I've been living in Rio de Janeiro for a little bit more than a year now.
When I initially arrived it was frustrating to get a grip on the nightlife because the areas are very spread out, and certain clubs are better on certain nights than others. However, after a while you begin to realize which clubs are better on certain nights, and which places to avoid.
Where to go
The nightlife areas in Rio are intrinsically spread out into three areas. There's the “lower” Zona Sul (South Zone) which consists of Gavea, Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana neighborhoods. The “upper” Zona Sul consisting of Botafogo, Laranjeiras, Flamengo. Then there's the Centro (downtown) consisting of Lapa and Centro.
The Lower Zona Sul is the most affluent of three and attracts well-do crowd. Covers range anywhere from $30 reals to $120 reals (some of the drinks are included as consumable, more on that later). Some of the recommended clubs are Nossa Semhora in Copacabana, Conversa Fiada, Books and Baronetti in Ipanema, Melt in Leblon, and 00 in Gavea.
The Upper Zona Sul is less affluent than its Lower sibling but has some great gems to discover. The main ones are Casa Rosa in Laranjairas, Casa do Matriz in Botafogo. Covers range from $10 to about $30. The places listed above have a house party type feel and are pretty informal.
Then there's Lapa which is considered by many the heart of Rio's nightlife. It's basically a large street party that takes place on Friday and Saturday where people can hang out, drink cheap beers and mingle. Since it's outside and attracts all kinds of people, it's better to be vigilantand aware of your surroundings, however it's not dangerous by any means.
In Lapa, you have your option of a street party, or some of the clubs that play Samba, Baile Funk, etc. The recommended clubs are Democraticos, 40 Graus and Rio Scenarium. The covers range from about $15 to $30.
When you enter a semi-decent club (all clubs in Lower Zona Sul fall into this category), you will be given a piece of paper. Don't lose it, because when you order a drink, the barman marks of the drink on this paper, and you pay everything (including the cover) when you exit.
Also, sometimes when you pay the cover, some of it or all over it can be simply consumed by drinks (consumação). So if the club charges $20 to enter, in some clubs, you can drink that $20, and only pay $20 on exit (including cover+drinks).
When to go
Because Rio de Janeiro is a beach city and its inhabitants, cariocas, are beach creatures, the night usually starts pretty early. It's normal to be inline to a club at like 10:00-10:30pm.
Thus, the typical schedule can be something like this:
- Tuesday – Conversa Fiada (in Ipanema)
- Wednesday – Casa do Matriz (in Botafogo)
- Thursday – Democraticos (in Lapa)
- Friday – Lapa street party (or any other club listed above)
- Saturday – Rio Scenarium (in Lapa or any other club)
- Sunday – Casa Rosa (in Laranjeiras or check out the Feijoada here)