The Top Things To Do and See in Lapa, Rio De Janeiro

The Escadaria Selaron is an iconic spot for a photo in Lapa, Rio de Janeiro
The Escadaria Selaron is an iconic spot for a photo in Lapa, Rio de Janeiro | © ilyas Ayub / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Sarah Brown
14 July 2021

Lapa is Rio’s buzzing nightlife hotspot that’s home to lively bars, pumping nightclubs and street parties that continue for days on end. Lapa draws both foreigners and locals week in, week out to sip caipirinhas and bust a move at the wide variety of establishments that call this buzzing neighborhood home. Whilst at night it throbs with activity, daytime Lapa is underground and raw, with jaw-dropping street art decorating the heritage buildings. Check out our list of things to do in one of the coolest neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro.

Museu da Chácara do Céu

Museum, Art Gallery
Map View
Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, Santa Teresa neighborhood, Chacara do Ceu Museum (Museu da ChBcara do Ceu)
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
Set in lawned gardens on a quiet back street in Santa Teresa, this mansion house is a short cab ride from central Lapa. It also happens to be the former home of millionaire art collector Raymundo Castro Maya and his collection still hangs in the stately rooms and corridors. You’ll find important pieces by European artists including Modigliani and key Brazilians like Di Cavalcanti, who painted Carioca women and apolitical Rio scenes in the style of Mexico’s Diego Rivera.

Dinner with a view at Aprazivel

Restaurant, Brazilian, South American, Vegetarian, $$$
Map View
Aprazivel Restaurant, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Courtesy of Aprazivel Restaurant

It’s all about the view at Aprazível, in Santa Teresa, where alfresco tables dot a tropical garden. In this hillside neighborhood, immediately west of Lapa, late afternoon is the best time to visit, just as the sun sinks behind the mountains. Rio’s lights twinkle from here, illuminating Sugar Loaf mountain, Flamengo beach and glistening Guanabara Bay. The menu of seafood and spicy moqueca stews is good, but the view is the main reason to come here.

Go on a bar crawl

Restaurant, Bar, Pizzeria, Brazilian, $$$
Map View
By day it’s an arty café, rising over cobbles next to the Arcos da Lapa aqueduct. By night it becomes a spit-and-sawdust club-bar hosting the cream of Lapa’s traditional samba bands. Try and arrive early for a pizza upstairs and a sit-down table opposite the stage. As the music picks up, join the crowd on the dance floor, if you can keep up with the lightning-fast steps.

Watch a live samba band

Bar, Brazilian, $$$
Map View
Samba club in the Lapa district, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
© Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Traditional Lapa weekend nights used to begin with an ice-cold beer on Beco do Rato – rat alley – the nickname for the narrow, cobbled streets lined with simple hole-in-the-wall bars around Joaquim Silva street. The area has gone upmarket of late and the bars have become samba clubs, the best of which is Beco do Rato. It takes its name from the alley itself and still serves ice-cold beer together with Brazilian tapas (petiscos) and most nights there’s live samba, chorinho (Brazilian ragtime) or poetry.

Visit the Escadaria Selarón

Historical Landmark
Map View
RIO DE JANEIRO - MARCH 29, 2016: Rare empty view of colorful mosaic tiles at the Escadaria Selaron Steps.
© Lazyllama / Alamy Stock Photo

The legendary steps of Lapa were created by and take their name from Chilean artist Jorge Selaron, who spent 20 years transforming a bland stairway into a vibrant and iconic symbol of Rio. The mosaic of tiles, ceramics and mirrors in mostly reds, greens, blues and yellows cover all 215 steps from Lapa to the adjacent neighborhood of Santa Teresa. Go at night for the lively bustle of casual street drinking and amateur live music.

Bargain hunt at Feira Do Lavradio

Market
Map View
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, September 02, 2017: Hundreds of collectors of antiques, artisans and artists exhibit their products in tents along Rua do Lavradio, one of the oldest streets in the center of Rio. people take advantage of the cultural program for s
© Luiz Souza / Alamy Stock Photo

This fair, otherwise known as Feira Rio Antigo, takes place every first Saturday of the month on Rua do Lavradio and is the spot for timeless antiques, vintage pieces and hidden treasures. A whole street opens its doors and fills up with stalls, presenting anything and everything from clothes and bags to ornaments and furniture. For one-off souvenirs, it’s hard to imagine a better place in Rio.

Party at Rio Scenarium

Restaurant, Nightclub, Pub Grub, $$$
Map View
Rio Scenarium club in the Lapa area, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
© Yadid Levy / Alamy Stock Photo
Not a single inch was overlooked when the decorations were being done at this nightclub – there are antiques and chandeliers hanging from every corner of its three floors. The most famous party in Lapa is popular with both locals and foreigners alike, evident in the long queues later in the evening. Every weekend there is a live band playing samba or pagode and there is also a floor that offers international pop and dance music. Don’t let the elegant decor fool you – this place is far from stuffy, with casual fun and a buzzing atmosphere continuing into the early hours.

Check out a concert at Circo Voador

Architectural Landmark
Map View
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - MARCH 06, 2016:  Landmark white arches of Arcos da Lapa in front of Circo Voador in Rio de Janeiro
© Rosangela Lima / Alamy Stock Photo

The place to go for national and international music in Rio is Circo Voador, a cultural space in Lapa where live acts continue throughout the week and weekend. Anything goes here, from rock and metal (AC/DC have performed here in the past) to samba and funk. The outdoor terrace is fringed with palm trees, providing breathing and drinking space from the tent-covered dance floor that usually gets extremely crowded. There are also ongoing workshops in capoeira, acrobatics and languages.

Admire the street art

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Brazil, Rio De Janeiro, nightlife in Arcos Da Lava district
© Realy Easy Star/Giuseppe Masci / Alamy Stock Photo

Since the Brazilian government decriminalized street art in 2009, Rio de Janeiro has fostered a flourishing scene with various artists making their mark throughout the city and, indeed, the world. Lapa is home to various artworks that portray aspects of the local culture, with the walls around the Escadaria Selaron and its arches boasting many of Lapa’s finest works.

Enjoy a street party at Arcos De Lapa

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Night life around the Lapa Aquaduct, Rio de Janeiro, a popular location on Friday and Saturday night
© Ben Lewis / Alamy Stock Photo

The white arches of Lapa remain the same as they were when first constructed in the mid-18th century as an aqueduct. Nowadays they are a popular meeting place and serve as an entrance into Lapa’s buzzing nightlife. Some of the best street parties are held here with stalls dishing out mega-sized caipirinhas and other cocktails with generous portions of cachaca. The party is free and anything goes, even after the sun comes up.

Alex Robinson contributed additional reporting to this article.

These recommendations were updated on July 14, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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