Brazilian cuisine is famous for its use of red meat, a fact deliciously confirmed when eating out in Rio. Churrascarias (Brazilian barbeque) is a simple beef dish, normally spiced only with salt, and often accompanied with feijão com arroz (rice and beans). Other meat may end up in feijoada, a traditional stew made with black beans. Local taste runs toward oily, sweet and salty food, with a noticeable lack of spices. A popular treat is bacalhau (salted cod), which is usually imported from Norway. Good restaurants in which to look for traditional Brazilian food include Bar do Arnaudo in Santa Teresa and Brasileirinho in Ipanema.
Lunch in Rio is an adventure for those on a budget. A range of street vendors means visitors can indulge in anything from fruit and cheese bread to succulent prawns. The beach has many similar options, including oysters or shrimp tarts, and exotic drinks such as fresh coconut water out of the shell and bright purple açai juice. Bob's Burgers is a big fast food franchise which will take orders and deliver to customers right on the beach.
One popular type of Rio restaurant offers a pay-by-weight system where the customer selects food from a buffet, bringing it to the chef to be cooked. This is a great way to sample a variety of different dishes, taking as much or as little as you like, while the waiters mark your receipt. Take care to keep your receipt safe, though, as the fee for losing it is often very high. Frontera in Ipanema is a good example of this type of establishment, as is Fellini in Leblon.
Most restaurants in Rio de Janeiro are open from 11am to 4pm, and from 7pm to midnight. Some stay open all day, especially on Saturdays when people stream in from the beaches at all hours. Restaurants usually add a 10 percent service charge to the bill, but waiters will appreciate another five percent if their service has been good.
Shopping in Rio de Janeiro can be a rewarding experience for tourists on the hunt for bargains, whether they seek cheap souvenirs or designer goods. While Rio is not usually considered a major shopping destination, there are a number of shopping centres, boutiques, street stalls and markets offering a wide selection of mementos. The main shopping destinations are concentrated in areas such as Rio Sul in the city centre, but there are also several shopping districts near the beaches, including Avenida Nossa Senhora and Rua Barata Ribeiro in Copacabana, Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva in Leblon, and Rua Visconde de Pirajá in Ipanema.
Religious antiques, soapstone carvings, leather goods and gemstone jewellery are Rio's most popular souvenirs, vended by various establishments throughout the city. You can also find local gemstones carved into anything from a tiny Christ the Redeemer to shapes of toucans, jaguars and other wild figures that make for great mementos.
Good-quality beachwear and Brazilian soccer jerseys are popular, though you'll need to choose between cheap imitations at market stalls and more expensive official merchandise, typically sold at stadium shops. Rio is also the birthplace of Havaianas (flip-flops), which you'll find here in any number of styles and colours. A classic souvenir that captures the essence of Rio is music, particularly Brazil's distinctive local music. For a good selection of jazz music and books, head to the artsy Livraria da Travessa.
The gift shop at the Museu do Índio has a selection of pots, woven baskets and wooden artefacts made by indigenous tribes. Another unique keepsake is a bottle of cachaça, or sugar cane brandy, which is the most popular spirit in Brazil and brewed at Petisco da Vila. Try a sample after watching the production process at the brewery.
Good-quality local arts and crafts can be found at outdoor weekend markets, the best of which include the Hippie Fair, the Babilônia Hype Fair and the enormous Feira Nordestina São Cristóvão, which has more than 700 stalls. For flowers and food, including fruit, vegetables and cheeses, Praca General Osorio in Ipanema and Rua Domingos Ferreira in Copacabana are worth a visit.
Most items are reasonably priced, as long as you stay away from the obvious tourist traps around the major hotels. Bartering is acceptable, and visitors can often earn up to a 10 percent discount in shops if paying cash, though most shops and even some markets will accept major credit cards. Shops tend to stay open Monday to Friday from 9am to 7pm, and shopping centres stay open daily from 10am to 10pm. Sales tax is 18 percent, and there is no tax refund scheme for departing tourists in Brazil.
Home to Carnival, samba and Copacabana, it's not surprising that the nightlife in Rio de Janeiro is one of a kind, and Cariocas (Rio's residents) don't need much excuse to party. Whether visitors are looking for a relaxing bar or lounge to sip on a couple of chopps (draught beer), or in the mood for a night of dancing, Rio's got it covered.
A popular way to warm things up is to start at one of the scores of beach bars with a coconut juice or cocktail in the cooler early evening. Head off to one of Rio de Janeiro's trendy beach communities, such as Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon and explore the bars and clubs. But be warned, some of these places may not grant entry to people wearing shorts, t-shirts or flip-flops.
The clubs generally start to really heat up around midnight, so most visitors enjoy a late dinner at one of Rio's many trendy eateries or botequins (traditional Brazilian bar) before checking out the club scene at the Rio Scenarium, Comuna da Semente or Carioca da Gema. Lapa is a popular area for revellers, as is Gamba. Rio also has a vibrant gay party scene, with many bars and clubs in Copacabana and Ipanema.
Clubbing in Rio can be expensive, but a cheaper night out is possible by sticking to local beverages. Many establishments will charge patrons for drinks and entry only when they leave, so it's wise to keep track of what one spends. Most clubs have a dress code and some will only allow men when accompanied by women, while most will require an ID or passport to enter.
An alternative to clubs and bars in Rio are its famous street parties. Lapa hosts a street party every Friday and Saturday night near the aqueduct on Avenida Mem de Sá, while Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays are the best nights to head to Gávea, where you'll find music, cheap beer and many university students on the street in front of the bar Hipódromo.
Live music and dancing is an integral part of Rio culture, boasting a veritable treasure trove of samba, bossa nova, rock, MBP (Brazilian pop), blues and jazz. There's seemingly always a gig going down on any given night in Rio. A popular option is watching samba school rehearsal parties, where local drummers and dancers showcase their skills in warehouses for thousands of people. It's a great way to get a taste of the Carnival atmosphere at other times of the year.