The legendary Rio de Janeiro neighborhood of Copacabana is more famous for its long, curving beach than for its nightlife, but Copa (as the locals call it) has shaken off a reputation for strip joints and tourist traps and is attracting a hipped-up breed of night owl. Cook kids flock to independent dance clubs such as Fosfobox, while glamorous society types gather for drinks at Pergula, the poolside bar and restaurant at Copacabana Palace hotel. You don’t need to be a guest at the hotel to enjoy a drink here, but dress to impress if you want to feel at home among the well-heeled clientele – and be prepared to pay high prices for your food and drink.
Copacabana beachfront is the location for one of the biggest and best New Year’s celebrations on the planet, and the 5km-long promenade is lined with kiosk bars and smart cocktail lounges – and it’s hard to beat a caipirinha with an ocean backdrop, and there are scores of bars to choose from along the beach front. These range from simple bars with plastic tables and chairs to upmarket wine bars, meaning that there is something to suit every taste and pocket. For something altogether more casual, head to the legendary Bip Bip. This simple hole-in-the-wall bar plays host to some of the best musicians in the city at its live jam sessions.
Eating and drinking go hand in hand in Rio, and many informal Copacabana restaurants double as bars – don’t be afraid to ask for just the drinks menu – you can always soak up the alcohol with a few petiscos (light munchies) rather than a main meal.
This casual food and drink spot has several branches in Rio, but the one at the Eastern end of Copacabana beach (known as Leme) is the most appealing. Tables and chairs are set up in front of the outdoor bar which sits atop a giant rock harboring one end of the beach, allowing drinkers and diners to enjoy a view that takes in the full four-mile sweep of white sand beach.
Popular throughout the day and well into the evening, the food focus is mainly on various types of ‘meat on a stick’, but there are veggie options too – including a tempting kebab of palm heart, arugula and sun-dried tomato; and some yummy fruit and chocolate combinations.
The drinks list impresses, too – there’s a wide range of Brazilian and imported beers, and a cocktail menu that goes way beyond the ubiquitous caipirinhas.
Recommended for Copacabana’s Best Nightlife because: This is a hugely popular spot for eating, drinking and making merry – largely thanks to the brilliant backdrop.
Lucy’s expert tip: Head here after a day’s sunbathing for food and drinks as the sun dips low and the sky turns orange
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson
Copacabana´s beach bars have come a long way since the turn of turn of the millennium, when they were little more than a collection of yellow-roofed kiosks serving beer and caipirinhas to tourists lounging on plastic chairs.
While these cheap and cheerful options can stull be found should you choose to look for them, there are any number of more sophisticated places to drink and dine too.
Take a walk along the promenade and take a peek at the many sleek glass kiosks to be found here, stopping for a cooling drink at whichever spot appeals the most. Hungry visitors can take choose to dine on anything from pizza to traditional Brazilian fish stews, while those who opt for liquid refreshment only will be spoilt for choice too.
Recommended for Copacabana’s Best Nightlife because: Copacabana beachfront makes a stunning setting for drinks as the sun sets – or rises.
Lucy’s expert tip: Take care after dark in Copacabana, and don’t wander away from well-lit and well-populated stretches of the beach
For the ultimate indulgent Rio experience, head to the Pergula, the elegant poolside restaurant at the enduringly elegant Copacabana Palace hotel.
Less formal than the hotel’s fine dining Italian restaurant, Cipriani. at Pergula you can dine in your (suitanbly stylish) swimwear and sarong.
Watch beautiful people splash around in the pool as you sip Champagne cocktails and dine on seafood and light pasta dishes, or head here for the famous breakfasts and brunches, which include salmon and even caviar washed down with a spot of bubbly. The likes of the Obamas, Will Smith and Madonna have all dined here, so keep your eyes peeled for A-listers.
Recommended for Copacabana’s Best Nightlife because: This is the perfect spot for an early evening caipirinha to start a romantic night out in Rio.
Lucy’s expert tip: You don’t need to be a guest at the hotel to dine at Pergula, but make an effort to look as casually-chic as possible if you want to make it past the doormen.
It might not be the most upmarket spot on the strip, but this lively and laid back beachfront bar-restaurant is among the best of the many options on tourist-focused Avenida Atlantica.
Don’t bother with indoor dining here, the main reason to come is the vast covered deck facing the ocean, where sandy-toed sunbathers linger over late lunches in the afternoon, and a dressier clientele gathers to sip caipirinhas after dark.
The food is filling rather than fabulous, but it’s good value, and as a spot for socialising and soaking up the beach backdrop, Deck Bar & Restaurant is a solid option.
