The 10 Coolest Neighbourhoods in Rio de Janeiro

Beach vendor, Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro
Beach vendor, Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro | © Lazyllama / Alamy Stock Photo
Rio de Janeiro is a large, sprawling city, yet each of its neighbourhoods capture a distinct charm that make it feel more like a collection of towns than a huge city. This diversity of characteristics is clearly defined and incredibly rewarding to experience. Explore these neighbourhoods during your stay to witness Rio’s many facades.


In its glory days, Copacabana was synonymous with glamour and luxury yet in recent years that shine has begun to fade and has seeped over to next door neighbour, Ipanema. Despite the slip in status, Copacabana is undoubtedly still one of the most sought-after tourist destinations and an iconic name in Rio. Spend the day basking in the sun on its famous beach before cooling off in the beachside kiosks with a caipirinha and nibbles of Brazilian snacks. Admire the hand-crafts that are sold along the famous black and white wave motif promenade, before heading to one of the glitzy seafood restaurants that line up just across the road.

Copacabana © Priscila de Lyra / Getty Images

Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa seems to slow down the pace of life with its bohemian feel and hippie vibe. Take the famous bonde (tram) up to Santa Teres and wander through the streets and take in the impressive street art and quirky, handcrafts boutiques, the products of the many residential artists and sculptors. Stop by the Explorer Bar for some delicious cocktails and internationally-inspired nibbles before heading to the Mercado das Pulgas for a night of live samba and dancing. Try one of the city’s best feijoada at Bar Mineiro, a classic restaurant that serves traditional Brazilian food.

The Santa Teresa tram, Rio © Karol Kozlowski Premium RM Collection / Alamy Stock Photo


The child-star of the moment, Ipanema is the new hottest address for a series of new, trendy restaurants and bars such as wine bar Canastra that exclusively sells Brazilian wines and Bar 48, the most hipster bar in town with steel drum tables and street art decorations. Ipanema beach is one of the best places in the south zone to surf and also welcomes everyone from families to the LGBT crowd at posto 8. Head over to Arpoador tucked in at the corner of Ipanema beach to watch one of Rio’s most glorious sunsets.

Beach vendor selling colorful beach balls, Ipanema Beach © Lazyllama / Alamy Stock Photo


Head to the main street of Lapa, Avenida Mem de Sá to experience Rio’s largest nightlife district that ranges from dive bars to glamorous nightclubs, explore it all in one go for an unforgettable night. Drink one of dozens of types of cachaça at Casa da Cachaça before ending the night in Rio’s most famous nightclub, Rio Scenarium, a three-floored venue that brings the best Brazilian music in the city. Swing by Lapa during the day to see the colourful and unique Escadaria Selaron, the iconic mosaic steps of Rio.

Rio Scenarium, R. do Lavradio, 20 Centro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, +55 21 3147 9000

Escadaria Selaron steps, Rio de Janeiro © Pintai Suchachaisri / Getty Images


The most glamorous neighourhood of them all, it is not surprising that Leblon is home to the rich and famous. Whilst living there is expensive, visiting is a must to try some of the best restaurants, bars and shopping experiences in the city. Eat Italian-inspired tapas at Stuzzi or head to CT Boucherie for some of the best meat served in Rio. Jobi is one of the most popular bars in Leblon that attracts a young, fun crowd that sit and drink until sunrise. Leblon is a relatively small neighbourhood so take your time to wander down all the little streets and corners to hunt out some wonderful boutique fashion stores.

Leblon beach © Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo


For any visitor to Rio, Urca is a must-visit not only because it is home to the famous Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain), but for its calming, tranquil vibe and unpretentious charm. Take a hike up Morra da Urca to see stunning views and get close to wild monkeys before taking the cable car to the Sugarloaf. Another option is to spend the day relaxing on Praia Vermelha beach and dabble in a spot of stand-up surf paddling or kayaking. Later in the evening, go to the chilled-out Bar Urca to buy some Brazilian pasteis and a cold beer, then sit on the wall opposite the street that overlooks Guanabara Bay and watch the beautiful sunset.

Pao Acucar (Sugar loaf mountain) and Urca district © Y.Levy / Alamy Stock Photo


A lake of natural beauty that exudes peace and tranquility, Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas (or just Lagoa for short) is surrounded by a 7.2 kilometer cycle path and the ideal spot for an outdoor picnic, cycling and seeing a spectacular sunset at the end of the day. Join in with the locals in some gentle sports such as skating, cycling and yoga. Have dinner at Palaphita Kitch with its low, outdoor seating and intimate candle-lit tables. It’s the best spot to see the sun go down behind the Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers peak) and you may find yourself joined by a local wild capybara or two.

A quadruple scull boat prepares to compete in a race at Lagoa, Rio de Janeiro © Lazyllama / Alamy Stock Photo

Jardim Botanico

With Brazilian TV channel Globo’s offices located in this neighbourhood, it’s not unheard of to spot the odd soap opera star wandering around and drinking in the local bars. Jardim Botanico is a city escape with houses and low apartment blocks rather than large buildings and is blended with an abundance of exotic plants and trees. The area is riddled with adorable bars and restaurants such as Sobe, a classy rooftop bar or Bingo restaurant which has wonderful contemporary Brazilian food and moreish cocktails. Be sure to spend the afternoon wandering through the incredible Botanical Garden and stop off for a coffee at spellbinding, Parque Lage.

Visual Arts School of Parque Lage © mikolajn / Alamy Stock Photo


Thriving centro is a must visit for incredible cultural activities. See a ballet or classical music performance at the Teatro Municipal (Municipal Theater) and check out the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes (museum of fine arts) for some of the most intricate and outstanding fine arts from national and international artists, or visit the Museu do Amanhã (museum of tomorrow) for a glimpse into the future of our planet and explore issues of sustainability. After dark, head to Arco de Teles for all night street parties to the beats of reggae and samba while mingling with locals and tourists alike.

Municipal Theater, Praça Floriano, Centro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, +55 21 2332 9191

Museum of Fine Arts, Av. Rio Branco, 199 Centro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, +55 21 3299 0600

Museum of Tomorrow, Praça Mauá, 1 Centro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, +55 21 3812 1800

Theatro Municipal in the center of Rio de Janeiro © mikolajn / Alamy Stock Photo


Step off the metro at Botafogo and you’ll instantly see a line of bars and casual restaurants on Rua Nelson Mandela that gets crowded on the weekends and is a popular socialising spot. For one of the trendiest wine bars right now, head to Winehouse that serves a delicious red Brazilian wine from Minas Gerais – the knowledgeable owner will be happy to advise you. Check out GaleRio, a space that is dedicated to street artists and graffiti with collections of painting, installations and objects that have been repurposed into art. Be sure to visit the Museu Do Índio (Museum Of Indigenous People) that gives insight into life of Brazilian indigenous cultures.

Museum of Indigenous People, Rua das Palmeiras, 55 Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, +55 21 3214 8700

Botafogo Bay, Rio de Janeiro © Antonello / Getty Images