And if you’re one of the lucky ones heading to city for the World Cup, we’ve got the lowdown on the best bars and restaurants in Rio. These recommendations come courtesy of our resident experts - the popular blogger, Cristina Landi, and celebrity chef, Leticia Schwartz.

Cristina Landi, blogger

Cristina is the founder of the My Little Rio blogCristina is the founder of the My Little Rio blog
Creative Commons / Cristina Landi

Christina Landi is a Brazilian native, who grew up in Rio. Her popular blog, My Little Rio Journal, documents life in the city, providing details on everything from museums and cultural centres to beaches and shopping centres. We talked to Christina about the best bars to grab a drink in Rio.

What are your top 10 bars in Rio?

Bar Urca (Rua Candido Gaffree 205, Urca)

This is a very traditional bar in the quiet Urca neighbourhood. The tables overlooking Guanabara Bay are the perfect spot for a cold beer and a plate of delicious bolinhos de bacalhau (codfish balls).

Azul Marinho (Avenida Francisco Bhering, Hotel Arpoador Inn, Arpoador)

A beautiful bar in front of Arpoador Beach, Azul Marinho is the perfect spot to watch one of the most beautiful sunsets in Rio, as the sun falls behind Dois Irmãos Mountain. The prices are a little expensive but the stunning view makes up for it.

Paris Bar (Do Flamengo 340, Flamengo)

This is one of my favourites when I’m in the mood for something a little more sophisticated. Located on the second floor of Casa Julieta de Serpa cultural centre, Paris Bar draws a hip, young crowd. Alex Mesquita, elected Rio’s best barman in 2013, has a great selection of drinks and cocktails on offer. My favourite is the Parfait Amour, a purple liqueur served in a tea cup.

Shooters Cocktails Bar (Rua Nelson Mandela 100, Botafogo)

The lively ambiance in this bar makes it one of my favourites in the Botafogo neighbourhood. Try to go midweek, when it is not so crowded. It is definitely a great choice to hangout with friends, try different cocktails and listen to music.

The sunset behind Dois Irmãos MountainThe sunset behind Dois Irmãos Mountain
Creative Commons / Rodrigo Soldon

OsBar (Avenida Calógeras 18, Cinelandia)

A bar and restaurant in Cinelandia, AsBar can be found in the downtown neighbourhood close to the National Museum of Fine Arts. As in any boteco, don’t expect any sophistication in OsBar! But you can taste the coldest beer on earth and the food is great as well. On Fridays they have a delicious and typical Brazilian feijoada (a traditional beef and pork stew). It is a great choice for lunch, especially during happy hour.

Deck Bar (Avenida Atlântica 2964, Copacabana)

This bar is on the rooftop floor of Pestana Rio Atlântica Hotel. Order a beer, a caipirinha or a glass of wine, and enjoy the breathtaking view of Copacabana Beach. If you like to party, go on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday when the resident DJ takes to the decks.

Rio Rock Blues (Rua do Riachuelo 20, Lapa)

This is the place to go for those who love rock music and want to have a lively experience in Lapa. A nice selection of appetizers, all kinds of drinks and good quality live rock and roll makes this a winner for those looking for a party.

Bar D’Hotel (Avenida Delfim Moreira 696, Leblon)

This trendy-chic restaurant on the second floor of Marina All Suites Hotel is great for a couple of romantic drinks or to have dinner with friends. The great variety of cocktails and the retro décor are the highlights. For a table with a beach view, it’s better to make reservations.

Paxeco Bar (Rua Pacheco Leão 724D, Jardim Botanico)

In the heart of the Jardim Botanico neighbourhood, Paxeco Bar has an open terrace where you can view the Botanical Garden’s palm trees and a great night view of Christ the Redeemer. Again, this is a place more suited to romantic, intimate drinks on a moonlit night.

Antigamente  (Rua do Ouvidor 43, Centro)

This is my favourite bar in the bohemian corridor of Rua do Ouvidor for its informal and pleasant atmosphere. The excellent food (try the cod fish dishes), delicious appetizers and good service makes it a great choice for lunch. Take a table on the sidewalk, drink a cold beer and taste the delicious pastel de costela (spicy meat cakes) while waiting for your mains. Perfect! 

What are the best places to watch the football?

If you are planning to come to Rio for the World Cup but aren’t lucky enough to have tickets to the games, there are lots of traditional spots where you can watch the action while enjoying a drink.

My personal choices would be either the traditional bar Clipper (Rua Carlos Góis 263, Leblon),  the Shenanigan’s Irish Pub (Rua Visconde de Pirajá 122, A, Ipanema) or in the gastronomic hub Cobal do Humaitá (Rua Voluntários da Pátria 448, Humaitá) where locals often gather to watch football matches.

