If you like to dance, you’ll be right at home in Rio de Janeiro. Visitors to Rio are never far away from a beat – even the most unpretentious of corner bars tend to be alive with the sound of music, as local musicians are more than capable of creating a beat from something as simple as a glass bottle anda piece of cutlery. Whether you’re in the mood for some slow dancing to sultry bossa nova grooves, getting down and dirty to the bass-heavy sounds of favela funk or swirling around the dancefloor to some samba beats, there are plenty of places in Rio to get your groove on.
For the greatest concentration of dance clubs in the city, you should make Lapa your first port of call – here you will find nightspots to suit every musical taste and every dance style. Head to Lapa on a Friday night to sip a fruit cocktail at the hedonistic street parties held beneath the Arcos da Lapa, and then let your eyes and ears guide you to your perfect downtown dance spot.
Cariocas like to get on their feet and dancing at every opportunity,and you’ll see people strutting their stuff everywhere from tiny hole in the wall bars to the city’s big dance halls. Don’t be afraid to join in – locals will be happy to teach you a few moves.
Right at the heart of Copacabana, next to Siqueira Campos metro station, Fosfobox attracts hipsters and musically-minded types of all social demographics to shake their collective stuff on the sticky dancefloor.
The musical action takes place downstairs, where DJs play a mix of underground electronica, vintage rock and roll, hip hop and a dash of pop, with the occasional samba, live music or forro-based night keeping the musical menu eclectic. Things get cramped and hectic on the dancefloor after around 1am, but the upstairs bar and balcony provide a chance to sip a cocktail and chat, away from the pumping basslines.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: This tiny club packs the dancefloor with its hiphop and electro sounds.
Lucy’s expert tip: Things don’t get going until after midnight, so take the metro here and enjoy a couple of pre-club drinks at one of the many informal bars nearby.
if you like your nightlife with an alternative, leftfield edge, Casa da Matriz should be your first port of call when looking for a night out in Rio. DJs at Casa Matriz spin an eclectic mix of tunes that takes in everything from 1960s Tropicalia to 1990s hip hop, via punk, funk and soul, and the place throngs with students and other hip young things at weekends. There’s even an ‘indie karaoke’ night where you can sing along to the likes of joy Division and the Smiths. Live performers sometimes get a look in too, and run the gamut from samba to punk.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: This hipster hangout attracts a clued-up crowd of revelers looking for DJ sets with an edge
Lucy’s expert tip: Casa da Matriz is less dressy than many Rio nightspots – think hip, funky and retro rather than uber-glam.
Forget quiet Monday nights – in Rio the start of the week is all about the Roda da Samba (live samba party) at Pedra do Sal, in the historic Saude neighborhood of the city. Nicknamed ‘Little Africa’ because of the large numbers of freed-slaves who moved into the area, this traditional neighborhood is a little off the tourist track, but a Monday must-visit for music lovers and partiers. Revelers gather around a giant flat rock (the ‘Pedra’ that gives the spot its name) which becomes a makeshift dancefloor as the music works its magic. There’s no entry fee, drinks – courtesy of street vendors – are cheap, and the music is top-notch.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: Live jazz and samba here has the assembled hordes on their feet at weekends.
Lucy’s expert tip: Don’t bother heading here if the heavens open – rain stops play at this outdoor festa
Along with the beaches, the Christ statue and Sugar Loaf mountain, another postcard-perfect image of Rio are the mammoth white arches that stand in city’s historic center.
At night, revelers gather below the arches as a huge street party unfurls – head here on a Friday night to see Rio’s party spirit at its liveliest. The area around the arches is taken over by hundreds of stalls selling all manner of tempting treats to eat and drink, from fresh-baked pizzas and beers to Northeastern acaraje and fruity-but-potent cocktails. Surrounded by bars and clubs pumping out everything from hip hop and favela funk to samba and pagode, the Arcos da Lapa are the starting point for many a memorable night out in Rio.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: This is far and away the liveliest place to be after midnight on a Friday in Rio.
Lucy’s expert tip: Keep valuables hidden and don’t bring cameras here at night – while safety has improved in recent years, Lapa’s street party continues to attract petty thieves.
Rio is synonymous with samba, and the city’s historical downtown district of Lapa should be the first port of call for anybody looking to hear the real thing played live.
At Rio Scenarium, the kooky factor is ramped up to 11 thanks to the fact that this vast venue for samba shows is also a storage space for antiques and film props, so fascinating costumes, masks and other historical artefacts form the backdrop to the dancing, eating and drinking.
