- Download our Moving to Rio de Janeiro Guide (PDF)
The lifestyle in Rio de Janeiro is vibrant and bustling as the city claims its place as Brazil's entertainment capital. Rio de Janeiro is an ethnically and culturally diverse city with plenty of shopping, eating out and nightlife options. Expats moving to Rio will find that Cariocas work hard, but they also take plenty of time out to enjoy the sweeter things in life.
Shopping in Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is a dream come true for shopaholics. From large American-style malls to Bohemian shopping districts and flea markets, Rio has something to fit the needs and budget of any shopper.
The malls in Rio offer many world-famous brands, as well as cinemas and food courts, making them perfect for family outings. On the other hand, boutique shops like Constança Basto sell high-fashion items. The affluent Zona Sul offers many famous international brands and glitzy boutiques. The Zona Oeste is a shopper's dream, with several large malls scattered across the district.
Those who want to avoid malls will discover that the city also offers a few markets worth visiting. Rua Lavradio in Lapa and Feira do Rio Antigo markets are great options for antique, art, and music lovers, while Feira de Sao Cristovão offers stalls selling food, drinks and household products.
Centro offers a more eclectic mix of old and new, with a variety of clothing, book and antique stores on offer.
Eating out in Rio de Janeiro
From fast-food joints to five-star establishments, Rio de Janeiro's vibrant restaurant scene has something to offer everyone. With wide stretches of beachside restaurants, al fresco dining is popular in Rio. This is particularly evident in Copacabana, Ipanema and Barra, which are home to some of the best restaurants and snack bars in Rio.
Brazilians typically eat a light breakfast. Pao de queijo, a stuffed bread roll made from tapioca flour and filled with melted cheese, is a popular breakfast food that can be found across the city. Lunch and dinner are usually heavier meals that are eaten with the family. Feijoada, a bean and pork stew, is the best-known regional dish from Rio de Janeiro. The city also has several restaurants that offer international cuisine from countries such as France, Japan, Lebanon and Argentina, among others.
A 10 percent gratuity (gorjeta) is automatically included on the bill. There is therefore no need to tip any further than that amount.
Entertainment and nightlife in Rio de Janeiro
Cariocas are famous for their love of partying, and Rio certainly offers a diverse and electrifying nightlife. Popular nightlife spots are spread out across the city. Ipanema and Leblon are two popular tourist hubs in Rio and have some of the city's most famous nightlife. Lapa is also a trendy nightlife spot that attracts the young crowd, thanks to its variety of clubs, bars and restaurants and a diverse range of music and dance styles to choose from. Barra da Tijuca in the Zona Oeste also has many interesting restaurants and bars to explore.
Rio is the home of samba, and many clubs offer live music and samba dance classes. There are also many samba schools across the city offering lessons. Learning this traditional style of dance is a great way for expats to immerse themselves in Brazilian culture.
Brazilians are not known for their punctuality, and meeting times are often loose arrangements. The party can start early, but it's also not unusual to eat dinner at 10pm and then head out to dance after midnight.
Sports and outdoor activities in Rio de Janeiro
With some of the most stunning beaches and landscapes in the world right on their doorstep, Cariocas always find time to enjoy some fun in the sun. Locals enjoy an active lifestyle and spend much of their time outdoors enjoying leisure activities, including cycling, jogging and beach volleyball.
Brazilians love football (soccer) and enjoy meeting with friends and family to watch their favourite team play. The city is home to the Maracanã Stadium, one of the world's largest football stadiums. Watching a live game here is always a thrilling experience.
Cycling is a popular activity in Rio, particularly along the beachfront. The city has worked to encourage cyclists by building an extensive network of dedicated bike lanes.
See and do in Rio de Janeiro
Expats living in Rio de Janeiro will discover a wealth of things to see and do. The city's abundance of natural splendour and man-made wonders puts expats in a perfect position to enjoy all sorts of attractions, from beaches and restaurants to mountains and iconic statues. Below are some of the best attractions in Rio de Janeiro.
