If you’re heading to Rio for Carnival and are looking to party hard, there is one place you will soon be very familiar with – the down and dirty party district of Lapa.
While the upscale beach neighborhoods of Leblon and Ipanema are home to sleek and chic bars and restaurants that attract groomed glamourpusses and their elegant, wealthy admirers, Lapa is the place to come if you want to ditch the high heels and the aloof posturing and just indulge in some good old-fashioned debauchery (which, after all, is what Carnival is all about…)
For centuries, Lapa has been known as a hangout for ‘malandros’ (a uniquely Brazilian type of uber-smooth criminal) and has attracted a motley crew of hedonistic types and exhibitionists since time immemorial. One of the first areas of the city to be developed by Portuguese settlers, Lapa is home to some handsome colonial architecture, as well as the iconic Lapa arches – beneath which the party people gather after dark. During the 1990s and early 2000s, Lapa’s beautiful buildings were delapidated and inhabited by squatters, and few respectable people ventured here after dark.
are among the best places in the city to dance samba. But the big draw is the weekend street party that takes place close to the arches and now attracts thousands of revellers, who flock here to indulge in cheap, strong fruit cocktails and make the most of the flirtatious, inebriated atmosphere.
Be warned, however, that the combination of strong alcohol, foreign tourists and general crush and confusion means that Lapa is also prime territory for thieves and pickpockets, so do be careful when heading here on a night out – don’t take anything that can’t be replaced, and bring along a disposable camera if you want to capture the moment. Oh, and guys, don’t be tempted to take a pee under the seclusion of the arches – thieves are also fond of the opportunities that these hidden, dark spots provide. The addition of large numbers of public toilets has made partying in Lapa a little more comfortable, but bring along your own paper (and hand sanitiser, things can get a little less than pleasant as the night wears on).
There are so many street sellers in Lapa that indulging in a few drinks is both cheap and easy, but be warned that those innocent-tasting concoctions of fruit and alcohol really do pack a punch. Agree on a meeting place at the start of the night, as after a couple of drinks, the sheer number of people can make things a little confusing.
With many parties taking place here day and night throughout Carnival, prepare for some serious fun. And some serious hangovers…