Rio is a big city by any standards. When it comes to gay nightlife options, there’s so much happening it is hard to keep up. Our suggestion for a night out is a mix that applies to most days of the week. Start with dinner, warm up at the bars and cafés, and dance until late at the clubs and parties. Venues in Rio are mixed. People of all genders, races, and orientations are welcome.
Eating Out in Rio
Dinner in Rio is served late, and most restaurants expect patrons to arrive after 7 p.m. This gives Cariocas time to go home, shower, change clothes, look and feel fresh to enjoy the gay nightlife. Of course, you may remain an early bird and dine whenever you like.
The approach to a dining experience is very personal. Some travelers love sophisticated restaurants, small portions, and a good wine selection. Others may be on a limited budget, a time constraint, or even a special diet. Gourmets, gourmands, vegans, steak lovers, there’s something for everyone.
Let’s start with the good news. Restaurants in Rio are fair-priced, especially when you convert the total to euros or dollars. Additionally, the tip is usually included in the bill, so you do not have to add that 20% extra extra, like in some cities in the USA.
Rio is a city of immigrants, and there are all sorts of international and regional cuisines to choose from. The most typical Carioca dish is the feijoada, a bean stew usually served for weekend lunch. It’s on the heavier side. Rodízios are steakhouses that operate on an all-you-can-eat basis.
Hitting the Bars
Rio has a tradition of excellent bars, a.k.a. ‘botequins’ or ‘botecos’. All Cariocas have their favorites. Areas that concentrate many bars are named ‘Baixo,’ so there’s Baixo Ipanema, Baixo Leblon, Baixo Gávea, et al.
The scene constantly changes, yet the basic formula is the same: drinks, ice-cold beer, appetizers, snacks- you know the drill. Some bars have live music, special parties, and other events.
Cariocas usually go Dutch, meaning you do not have to pick up the tab. Unless you’re inviting, of course. When you share expenses equally, the sober ones always get the short end of the stick.
Beware that ‘caipirinhas’ are sweet but may be high in alcohol. The legal drinking age in Brazil is eighteen, and they may request an ID.
The concentration of gay bars, or venues that cater mainly to the LGBTQ+ crowd, has shifted recently. Some cafés on Rua Farme de Amoedo, traditionally the gayest street in Ipanema, have closed down. As the new trends in Rio start in the summer, let’s see what’s in store for 2024!
The most bohemian district in Rio since time immemorial is Lapa, in Centro. It gathers many bars in all sizes and formats. The central location means you will run into people from other parts of town.
Botafogo is another area with traditional bars. In the 80s, Tamino pioneered as their gay neighborhood bar. In case you are wondering, Rio is too hot for a leather scene.
Consider our safety tips. Do not leave drinks unattended, don’t take strangers back to your hotel, respect the culture, etc.
Dance Clubs & Parties
Though some parties during the week start at 9 p.m. or earlier, Cariocas usually only hit the clubs after 11 or 11:30 p.m. It makes perfect sense if you take into account dinner and the bars. Some events even offer discounts when you arrive before 12 midnight.
Major parties and events are usually advertised on social networks. In many cases, you can buy tickets ahead online. This may save you from waiting in line. Lots of tickets may be discounted for early buyers.
Many special parties happen around a holiday and during the summer season. Countless venues are perfect for these events, which include pool parties and circuit parties with Brazilian and international DJs.
Since the 1960s, Rio has had a history of dance clubs that became iconic. Sótão, at Galeria Alaska, was allegedly visited by Bianca Jagger and Janis Joplin (on different occasions). La Cueva also dates back to the sixties. Teatro Alaska, once home to the all-male strip show featuring ‘Os Leopardos,’ was in the same mall.
In the eighties, Papagayo around Lagoa ruled supreme. With an outdoor patio, drag shows, great music, and a discreet location with plenty of parking space, it left nothing but good memories. In the 90s, Le Boy set the scene and eventually opened a gay sauna and pocket-sized club, La Girl.
The pioneers in the gay party scene in Rio were Val-Demente (later X-Demente) and B.I.T.C.H., an acronym for “Barbies in Total Control Here.” They imported attractions from Kevin Aviance to Jeff Stryker (don’t ask.)