Christ the Redeemer
Undoubtedly one of Brazil's most famous landmarks, the towering statue of Christ the Redeemer was proclaimed one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. Thanks to the statue's mountaintop position, its silhouette can be seen throughout most of the city. Nevertheless, it's well worth the trip up Corcovado Mountain to experience the true scale of this awe-inspiring statue up close.
The magnificent panoramic views from atop Sugarloaf Mountain are unrivalled. Glass-walled cable cars transport visitors to the peak of Sugarloaf Mountain every 20 minutes. Although the ascent takes just three minutes, the cable car ride alone affords gorgeous views of the city.
Copacabana and Ipanema
Copacabana Beach is one of the world's best and most beautiful beaches. A promenade runs alongside the glittering white sand, which is lined with restaurants, bars and nightclubs waiting to be explored. There is also an annual New Year's Eve party that promises a spectacular night of fireworks and concerts.
Meanwhile, Ipanema is the place to see and be seen, well known as a playground for the rich and famous. One of the wealthiest areas in all of Rio, Ipanema's beach is an excellent spot for surfing and lounging in the sun.
The Maracanã Stadium has a capacity of just above 78,000 and is one of the best ways to experience Brazilian sports culture. Local football teams regularly play matches at this stadium. It has also played host to worldwide events, including Olympic and FIFA World Cup events.
Also known as the Selarón Steps, this staircase of more than 200 steps is covered in tiles, mirrors and ceramics of blue, green and yellow to create a mosaic effect. Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón created the mosaic and considered it his tribute to the Brazilian people.
Rio's botanical gardens are a refreshing respite from bustling city life. Nature lovers will enjoy being among the thousands of different plant and tree species in the garden. There are also more than 140 species of birds, most of which are familiar with humans and can be observed at close range.
What's On in Rio de Janeiro
With a vibrant and colourful population that loves to party and a city credited as the 'carnival capital of the world', Rio de Janeiro offers plenty of exciting annual festivals and events for expats to enjoy.
By far the most well-known and largest event in the city, and indeed in the country, is the Rio Carnival which attracts 2 million attendees per day. The event takes place over the four days before Lent and sees thousands of dancers and performers on floats paraded through the streets of Rio with live music and voracious partying.
June Bonfire Festival (June)
The June Bonfire Festival (known locally as Festa Junina) is a traditional festival to honour St John. Celebrations are held in churches and city squares and are marked by the lighting of bonfires and people dancing, singing and playing games.
Rio de Janeiro Marathon (June)
This annual marathon through the streets of Rio attracts thousands of participants and their supporters. Cheered on by sideline spectators, runners get to enjoy what is widely known as one of the most beautiful marathons in the world, set alongside beaches and mountains.
Independence Day (September)
Brazilians celebrate their country's independence from Portugal with much fanfare on 7 September. The day is a public holiday, and parades are held on Rio's streets, culminating in fireworks displays in the evening. It's a time for the locals to celebrate their country and demonstrate their patriotism by hoisting Brazilian flags throughout the city.
Gay Pride March (September/October)
Rio de Janeiro's Gay Pride March takes place along Copacabana Beach. Visitors will experience an atmosphere similar to Carnival. On this day, the city is filled with music and samba. Parade-goers dance and celebrate until the early hours of the next day each year. There are also mini parades that take place simultaneously in other areas and suburbs of Rio.
New Year's Eve Celebrations (December/January)
The famous Copacabana Beach plays host to New Year's Eve celebrations each year. The city comes alive with concerts, parties and lights, not to mention a huge fireworks display on the beach.
►Learn more about finding the perfect home in the city in Accommodation in Rio de Janeiro
"I love the outdoor lifestyle here; you’re always close to nature. I love to get away from the noise and craziness of the city and head to Pedra da Gavea or Tijuca forest." Irish expat Niamh tells us about life in Rio in her expat interview.
"The fruits and juices here are spectacular. Go to a juice bar (located at seemingly every block in the city) and order something unfamiliar. You’ll taste flavours you didn’t know existed. I recommend açai na tigela batido com banana." Read American Elliot's expat interview to learn more about his time in Rio.
Are you an expat living in Rio de Janeiro?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Rio de Janeiro. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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