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The first of the stalls arrive as dawn breaks on Rua do Lavradio in Lapa, methodically piecing together metal posts and laying out a diverse range of antiques, vintage items and handcrafts. By 10am, the first of the 20,000 expected visitors start to trickle in, searching for unique and dazzling products. This is Feira Rio Antigo in Rio de Janeiro, one of the best outdoor markets in the city.
On the first Saturday of each month only, Feira Rio Antigo unfolds on Rua do Lavradio in Lapa with an extraordinary diversity of antique, vintage and handmade goods. The event is a much beloved pastime in Rio and attracts swarms of Cariocas as well as curious tourists, with some 20,000 people attending the fair on an average day, and many more during holiday periods such as Christmas time.
Feira Rio Antigo started 14 years ago by a group of entrepreneurs, Polo Novo Rio Antigo, in an effort to revitalize the region and bring back the forgotten corner of the city center. Despite only happening once a month, it grew in popularity and breathed life back into the once rundown area.
The fair takes place on Rua do Lavradio, a street in Rio’s city center that is packed with historical significance. Opening way back in 1770, it was the first residential street in Rio and is associated to Machado de Assis, Carmen Miranda, actor João Caetano, Duque de Caxias and Madame Satã. The charming colonial buildings that line the street give it a historical atmosphere that drapes the area in a presence of the past.
This feeling of the past is enriched with the items for sale at any of the 400 stalls that are set up at each event. The stalls sell antique pieces, vintage or homemade clothes, ornaments, decorations, accessories and beautiful works of art. There are also little boutique stalls with hand-stitched bags that are of excellent quality and make quirky fashion pieces. There are also several stalls that have traditionally made wooden sandals that make a fashionable and edgy change to the usual rubber flip-flops. Riva Sandalias Artesanais sells wonderful sandals in different materials and patterns and will add an edge and color to any outfit. They also sell a collection of colored-fabric bags which are perfect for day-to-day use or to take to the beach.
As well as the stalls, there are several shops within the ageing buildings that line Rua do Lavradio. The shops may seem mysterious, without any clear name or brand, yet step through their open doors to discover large collections of antique furniture and vintage clothes, the smell of the past lingering in the air. For those that love retro, there is always a treasure to be found in the vinyl and old photo collections. Be sure to have a good rummage around to find some incredible, unique items.
Part of the fair program includes live music, with traces of samba and chorinho filling the air wherever you go. Live bands usually meet up at the corner of Rua do Senado, right by the fair, to put a spring in all visitors’ steps. To fuel up, try the traditional feijoada at Mangue Seco Cachacaria and celebrate a successful day’s antique and vintage shopping at Rio Scenarium, one of Lapa’s best and most beautiful nightclubs.