Recommended for Copacabana’s Best Nightlife because: The beach-fronting terrace is a fantastic spot for a sundowner and a bite to eat
Lucy’s expert tip: Come here for early evening drinks and snacks at the start of a big night out in Rio
Seafood, sea views, ice cold beers and a chilled vibe make this one of the most popular of Copacabana’s many beach bars. It’s located at Posto 3 – lifeguard post three – making it pretty much midway along the beachfront, so it’s a good place to stop and refuel if you’re taking a stroll along the five kilometer promenade.
You don’t need to order a full meal, but you may find yourself tempted by some of the fresh seafood on offer here, as well as decent range of cocktails as well as the standard beers and caipirinhas.
Recommended for Copacabana’s Best Nightlife because: Gosto de Mar is among the best of Copacabana’s lively beach front bars
Lucy’s expert tip: Quiet by day, Gosto de Mar gets livelier after dark, especially at weekends during high season
Photo courtesy of Los Viajes del Cangrejo/Flickr
Much of Rio’s liveliest drinking and dining centers around its informal, unpretentious ‘botecos’ (casual bars) and this unassuming hole-in-the-wall bar-restaurant is a great case in point.
Serving award-winning bar snacks and ice cold beers to hungry locals for over half a century, Pavao Azul is the type of unpretentious establishment where sandy-shorted, flip-flop wearing visitors can fit right in.
Reasonable prices and a location at the heart of Copacabana add to the appeal, and it’s not unusual for live music to break out at weekends.
There are some good mains here – including a delicious shrimp risotto – but the best way to eat is to grab a sidewalk table, beers and a few plates for sharing, and experience relaxed Carioca life at its best.
Recommended for Copacabana’s Best Nightlife because: This is one of Copacabana’s liveliest and most traditional casual bar-restaurants
Lucy’s expert tip: Arrive early on weekend evenings if you want a chance of grabbing a sidewalk table
Photo courtesy of New Mariuzinn Copacabana
A young, student-y crowd heads to this popular late night hangout in Copacabana, where a musical menu of Rio funk, hip hop and US R&B make a change from the city’s staple aural diet of samba and pagode. That’s not to say that samba doesn’t get a look-in, however, with live performances on Thursdays attracting large crowds. Regular drinks promotions make this a firm favorite for students and other cash-strapped types, and it’s a good bet for visitors on a budget too. Two dance floors and two bars mean there’s plenty of room for everybody, and the crowd is friendly.
Recommended for Copacabana’s Best Nightlife because: This is a great place to sip a caipirinha and take in the view after a hard day’s sunbathing in Copacabana
Lucy’s expert tip: Look out for drinks on promotion – such as two for one cocktails or beers.
This traditional bar-restaurant in Rio is famous for its late opening hours and its alcohol-absorbing food as well as its lively atmosphere.
Cervantes now has several branches in Rio, but this Copacabana was the first and is still arguably the most appealing for those looking for good food, drink and prices and a lively local atmosphere.
At this branch, there’s a sit-down restaurant/bar and adjoining stand-up bar, where locals gather to eat, drink and chat until the early hours of the morning. Cervantes is famous above all else for its mammoth sandwiches – to say they are generously filled would be an understatement. The steak, cheese and pineapple version is a long-standing favorite on the menu. All the sandwiches – yes, every one, comes with pineapple. If you really don’t like it, let the server know when you place your order.
Recommended for Copacabana’s Best Nightlife because: Cervantes has been keeping Copacabana locals happy for over 50 years, thanks to its super-generous portions and lively atmosphere
Lucy’s expert tip: This traditional bar is a great place to begin or end a night out in Copacabana – it’s open until 4am most nights, and 6am at weekends
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 Copacabana’s Best Nightlife because: Fosfobox is a perennial favorite among party-loving Rio locals and visitors alike
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.
It might not look like much, but this unassuming hole-in-the-wall bar in Copacabana is one of the top spots in RIo to hear live music.
Tucked away on a Copacabana backstreet, the bar manages to attract some of the most skilled musicians in town, who come here for impromptu jam sessions, much to the patrons’ delight.
Laid back and relaxed, this is not the spot for a glamorous night out, but for some quality samba, forro or pagode in intimate surrounds, bip bip is the place. A word of advice – don’t talk during the musical performances if you don’t want to incur the wrath of the owner.
Recommended for Copacabana’s Best Nightlife because: This unassuming, informal bar sees top musicians gather for live jam sessions.
Lucy’s expert tip: Dress down, rather than dress to impress, if you want to fit in with the locals at this neighborhood bar.