By George Utley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Free entry, no closing time, and impromptu live music make Rio’s street parties, or baixos, a definitive aspect of the city’s nightlife. Another feature is taking advantage of the lack of open container laws and enjoying low-cost cans of beer while wondering through the crowds or pitching up to people-watch.
Leo Torquato, of the ministry of Culture, explains: “These parties are an integral part of Carioca culture. We love to share and socialize, and these social centers are really important in such a big city with so much empty space at night.”
By night the streets surrounding Lapa’s beautiful 18th century aqueduct spring to life, creating one of the city’s most vibrant and intoxicating nocturnal atmospheres. The archetypal blue tents which sprout up, selling everything from caipirinhas to barbecued meats, have become synonymous with Rio’s street party culture.
Tourists and locals alike gather in their thousands to get swept along on the waves of Samba beats, flavored cachaça and cheap Antarctica beer. Look out for street vendor Danilo on the corner of Rua Joaquim Silva, whose deliciously potent R$5 caipifrutas have gained him a cult following.
Pedra do Sal
Close to the docks in Centro, the “Salt Rock” is steeped in history, being the site of an old slave market, where salt was dried and used as currency for bartering. A visit to its Monday night roda de samba is an unmissable feature of Rio’s nightlife, demonstrating the link between African slavery and Brazilian music which every sambista understands. The live music finishes around midnight, ridiculously early by Carioca standards, but the party continues into the small hours. Also in the summer months leading up to Carnival the event happens each week on Fridays as well.
Praça São Salvador
Tucked away in the quiet neighborhood of Laranjeiras, Praça São Salvador is a well kept Carioca secret. A world away from the mad blur of Lapa, the picturesque bandstand plays host to local musicians. Rodas da samba happen on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, and a roda de choro every Sunday afternoon. Locals of all ages come to sit by the fountain and soak up the music, whilst the kids make good use of the small playground behind.
Located close to Rio’s most prestigious private University PUC, the Thursday night street parties at Baixo Gávea provide the cool kids with an opportunity to go out and be seen. Surrounded by excellent restaurants and, yes, even public toilets, this fashionable area attracts a more sophisticated bohemian crowd. With no regular spot for impromptu live music, Baixo Gávea is a party the hippies tend to avoid.
This small iconic after-hours dive bar in Ipanema, a short walk from the beach, is guaranteed to pull a crowd almost every night of the week with its crowd-friendly rock and roll classics. The free-to-enter bar usually gets going after 1AM and remains open til 5AM, and street vendors gather outside as the party spills into the street, blurring the lines between street drinking and actually going to a venue.