A local’s guide to Rio de Janeiro: 10 top tips

As a direct budget flight from London launches this week, our Brazil correspondent picks out favela feasts, samba conferences and seaside cycle rides to savour

Seaside cycling

When Rio introduced a bicycle hire strategy ( sponsored by Banco Itau ), the motorcycles were constantly broken and the organizations of the system often froze. It runs much better now, with three-gear bikes available across the city with payment plans as cheap as PS3 for three days. Seaside cycle tracks result from the Marina da Gloria through the leafy Aterro do Flamengo park, with its joggers, households, picnics, rope strolls and samba rehearsals, all the way to Urca, the Sugarloaf and Copacabana beach. From there, the beachfront lane goes on to Ipanema and Leblon. And, on Sundays, half of Rio’s waterfront road is closed to traffic, building the distinctive orange bikes a quintessentially carioca route to reach the beach. You may need help to register on the Portuguese-only site.
* bikeitau.com.br

Sidewalk fish bars

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Beer and a bite at Bar do Peixe

Cariocas , as Rio’s laconic, sociable residents are known, adore street life, eating seafood and hanging out in the no-frills streetside bars and food stalls known as pe sujo – literally,” dirty foot “. Hence the popularity of the two fish bars on a nondescript street on the edges of raucous nightlife neighbourhood Lapa, where cars pass perilously close to the chairs and tables spilling over the pavement as all human rights wanders by, and the brews are always ice-cold. Both Bar do Peixe and Bar Peixe e Cia serve delicious leao veloso seafood soup( PS2. 50) and enormous plates of fried fish, rice, salad and pirao, a sort of thickened fish gravy, for two that would feed a small family( around PS10 ).
*
Bar do Peixe, Rua Andre Cavalcanti 16 b, Lapa , open Mon-Sat 11 am- midnight, Sun 11 am-1 0pm. Bar Peixe e C ia is next door and a bit cheaper

Craft, food and music fair

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A real Brazilian flag-waver at the Feira de Sao Cristovao. Photograph: Mario Tama/ Getty Images

In a concrete stadium a 10 -minute taxi ride from Sao Cristovao station, the Feira de Sao Cristovao is a gloriously trashy smorgasbord of food, music and goods from Brazil’s north-east. On a recent Friday, a human in a leopard-print vest sang north-eastern pop to a keyboard accompaniment, while infants played football, but the fair also hosts major artists. Traditional north-eastern dishes like sun-dried beef ( carne de sol ) and mocoto , a rich and fatty meat soup, dominate the menus. Pink and blue cans of Guarana Jesus- a sickly, pink fizzy beverage- are sold next to slabs of gorgeous rapadura , a sweet made of raw sugar cane, and folk memorabilia. Cariocas also like to cram into one of the karaoke stalls for a rowdy night of singalongs.
* Campo de Sao Cristovao,
feiradesaocristovao.org.br , open Tue-Thur 10 am-6pm, free; Fri 10 am-6am, Sat 10 am-6am, Sun 10 am-8pm , PS2

Explore the old port

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A mural by Eduardo Kobra in Boulevard do Porto. Photograph: LightRocket/ Getty Images

There wasn’t much of a legacy from the 2016 Rio Olympics, but the city got one thing right when it revitalised a disintegrate port area and replaced an ugly flyover with a spacious, pedestrianised square called Praca Maua . Stroll there along Orla Conde ( AKA Boulevard Olimpico ), the quiet, waterside route from historic Praca XV, where ferries to Niteroi dock, passing a naval college and views of colonial Ilha Fiscal. With its street musicians and food trucks, the square has a peaceful, household atmosphere. Huge graffiti artworks dominate a wide, pedestrianised boulevard of warehouses off it. The futuristic Museu do Amanha ( Museum of Tomorrow) on the waterside, is a visually stunning concrete bromeliad, but its interactive scientific displays are probably not worth the hours of queuing.

Waterside art

MAR
Photograph: Marcelo Nacinovic/ Getty Images

The six-year-old MAR ( Museu de Arte do Rio) is a much smarter alternative. Visitors enter a former bus station, head up to the roof with its magnificent positions across the city, then descend into the colonial manor beside it. There’s a permanent exhibition of historic paintings and photographs of Rio landmarks, while temporary exhibitions are very difficult and expertly curated, often focusing on Brazilian contemporary art tackling prickly themes such as poverty, injustice and the slave trade that for centuries blighted this port.
* Praca Maua 5,
museudeartedorio.org.br . Closed Mondays. Free on open Tue -Sun 10 am- 5pm, free on Tue, adult PS4, concessions PS2

