Rio de Janeiro — my address book

January 2023

I don’t consider myself an expert on Rio de Janeiro. I’ve been there three times over ten years, both for work and leisure, and each time only got a glimpse of this massive metropolis. But I was lucky enough to be guided by locals who showed me their favourite places, away from major landmarks. And I also discovered a few spots during long walks through the Zona Sul (Rio’s south side) which have since become some of my personal favourites.

It can be hard to find reliable resources online while planning a trip to Rio. While the city attracted massive attention in the leadup to the 2016 Olympics, most travel guides haven’t been updated since then, and online blogs mostly cover tourist hotspots anyway. This is why I’ve decided to list my favourite addresses for those who may want to explore the city beyond its major landmarks. This resource is not exhaustive—this is just how I like to spend time whenever I get the chance to visit.

The view from Parque Eduardo Guinle in Laranjeiras

The basics

Here’s something about me: I don’t like the beach. I hate sand and catching sunburns, no matter how careful I am about applying sunscreen. And so, while I appreciate hanging out around Copacabana and Ipanema—especially to catch the sunset at Arpoador—I always stay in Glória, a middle-class neighbourhood bustling with street life, juice bars and botecos (local bars.) From there, I can easily catch the subway or walk to must-see areas like Santa Teresa, Centro, Flamengo, Laranjeiras and the beach.

I speak Portuguese fluently and that’s helped tremendously, as many Cariocas don’t speak English. Learning some basics, including how to order food or get your groceries, will save you time and avoid frustration. As for when is the best time to visit, I think each season has its pros and cons. Local summer is when the Carnaval takes place, but the temperature is at its highest (walking up those hills on a scorching, humid day takes a toll) while winter and mid-season can get unpredictably rainy. You just need to be ready to adjust your schedule based on the whims of the weather.

Near the Pedra do Sal in the Saúde neighbourhood


Museu de arte do Rio
Praça Mauá, 5 - Centro
Great exhibitions featuring Brazilian artists or tackling complex topics related to Brazil’s history.

Museu do Amanhã
Praça Mauá, 1 - Centro
Science museum designed by Santiago Calatrava, showcasing multiple exhibitions exploring the future.

Instituto Moreira Salles (IMS)
R. Marquês de São Vicente, 476 - Gávea
Contemporary art centre featuring exhibitions, films and live shows. Closed for renovations starting in April 2023.

Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB)
R. Primeiro de Março, 66 - Centro
Cultural centre showing free exhibitions by local and international artists. Open late – great afterwork activity. The building houses an interesting, yet overpriced gift store.

Museu da Chácara do Céu
R. Murtinho Nobre, 93 - Santa Teresa
Located in a modernist house designed by Wladimir Alves de Souza, the museum holds temporary exhibitions and showcases a collection of artworks, rare books, furniture and decorative pieces.

Parque das Ruinas
R. Murtinho Nobre, 169 - Santa Teresa
Both a public park and a cultural center, the Parque das Ruinas holds live concerts and art performances, and offers a stunning view of the Centro and the Guanabara Bay. It’s built on the ruins of an old mansion.

Inside the CCBB


Among the first things on my list when I get in town is to get some fresh juice at one of the many juice bars. Make sure to order com pouco açúcar (with a little bit of sugar) otherwise your glucose levels will jump sky-high. Many tourists don’t know that you can order a mix of several fruits, but you can definitely have fun experimenting. Next on the list is to get some real açaí na tigela. Careful here as most juice bars will only serve some version of this delicacy from the state of Pará. The original dish should be served in a bowl with your choice of toppings, and have an extra creamy texture.

Confeitaria Colombo
R. Gonçalves Dias, 32 - Centro
Historic confeitaria (coffee house) founded in 1894, with old-school service and incredible decor.

Casa Cavé
R. Sete de Setembro, 133 - Centro
Rio’s oldest confeitaria, famous for its ice creams and pastries.

Adega Flor de Coimbra
R. Teotônio Regadas, 34 - Centro
Old-school Portuguese restaurant located right by the famous Escadaria Selarón and serving simple, fulfilling meals.

Casa Omolokum
R. Tia Ciata, 51 - Saúde
Located up the stairs from the historic Pedra do Sal, Casa Omolokum serves generous Afro-Brazilian dishes, often with live music.

Bar do Mineiro
R. Paschoal Carlos Magno, 99 - Santa Teresa
Typical restaurant and bar in Santa Teresa, known for its feijoada (a traditional black bean stew with pork of beef meat and vegetables).

R. Paschoal Carlos Magno, 124 - Santa Teresa
Small food joint in Santa Teresa serving amazing paõ de queijo (cheese bread, typically consumed at breakfast) and açaí na tigela (açaí bowls).