Are there any areas of Rio tourists are better off avoiding?

I would recommend that all travellers avoid the favelas. Despite specialised travel agencies now offering favela guided tours, drug trafficking and gang crime is still a real problem.

While the casas de samba bars (bars with live samba music) of Lapa are definitely not somewhere to be avoided, there are some spots in Lapa which are really not safe. So, if you plan on going out for a drink here, just take a taxi from your hotel and ask to be dropped right in front of your destination.

If you are walking anywhere at night in Rio, always keep your valuables hidden and watch out for pick pockets – especially in popular tourist areas like Ipanema and Copacabana.

Chef and Author, Leticia Schwartz

Leticia Schwartz is a celebrated author and chefLeticia Schwartz is a celebrated author and chef
Creative Commons / Kate Sears

Leticia was born and raised in Rio, where she first discovered her love for food. As an adult Leticia enrolled at the New York French Culinary Institute where she graduated with degrees in both culinary and pastry art. Despite moving abroad, Leticia has kept her passion for Brazilian cuisine, evident in the title of her newest work, My Rio De Janeiro: A Cookbook. We spoke to Leticia about all things culinary in Rio and got some top tips on where to eat out.

What are your favourite restaurants in Rio?

I love all of the restaurants that feature in my cookbook, but if I had to choose just five then they’d have to be:

Aconchego Carioca (Rua Barao de Iguatemi 379, Praça da Bandeira)

This traditional eatery is situated on a street corner with a small patio in the rear. Famous for its bolinho feijoada (meats cooked in flour), the much-loved restaurant boasts a good selection of beers, including numerous domestic offerings.

Chico & Alaide (Rua Dias Ferreira 679, Leblon)

Petiscos (Brazilian tapas) and extra cold chopp (beer) is the order of the day at this gastropub. Take a seat at one of the tables lining the street outside and enjoy some of the best finger food in Rio.

Chico & Alaide was started by two old friendsChico & Alaide was started by two old friends

Olympe (Rua Custodio Serrao 62, Lagoa)

This French restaurant is one of the more luxurious dining options in Rio, perfect for that special evening meal. The giant ravioli, pulled pork and shrimp risotto are all excellent.

Iraja (Rua Conde de Iraja 109)

Iraja combines good service, reasonable prices and a modern take on typical Brazilian dishes to create a winning formula. The desserts, in particular the hot chocolat brigadeiro cake, have a fantastic reputation throughout the city.

Zuka (Dias Ferreira 233b, Leblon)

This trendy restaurant has a fantastic ambiance that sees it as busy and lively at midnight as it is at 8pm. It’s a little more expensive than other options but customers keep on going back due to the quality and variety of the menu. This is also the place to try a caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil.

If you had to narrow it down to just one single restaurant, where would you go for dinner?

You know that this is a very hard question! To choose just one? If you insist, I would choose Jobi (Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva, 1166), a tavern in Leblon, where I ate some of the best rissoles (croquettes) ever!

What is your favourite traditional Brazilian dish? Is there anywhere in Rio that's best to sample it?

Feijoada, considered our national dish, is really one of my favourites. It’s a serious gastronomic dish, but also a simple one: a big stew of black beans with lots of different kinds of succulent meats cooked inside. It’s served with white rice, farofa (toasted manioc flour), collard greens, and orange sections. The dish is found throughout Rio. We Brazilians are a very casual people and often serve our meals buffet style - feijoada is no exception. 

We know there’s a big street food scene in Rio, where’s best to go to sample it? Any dish in particular to try?

Rio is huge on street food! You should definitely try the risole de camarao com catupiry (shrimp and cheese rissole) from Jobi, brigadeiro and coconut cake from Colher de Pau, and bolinho de feijoada (meat pastries) from Acomchego Carioca. Some of these dishes really are my favourite foods in Rio, hence why they feature so heavily in my cookbook. 

Brigadeiro is a sweet chocolate truffleBrigadeiro is a sweet chocolate truffle
Creative Commons / Leticia Schwartz

How about those visitors with a sweet tooth?

Brigadeiro (a chocolate truffle) is the fundamental candy of my existence. The private English classes I attended as a child were located just a few doors down from Colher de Pau (Rita Ludolf 90, Leblon), a pastry shop in Rio that makes the most incredible brigadeiro. The smell of fudge would waft through the windows, penetrating the classrooms, and distract the students, especially me. Just as good now as it was back then, it’s a must for anyone visiting Rio. 


Related articles: 

The best bars and restaurants in São Paulo 

The best bars and restaurants in Salvador

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