Even if you have two left feet it is worth a visit here just to see the highy skilled locals show how samba dancing should be done, and there’s a restaurant serving sit-down meals for those who just want to take in the show.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: This classic samba spot continues to draw hordes of visitors and fleet-footed locals.
Lucy’s expert tip: Too shy to take to the dancefloor? Sip a caipirinha or two and feel those inhibitions slip away.
In the historic heart of Lapa, this reformed colonial mansion home has received a colorful makeover with illuminated artworks on the brick walls, vibrantly-colored cocktails and an equally bright and breezy playlist. An eclectic musical menu takes in electro-heavy club nights, more gentile jazz-fests and live samba sessions, and downstairs dancefloors are packed well into the small hours almost every night of the week. A mezzanine balcony provides ample space for sipping drinks and chatting – should you be able to make yourself heard over the pumping music. Alongside an extensive cocktail list, some tempting finger food. Groups of friends may want to opt for the mixed platter, which includes tasty finger foods such as rosemary and garlic breadsticks, focaccia, sundried tomato paste and little oven-baked pastries.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: Leviano features quality live music and DJ sets, as well as spectacle of live circus acrobats.
Lucy’s expert tip: Those who aren’t up for clubbing can head here in the early evening for drinks on the sidewalk patio – ideal for people watching.
With a perfect location on the central road through Lapa, Rio’s downtown party district, Febarj is the best spot in the city to find a hip-hop heavy playlist. The building belongs to an organization that celebrates Afro-Brazilian culture, and on Friday and Saturday evenings the three floors of this former colonial home shake to the sound of Brazilian and American hip hop. Things usually get lively around 1am, and the party doesn’t stop until near dawn. With entrance fee less than R$8, and free before midnight, this is a great place for a laid back, cheap and largely poseur-free night out in Rio.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: Live music performances here entice locals and visitors onto the dancefloor.
Lucy’s expert tip: Get down to Lapa around 11pm, grab a drink from one of the many street sellers, and just soak up the atmosphere before heading into Febarj before midnight for free entry.
The biggest – literally – nightlife option in Lapa is a four-floor behemoth offering live music, restaurant dining, several bars and pool tables.
The Lapa hotspot (the name is a reference to the city’s searing summer temperatures) celebrates its 10 year anniversary in 2017, and has been a huge hit with well-to-do locals since its inception. An old mansion home close to the Lapa arches has been transformed into a nightclub, pool hall, restaurant and live music venue, spread over four floors and open until 5am.
While there are several bars, stages for rock and pop shows, live samba and DJs, Lapa 40 Graus first made its name as an upmarket place to come and shoot ‘Sinuca’ – Brazilian snooker. Pool, and even billiards, are options for those who don’t fancy trying their hand at the Brazilian game.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: This is one of Lapa’s biggest and liveliest music clubs, with a varied musical menu.
Lucy’s expert tip: Queues stretch along the street on Friday and Saturday evenings – come here early if you want to avoid the long lines
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson
An eye-catching – if somewhat weather-beaten – art deco building is the setting for some of the longest-standing samba parties in Rio at this much-loved venue. Clube dos Democraticos was founded over a century ago as a carnival society uniting musicians, dancers and others imbued with carnival spirit. Today, the club continues to attract live music lovers, with regular samba sessions packing out the vast dancefloor. For a change of musical scene, it’s worth checking out the Wednesday night Forro sessions – this popular weekly event is a great place to get aquainted with this sultry musical style from Brazil’s northeast. And if you can’t dance a step, don’t worry – the fleet-footed locals will be happy to show you a move or two.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: This Lapa institution has been attracting serious dancers for decaades, and the art-deco building is a draw in itself.
Lucy’s expert tip: Can’t dance, won’t dance? Just sip a caipirinha and sit back and admire the dancers’ skills as they whirl their partners around the floor.
Samba lovers of all ages flock to this downtown dance house, where the fleet of foot and supple of rump shimmy and shake around the dance floor.
The club is housed in a tall and handsome colonial building, with a balcony overlooking the crowded streets of Lapa – perfect for people-watching and catching a breath of fresh air before you carry on your dance-athon. If you don’t feel confident to take to the floor yourself, just admire the locals’ skill and sip on a caipirinha until the Dutch courage kicks in. It is largely assumed that foreigners can’t dance, so nobody will judge too harshly.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: This great downtown samba club is a top place to see local sambistas strut their stuff.
Lucy’s expert tip: Carioca da Gema also run a very good pizzeria right next door – perfect for refuelling as the evening wears on.