Favela feast

Cocktails
Bar do David

Halfway up a hill at the beginning of the Chapeu Mangueira favela and not far from Leme beach, Bar do David is one of Rio’s favourite restaurants because it has everything cariocas want: the food is excellent, the host is friendly and the late-afternoon atmosphere is relaxed and informal, with plastic chairs and tables on the street. The seafood bean stew ( feijoada de frutos de mar , PS16. 50 for two) is its trademark dish, but there’s also carioquinha – a dish of beans, sausage, rice and cabbage( PS6 ), plus prize-winning starters, such as seafood croquettes, and artisan beers.
* Ladeira Ary Barroso 66, Loja 03, Leme ,
on Facebook , open Tue-Sun 10 am-1 0pm

Street markets

Held on Sundays, from early morning to mid-afternoon, the Feira da Gloria is the biggest street market in Rio’s Zona Sul- or South Zone- and it fills the colorful neighbourhood of Gloria with noise, food and life. As you amble through the jumble of people, stallholders bellow about their wares, a human called the King of Shit sells manure, and live musicians play sweet chorinho music in an adjacent square. It’s not just a Sunday morning routine for many cariocas, it’s also the cheapest route to buy fruit, vegetables, spices, artisan cheese, household implements- even live crabs. And if snacking on tasty, deep-fried pasties and alarmingly sweet sugar cane juice isn’t enough, buy some fresh fish, head to the end of the market and pavement eatery Damasio’s Galet eria will cook it for PS3 while you enjoy the live samba combo in the bar next door.
* Damasio’s Galetaria, Av Augusto Severo 220 , +55 21 2221 1125 , Sun 8am-2pm, busiest late morning

Forest strolls

Cláudio
Claudio Coutinho trail, Praia Vermelha( Red Beach) and Guanabara Bay. Photograph: Diego Grandi/ Alamy

Languidly strolling down the Claudio Coutinho trail , it’s hard to believe you are on the edge of a metropolis of more than six million people. The paved path hugs the forested base of the Urca hill and Sugarloaf mountain, offering spectacular views of the bay beneath. With cycling and skateboards banned, the noisiest thing in earshot is the chattering monkeys- which visitors are asked not to feed. Leading off to the left near its beginning is a steep, 45 -minute hike up through the trees to the cable car point on top of Morro d a Urca . From there, you can jump on the cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf, or ride it back down.
* Praca General Tiburcio, 125, Urca, daily 6am-6pm , free ,
visit.rio

Botafogo bars

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A dish at Ceviche RJ, Botafogo. Photograph: Dantas Jr

Botafogo used to be a busy, gray neighborhood known for bad traffic and cheap rents. But in recent years, it’s become Rio’s Hoxton as new bars, clubs and restaurants have mushroomed and brought a contemporary aesthetic to a city that for years repeated the same old gastronomic formula. Ceviche RJ is a Botafogo favourite, a pavement coffeehouse serving excellent Peruvian food, such as its signature ceviche( PS5. 50) and delicious chicharrones with fish and squid( PS7. 50 ). There are artisan brews as well as cheaper brands to clean it down and an excellent salsa soundtrack. Plus it’s walking distance from Comuna , a hamburger restaurant and bar with DJs and a young, hipster crowd.
* Rua Arnaldo Quintel a 66 b, Botafogo , on Facebook , Weds-Fri noon-1 1.45 pm, Sat 1pm-midnight, Sun 1pm-11pm

Samba sessions

Renascença
Renascenca Club
It’s a hike out to Andarai for this Monday, late afternoon/ early evening samba session at the Renascenca Club, but it’s worth it for the music, the atmosphere and the acaraje , a spicy bean burger with prawns from the state of Bahia( PS3 ). This is a traditional samba da roda , in which the crowd meets around musicians seated at a long table to dance and sing along. At Monday’s traditional workers’ samba or Samba do Trabalhador ,
Moacyr Luz, a great samba composer, results a group who play with precision, panache and passion to a crowd who buy metal pails full of iced beers in a big, white-painted yard.
* Renascenca Club, Rua Barao de Sao Francisco 54, Andarai, renascencaclube.com , Mon 4pm-9. 30 pm , PS4

Getting there
Norwegian has this week launched direct flights from Gatwick to Rio from PS170 one-way or PS340 return.

Where to stay
Acommodation in Rio isn’t cheap, particularly near its famous beaches. A stylish exception is the Best Western Premier Arpoador Fashion Hotel( doubles from PS75 B& B, website in Portuguese) between Copacabana and Ipanema. Vila Gale Rio de Janeiro in Lapa( great for nightlife but take a taxi) is also a good deal, with rooms from PS60 B& B and there’s a lovely swimming pool. Thebrokebackpacker.com recently published a useful listing of 20″ amazing hostels in Rio “.

When to go
Summer in Rio( December-March) is scorching, with temperatures as high as 40 C, but it’s a fun time to be here, with the city gearing up for carnival( 21 -2 6 February 2020 ), with streets processions and parties. Even winter( June-August) is a good time to visit- as warm and pleasant as a London summer.

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