- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Rio de Janeiro Guide (PDF)
Rio de Janeiro is a melting pot of cultures, traditions and ethnicities. Not only is it a major commercial hub, it is also the country’s entertainment capital. Cariocas work hard, but they also take plenty of time out to enjoy the sweeter things in life. The city offers plenty of options when it comes to shopping, eating out and nightlife.
Shopping in Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is a dream come true for shopaholics. The city offers a diverse range of shopping options. From large American-style malls to bohemian shopping districts and flea markets, Rio has something to fit the needs and budget of any shopper.
The malls in Rio offer many world-famous brands, as well as cinemas and food courts making them perfect for family outings. On the other hand, boutique shops like Constança Basto sell high-fashion items. The affluent Zona Sul offers many famous international brands and glitzy boutiques. The Zona Oeste is a shopper's dream with several large malls scattered across the district.
Those who want to avoid malls will find that the city also offers a few markets worth visiting. Rua Lavradio in Lapa and Feira do Rio Antigo markets are great options for antiques, art, and music lovers, while Feira de Sao Cristovão offers stalls selling food, drinks and household products.
Centro offers a more eclectic mix of old and new, with a variety of clothing, book and antique stores on offer.
Eating out in Rio de Janeiro
From fast-food joints to five-star establishments, Rio de Janeiro's vibrant restaurant scene has a range of different types of foods on offer. With wide stretches of beachside restaurants, al fresco dining is popular in Rio. This is particularly evident in Copacabana, Ipanema and Barra, which are home to some of the best restaurants and snack bars in Rio.
Brazilians typically eat a light breakfast. Pao de queijo, a stuffed bread roll made from tapioca flour and filled with melted cheese, is a popular breakfast food that can be found across the city. Lunch and dinner are usually heavier meals that are eaten with the family. Feijoada, a bean and pork stew, is the best known regional dish from Rio de Janeiro. The city also has several restaurants that offer international cuisine from countries such as France, Japan, Lebanon and Argentina, among others.
A 10 percent gratuity (gorjeta) is automatically included on the bill. There is therefore no need to tip any further than that amount.
Nightlife and entertainment in Rio de Janeiro
Cariocas are famous for their love of partying, and Rio certainly offers a diverse and exciting nightlife. Popular nightlife spots are spread out across the city. Ipanema and Leblon are two of the popular tourist hubs in Rio and have some of the city’s most famous nightlife. Lapa is also a popular nightlife spot with the young crowd, with a variety of clubs, bars and restaurants and a diverse range of music and dance styles to choose from. Barra da Tijuca in the Zona Oeste also has many interesting restaurants and bars to explore.
Rio is the home of samba. Many clubs offer live music and samba dance classes. There are also many samba schools across the city that offer lessons. Learning this traditional style of dance is a great way for expats to immerse themselves in the Brazilian culture.
Brazilians are not known for their punctuality, and meeting times are often loose arrangements. The party can start early, but it's also not unusual to eat dinner at 10pm and then head out to dance after midnight.
Sports and outdoor activities in Rio de Janeiro
With some of the most stunning beaches and landscapes in the world right on their doorstep, Cariocas always find time to enjoy some fun in the sun. Locals enjoy an active lifestyle and spend much of their time outdoors enjoying leisure activities, including cycling, jogging and beach volleyball.
Brazilians love football (soccer) and enjoy meeting with friends and family to watch their favourite team play. The city is home to the Maracanã Stadium, one of the world’s largest football stadiums. Watching a live game here is always a thrilling experience.
Cycling is a popular activity in Rio, particularly along the beachfront. The city has worked to encourage cyclists by building an extensive network of dedicated bike lanes.
►For a list of annual events in the city, read What's On in Rio de Janeiro
"I love the outdoor lifestyle here; you’re always close to nature. I love to get away from the noise and craziness of the city and head to Pedra da Gavea or Tijuca forest." Irish expat Niamh tells us about life in Rio in her expat interview.
"the fruits and juices here are spectacular. Go to a juice bar (located at seemingly every block in the city) and order something unfamiliar. You’ll taste flavours you didn’t know existed. I recommend açai na tigela batido com banana." Read American Elliot's expat interview to learn more about his time in Rio.
Are you an expat living in Rio de Janeiro?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Rio de Janeiro. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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