Rio is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular cities in the world, nestling between mountains and the ocean. It is known to everyone for its famous icons – Copacabana Beach, the statue of Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Mountain. But it is also a fantastic shopping destination. Not only does it have all the great international names, but also an abundance of Brazilian designer boutiques and craft shops. After all this is the land of the beautiful people!
Rio can seem like a geographically confusing city at first, but take the time to study a map properly and things will be much easier. The main districts of interest to the tourist and shopper are the Saara District of downtown, Santa Theresa, Ipanema and Copacabana.
Ipanema has most of the designer boutiques. The best ways to get around in Rio are by taxi (cheap compared to London or New York), subway, buses and on foot. The subway is an excellent way of travelling from Copacabana to downtown – it’s fast, avoiding Rio’s sometimes horrendous traffic, and cheap. Driving in Rio can be a complex business if you don’t know the city well. For example, the main beach road in Ipanema has traffic flowing one way in the morning and the other way in the afternoon!
Most small shops are open Monday to Friday from 9pm to 6pm and on Saturday from 9am to 1pm or 2pm. Sunday opening has not yet caught on and it’s very rare indeed to find any shops open on this day. One exception to this rule are the large shopping malls, which are generally open on Sundays and until 10pm during the week.
The Brazilian currency is the Real (singular) or Reais (plural). At the time of writing there are approximately R$5 to £1 and R$3 to U$D1. Major credit cards are accepted in most shops and hotels in Rio and even at some of the markets. One thing that will stand out for the shopper from other major cities is that Rio is cheap – the best advice that we can give is to come with an empty suitcase.
The Ipanema Hippie Market takes place each Sunday in the Praca General Osorio in Ipanema from around 8am to 6pm. Touristy but great fun, the hippie market has everything from good leather stalls, clothes, jewellery, local artwork and souvenirs. You can even sample some traditional Northeastern food from the Bahian stalls – just look out for the women in the wonderful white dresses and turbans. Cristiano da Silva, a young local Favela artist who also displays his work at the Hippie market. For further information on his work, call 021 2523 7843.
Babilonia Feira Hype Market
The Babilonia Feira Hype Market is very different. This is purely for the young and trendy Brazilians and you won’t see a tourist in sight. With stalls selling clothes, art and home design, you won’t be disappointed by the choice and style. Many of the most famous Brazilian designers started out here – it is a platform for new talent. The Hype Market’s location can change – sometimes it takes place in the wonderful setting of the Jockey Club or in Barra suburb – and it only takes place every other weekend (Saturday and Sunday) so it’s best to check before going. Make sure you see the funky furniture made from recycled materials from the Ondazul Foundation.
Whether the Babilonia market is taking place in the Ipanema Jockey Club or in the Barra district, why not pop in for a drink at the Academia da Cachaca. Cachaca is Brazil’s national drink – a spirit distilled from sugar cane. At the Academia da Cachaca you can sample many different types and have cachaca cocktails such as the Caipirinha made with fresh limes, the most popular in Brazil. There are also delicious variations such as with passion fruit or ginger.
There are 2 Academia da Cachacas – one in Barra da Tijuca and another in Leblon. For details see the Academia de Cachacas website
For dates & location, see the Babilonia Hype Market website
Design: Contemporaneo Moda & Design
Run by the same people as run the Babilonia Feira Hype market, it stocks pieces from the top designers in Brazil. As well as clothes, it also has an excellent home design section and exceptionally friendly staff. An absolute must!
Contemporaneo Moda & Design
Rua Visconde de Piraja, 437 – upper floor
Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
Tel & Fax – 021 2287 6204
Swimwear: Blue Man
You just have to buy a bikini whilst in Brazil (if you’re not too shy to wear it – they’re small!) and Blue Man is the perfect place to come. Famously where Bill Clinton and Sir Anthony Hopkins come to shop, Blue Man has a wide range of colourful swimwear for both men and women, at very reasonable prices.
Rua Visconde de Piraja, 351 LJ108
Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
Tel – 021 2247 4905 / 2522 8673
Jewellery: H. Stern
This is the headquarters of Brazil’s largest gem and jewellery dealer and manufacturer – and it shows. There is a fascinating tour, which shows you the process that a precious stone goes through – from being mined to being sold as a finished piece. Make sure you check out the design department where gems and traditionally Brazilian themes and ideas are combined to form outstanding pieces of artistic jewellery.
Rua Visconde de Piraja, 490
Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
Tel – 021 2259 7442
All the beautiful lacquer accessories featured in the programme were made entirely by hand using natural materials and according to complex and centuries-old traditional methods. They represent a collection of some of the finest pieces of lacquer available today. For further details, visit www.crimsoncollection.com.
Eating & Drinking Rio Scenarium
If you’re looking for somewhere to show off all the clothing and jewellery you’ve bought during your stay, look no further than the Rio Scenarium. Without doubt the most original bar in town, you’ll feel like an extra on a movie set. The bar is jammed full of bizarre and amazing artefacts from the past including a mannequin of Marilyn Monroe, a British red telephone box and some spectacular 70s furniture. Packed out every night of the week, booking is a must – try to get a table upstairs near the window for a great view of the place, or downstairs for the live bands that play.
Rua do Lavradio, 20
Rio de Janeiro
Tel – 021 3852 5516 / 2233 3239
Email: rio-scenarium *at* uol.com.br
The Confeitaria Colombo is a piece of Colonial history in the Central downtown district. Homemade pastries (both sweet and savoury) and cakes are their forte and are absolutely delicious. It is the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of downtown. Opulent and elegant, come here for a coffee or a glass of wine and sample some of the delights on offer. Alternatively, come here on a Saturday and eat their excellent Feijoada, Brazil’s national dish, in the restaurant upstairs.
Rua Goncalves Dias, 34
Centro – Rio de Janeiro
Tel – 021 2232 2300
The Casa da Feijoada is an institution in Rio. As the name suggests you can get your Feijoada here any day of the week. A relaxed atmosphere and a position in the trendy district of Ipanema make this an attractive place to come and try Brazil’s national dish.
Casa da Feijoada
Rua Prudente de Moraes 10-B
Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
Tel – 021 2523 4994 / 2247 2776
Although Copacabana is the most popular area for tourists, it can be tacky and more dangerous than other areas. Towards the top end of Ipanema Beach is Leblon, where the beach is less crowded. The Hotel Marina Palace is situated here. It has wonderful staff (most speak English), spacious rooms and is right across the road from the beach. Ask for a room with a view and that’s what you’ll get – the sweeping stretch of Leblon and Ipanema beaches straight ahead and Christ the Redeemer high up to the left.
Next-door is the Marina All Suites, owned by the same company and great if you’re after something a bit different. Rio appears to have a severe shortage of boutique hotels and a excess of large, modern ones where you could be anywhere in the world. The Marina All Suites has beautiful, individually designed rooms (and of course suites!) with the latest stereo systems and funky cool décor. This place is a real treat and has the added bonus of having one of the trendiest and tastiest restaurants in Rio on the 2nd floor – the aptly named Bar d’Hotel.
For bookings for the Hotel Marina Palace & Hotel Marina All Suites