Gregora Arte Café
R. Cândido Mendes, 98 - Glória
Definitely not a tourist destination, this friendly restaurant and café makes me feel like a local when I stay in the neighbourhood.

Various locations
New retail chain specializing in pastéis de nata (small custard tarts, originally from Portugal). They’re delicious.

Tacacá do Norte
R. Barão do Flamengo 35 R - Flamengo
Unpretentious food joint serving dishes from the state of Pará, including the city’s best açaí na tigela.

Tacacá do Norte

Casa Omolokum

Drinking and going out

Lapa is where much of Rio’s nightlife is taking place, and while it’s worth checking out, these days I’d much rather spend my evenings at a boteco. This Brazilian version of the pub typically serves a mix of tapas-like dishes (petiscos) with local beers. It’s easy to find the most popular ones–most of them extend onto the sidewalk, so you’ll spot the crowds from afar. Alternatively, you can find some live music or other type of outdoor gathering, and get yourself a drink from one of the local street vendors.

There is often no clear delineation between daytime and nighttime activities. Many restaurants also function as bars, and afternoon feiras tend to turn into block parties with live music, street food and mobile alcohol carts. Learning some classics of the Brazilian music canon is advisable, as crowds frequently break into songs when live bands are involved, and joining is so much fun.

Bar do Serginho
R. Dias de Barros, 2A - Santa Teresa
Simple yet popular neighbourhood boteco in Santa Teresa.

Britan Bar - Bar do Zé
R. Barão de Guaratiba, 49 - Glória
Hidden from the main street, not many locals know about this spot, yet it’s always packed. The place is tiny and you may need to sit on the sidewalk, but that’s how I like it.

Trapiche Gamboa
R. Sacadura Cabral, 155 - Praça Mauá
Arguably the best venue to listen to live samba music, located in a historic building in the heart of Rio’s former dockland area, where millions of enslaved people disembarked from their transatlantic voyage between the 16th and 19th centuries.

Açaí na tigela

Adega Flor de Coimbra
On the beach


I’ll let you learn about tourist hotspots from mainstream travel guides. Below is my own list of favourite ways to spend time in Rio.

Centro and Pedra do Sal
Rio’s historic centre used to have a bad rap for its high level of crime and its general state of disuse, but the situation has improved over recent years, particularly after the massive renovation project of the old port. Make sure to stop by Pedra do Sal, a historic landmark for afro-carioca culture. It hosts live samba groups most nights (avoid Mondays, which are getting too crowded).

Cemitério de São João Batista
Located on the edge of the trendy Botafogo neighbourhood, this beautiful cemetery allows you to take a break from the intensity of the city and delve into Rio’s history.

Feira da Glória
Every Sunday, this stretch of the street just seconds away from the Glória subway station neighbourhood hosts a farmer’s market with live music and street food. Once the stalls are all packed up, the street fair essentially turns into a nighttime block party. What a great way to end the weekend (another feira worth checking out is the Feira da General Glicério in Laranjeiras, taking place on Saturdays on R. Gen. Glicério).

Praça São Salvador
There’s always something going on in this square in the heart of the Flamengo neighbourhood. Just show up on a Saturday night and see what happens.

Parque Eduardo Guinle by Lucio Costa
This housing complex, completed in 1954, was built in the gardens of a neoclassical palace in the Laranjeiras neighbourhood when the site fell under government ownership. The six buildings are privately owned, but it’s possible to wander through the ground level and marvel at this lesser-known jewel of modernist architecture.

Parque Lage
This stunning palace and adjacent park nestled at the foot of the Corcovado hill now house a visual arts school and an overpriced café. Sadly the place tends to be taken over by Instagrammers and it’s become a bit more difficult to truly enjoy the space. A trail starting at the back of the palace goes all the way to the famous Christ the Redeemer statue through the Tijuca forest.

Jardim Botânico
Even though nature is always present in the city—which was literally built on a jungle—Rio’s botanical gardens are still worth a detour, especially if you’re looking for a quiet escape without leaving the Zona Sul. If you have time, stroll through the adjacent and very chic neighbourhood of Gávea and continue to Instituto Moreira Salles, where you’ll find contemporary exhibits and a cozy café (IMS is closed for renovations starting in April 2023).

Beaches of the Zona Sul
Rio is of course famous for its beaches, but there are rules to know before you go. From Leme to Copacabana, the beaches are divided by 12 postos, each of them catering to a certain demographics. Some attract families, others are popular hangout spots for favela kids. For me, Posto 9 is where it’s at (and it’s LGBTQ-friendly). That said, you do have to watch the sunset from Arpoador (Posto 7) at least once—the experience is unforgettable. You can also have a drink at one of the kiosks lining the sidewalk and enjoy the sound of crashing waves late into the evening.

Parque Eduardo Guinle by Lucio Costa
All text and photos by Flavie Halais