The nightlife scene in Rio de Janeiro is heavily influenced by the beat of samba. A music with its roots in African rhythms, it is the soul of the city’s music scene. You can’t miss out on discovering samba while in Rio, and there is no better place than in Lapa, the city’s main party district. Here are some of the best samba clubs to head to while you’re in Lapa.
Lapa 40 Graus
This lively club attracts a mostly young crowd, yet it’s common to see people of all ages going there to appreciate the live samba bands that play there every weekend, accompanied by the occasional sertanejo group. The outside of the club looks deceivingly small, yet the inside spreads out over three floors, with a large space for dancing, an area for pool tables, and a bar serving reasonably priced drinks. Get there before midnight to avoid the large queues that build up later.
Lapa 40 Graus, R. Riachuelo, 97 – Centro, Rio de Janeiro, +55 (21) 39701334
Famous for its range of Brazilian music, the Democratic Club is most notable for its nights of samba, choro, and forró. Set inside an aging historical building, the large dance floor attracts some of the best dancers in Rio. Don’t be alarmed if you feel your dancing skills are not up to scratch; the atmosphere is fun and friendly, and it’s just as much fun to watch as it is to take part. Those who are feeling brave can let the welcoming locals lead them to the dance floor, and learn some moves.
Carioca da Gema
With live samba acts every night of the week, as well as unforgettable performances on the weekend, Carioca da Gema is one of the best places to go in Lapa to catch some of the best musicians on the samba scene. In addition to great music that gets even the shyest guests tapping their feet, the venue also serves deliciously smooth cocktails and delicious authentic pizzas.
Carioca da Gema, Av. Mem de Sa, 79 – Centro, Rio de Janeiro, +55 (21) 22210043
The most well-known club in Rio de Janeiro is a hotspot for all genres of Brazilian music, from national rock to choro and of course, samba. The main stage attracts the best musicians in Rio, who play on until the early hours of the morning. It is an ideal venue in which to discover the world of Brazilian music under one roof. The three floors have something for everyone to get their groove to, especially fuelled with the delicious caipirinhas that are served here.
Rio Scenarium, R. do Lavradio, 20 – Centro, Rio de Janeiro, +55 (21) 31479000
Set inside the remains of a former mansion, Leviano bar is a lively two-storey bar with a casual space downstairs and an animated club upstairs. While there is a great selection of imported beers and cocktails, it’s the live music that is the main draw. The club is notable for its great samba bands, but also has forró and MPB (Brazilian Popular Music).
Leviano Bar, Av. Mem de Sa, 47 – Lapa, Rio de Janeiro, +55 (21) 25075779
Bar da Boa
Bar da Boa is a typically Brazilian bar with a quirky twist: it’s also a brewery for Antarctica, a popular Brazilian brand of beer that is the sponsor of Carnival in Rio. Go there to enjoy fresh, extra-chilled beers and tasty Brazilian snacks. Almost every night of the week there are live samba bands performing, and they draw in large crowds, so it’s best to arrive early.
Bar da Boa, Av. Mem de Sa, 69 – Lapa, Rio de Janeiro, +55 (21) 22212542
Because of its location near to the Arcos de Lapa, there’s always a party scene at Sarau Rio, as the vibe of the nearby street parties and crowds of people drifts over and influences the mood. Visitors can sit inside to appreciate the graffiti-style walls, or make the most of the outdoor seating to take in the animated atmosphere. Live samba bands play almost every night and are best enjoyed with a caipirinha and some pastel snacks for an authentic local experience.
Sarau Rio, Av. Mem de Sa, 64 – Lapa, Rio de Janeiro, +55 (21) 988668813