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DONWTOWN/LAPA

Lapa will Teach you what Carioca really means. The Party Capital of Rio, Lapa also stands for Culture, Culinary and  Gafieira. 

The seductive sounds of the Samba beckon tourists to Rio and its neighborhoods all throughout the year. Without doubt, Rio has one of the most spectacular settings of any metropolis in the world. The Cariocas, Rio’s residents, have perfected the art of living, which is evident all throughout the city including neighborhoods like Lapa and downtown Rio. From the beaches to the bars and nightclubs, the Cariocas know how to celebrate and live for the moment. Dancing the night away in Lapa is something that the locals love doing. Something that is contagious, where every international tourist is seduced by the Carioca lifestyle.

The downtown neighborhood of Lapa is one of the most musically charged places, attracting young crowds especially on the weekend nights. Downtown Rio has a rich legacy of culture and architectural heritage, which is evident from the impressive historic buildings. What’s unique about the area is the diversity of styles that co-exist, making it a great tourist attraction. It is also the financial hub of the city with a number of government agencies and company headquarters, which contribute to the state and country’s economy. Apart from Lapa, the other important areas of tourist interest in the region are Praça XV, Cinelândia and Sahara.

Downtown/Lapa

Tourist Attractions

There are good reasons why downtown Rio is a great tourist attraction. There is so much to see and it would be prudent to by a guide that describes all the important places to visit. Of course, no trip to downtown Rio is complete without a visit to the Municipal Theater, which is one of the most impressive and historic buildings to be restored to its former glory. Among the other architectural beauties are the ‘Arcos da Lapa’ and the Metropolitan Cathedral.

Located at Centro Cultural da Marinha is the classic neo-Gothic building, Fiscal Island Castle, which looks resplendent with its English stained glass window. The castle is now the naval museum. Schooners depart to and from the museum. You can take a guided tour of the museum which is scheduled from Thursday through Sunday beginning at 1 pm, 2:30 pm and 4 pm. Other museums worth visiting are Museu Histórico Nacional, Museu Nacional de Belas Artes and the Espaço Cultural da Marinha.

To experience the best of Rio’s culture a visit to the Centro Cultural dos Correios, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB) and Casa França-Brasil are a must. These centers are home to some of the most important cultural exhibits of the country.

Brazil, which is the biggest catholic country in the world, will obviously have more than its fair share of churches. “Nossa Senhora do Carmo da Antiga Sé” is a grand cathedral where the coronation of the monarchs was held. “Mosteiro de São Bento” is an architectural beauty with its interiors covered with gold and Jacarandá wood. The Candelaria church is a landmark of the city center. However, the real gem among Rio’s churches is the “São Francisco da Penitência”, with its baroque architecture. What is outstanding is that almost a ton of gold was used for the magnificent carvings.

The Lavradio antique fair held in downtown Rio on the first Saturday of the month is one of the most popular fairs in the city. To dine with the who’s who in Rio and taste some of the gastronomic delights associated with Brazilian cuisine, Confeitaria Colombo is the place to have a few meals.

Practical Tips From a Carioca

The hectic traffic is the only major drawback of this city. Journeys can take forever during rush hours so it is recommended to use the metro for all of your travels. Downtown Rio is fairly empty at night except for the region of Lapa, which is notorious for its nightlife. Therefore, it’s no surprise that it is crowded especially during the weekends.

Make sure to check the schedules before you visit any of the historic sites. Certain monuments are closed on Mondays so it’s always better to check before you venture out. You don’t want to go all the way just to find out that the place was closed.

For the subway, use rechargeable tickets so that you don’t end up waiting for tickets in long queues. When coming back late at night is safer to take a taxi. Those with blue stripes  are the safest. Don’t pay attention to any homeless beggars whose main target are vulnerable tourists. Simply ignore them and carry on with your business.

Downltown/Lapa

Downtown Rio/Lapa at Night

Lapa is undoubtedly the party capital of downtown Rio. It is famous for its nightlife and attracts hordes of locals and well as international tourists. The streets are crowded and most restaurants have seating arrangements out on the sidewalk. Therefore, while you party hard at a club all you need to do is step outside to enjoy a nice meal. This is a great way to observe the nightlife of Rio while enjoying your outdoor dining experience. Lapa is bustling with party goers from Friday through Sunday, which is why three blocks are closed to traffic one these nights. The streets are filled with people having a good time and portraying the Carioca larger than life spirit.

You can have your pick of bars, nightclubs and concert halls, each of which has their own style and corresponding audience. You can choose the one that suits you best as the sheer volume of these establishments ensure that every taste is catered to.  The streets of Mém de Sa, Riachuelo, Lavradio and Gomes Freire house most of these establishments.

The most famous nightclub in the region is Rio Scenarium which is spread over three floors. The first floor has typical live Brazilian music presentations, the second features another dance floor with a DJ who spins the latest remixes and the third a restaurant for you to replenish your energy after dancing the night away. The décor of the club is retro from the furniture to the fixtures on the wall. The Brazilian Samba, Gafieira, Forró and Chorinho are the specialties of Rio Scenarium so prepare to shake a leg (and much more) on your visit.

Other places frequented by the locals include Lapa 40 Graus, which features many pool tables and live presentations. The nightclub is divided on four floors, Carioca da Gema and Clube dos Democráticos, famous for its Brazilian rhythms. The Concert Houses “Fundição Progresso” and “Circo Voador” showcase varied programs with many presentations of Brazilian and international singers and bands. The best nightclub downtown is “The Week” which plays some of the best electronic music in town and is particularly favored by the gay community.

A great way to relax and unwind along with your friends is at bars such as Chopperia Brazooka, Informal, Boteco da Garrafa and Arco Íris.

Lapa’s Culinary Delights

Downtown Rio houses a large number of restaurants due to the crowds that frequent the area. You can expect to taste some of the most authentic Brazilian as well as international cuisine. Since Lapa is a business district, you will find many restaurants with special offers during lunch hours as well.

Restaurants like Eça offer a variety of modern cuisine and are among the fine dining options in downtown Rio. One place to guarantee traditional cuisine is Nova Caplea, in Lapa. The restaurant has served up some of the best dishes for over a century.
There are plenty of cheap restaurants that sell food ‘por kilo’ or per kilo, while some offer a delicious buffet for a fixed price. Pizzaria Guanabara is another favorite among the locals serving the most famous dish favored by both locals and visitors. On almost every street and corner, there are cheap restaurants which have the buffet system of service. Pizzaria Guanabara at Lapa which is also one of the most traditional restaurants in the city is definitely worth a visit.

Accommodation in Lapa/Downtown Rio

The center has many hotels that cater to every budget. Furthermore, hotels located in the center makes it easier to commute to and from the various attractions that the city has to offer. The domestic airport Santos Dumont and New River Road are also close by the center. Therefore, it is prudent to pick a hotel in this vicinity.

The best hotels in the center are the Guanabara and Novotel. Both are strategically located at Presidente Vargas Avenue in the financial district and close to the airport. For those wishing to spend a little less but still wanting some luxury the Accor chain is the perfect choice. IBIS and Formule 1, located on Tiradentes square fall in the cheaper range, as they are express hotels located very close to the subway station.

A good alternative are hostels like “Lá na Lapa”. However, you must bear in mind that on weekends the streets are crowded and bustling with life. Therefore, if you are the type that wants peace and quiet and a place to relax then this neighborhood may not be the best option.

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