Ipanema is a neighborhood that summarizes the best
Rio de Janeiro has to offer. There's a legendary
beach, a bustling nightlife, restaurants to write home
about, the most sophisticated street shopping in town, cultural
centers, museums, excellent
hotels in all price ranges...
Better yet, everything is in a
walking distance, and it's easy to find your way around.
Streets are lined up in a grid, and you have the beach and Lagoa as your references. If you had only one day in Rio, and you want
to experience the city like a local instead of a tourist, this is
the place you would be heading to.
of what is known as Ipanema today belonged to aristocrat José
Antonio Moreira Filho, the Barão de Ipanema. Ipanema means bad
water in Brazilian Indian dialect, but since the name was
inherited from the baron, it has nothing to do with our beautiful
blue sea. Once the tunnel connecting Copacabana to Botafogo was
opened, Ipanema was finally integrated to the rest of the city.
In 1894 Vila Ipanema was founded, with 19 streets
and 2 parks. The neighborhood started to grow faster
with the arrival of streetcars in 1902. Ipanema became a
household name in the 1950's and 60's - it is the birthplace of
Bossa Nova. The whole world learned about it with hit song The
Girl from Ipanema by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de
Morais, both Ipanema residents.
Since then Ipanema is always setting new trends, and what
happens here reverberates throughout the country. Take Banda
de Ipanema, for instance. What started as a celebration among
a few dozen friends ended up bringing a new life to Rio de
Janeiro's Street Carnival festivities. Today the parades attract
as many as fifteen thousand, and many other neighborhoods have
street bands of their own.
first pregnant woman in a bikini was actress Leila Diniz in the
70's, she lived on Rua Aníbal de Mendonça. The first men
sunbathing in a bikini bottom was Fernando Gabeira at Posto 9 in
the early 80's. The first topless woman (who bothered asking? -
80's), and the dental floss bikini (late 80's) are among fashion
statements that were made here first.
Ipanema has played an important cultural role in the city since
its early days. There are major art galleries, universities,
several schools, avant-garde theaters, art movie theaters,
cyber-cafés... Do not be surprised to discover a cozy café with
a web connection inside a bookshop or clothing store.
Fitness is also a big thing. Expect to run into juice shops
every other block. People going into and coming out of the many
state-of-the-art gyms. Activities offered sometimes include
capoeira, you could well walk in and give it a shot. Keep
your sunglasses on to better watch the sun-kissed girls and boys
of Ipanema go by.
When the sun sets, the fun does not end. With an assortment of
cafes, bars, and clubs there's always something happening at
night. Stroll around Praça da Paz, Baixo Farme and Baixo
Quitéria. Watch a live music performance, crash a circuit party,
sip a beer or fresh coconut under the stars at a beach kiosk. Gays
and lesbians have their own beach spot, and enjoy venues and
clubs on Rua Teixeira de Melo, Farme de Amoedo and surroundings.
This is where Ipanema starts, right at the border with Leblon. Until the 70's
this is where the streetcars turned. In the 90's the area was remodeled, and
received a gift of questionable taste. An obelisk was erected right in the
middle of busiest commercial street, coupled with a sort of an overpass that
doesn't have any practical purpose. Originally they had designed it for
pedestrians, but enraged residents of the surrounding buildings were not happy
about having peeping toms passing right out their bedroom windows.
A couple of blocks away from Bar 20, between streets Garcia D´Ávila and
Aníbal de Mendonça is Rio's Diamond Row. In addition to the Amsterdam Sauer
Museum of Gems, visit the headquarters of jewelers H. Stern to take the free
workshop tour, and see the steps in the production of a jewel. Explore Rua
Garcia D'Ávila, the most sophisticated cross-street in Ipanema. Designer
furniture, fashion, jewelers, and branches of shops like Louis Vuitton, Cartier,
and Mont Blanc are perfect for window-shopping (and a little day-dreaming).
The street, formerly known as Montenegro, always had an important role in
Ipanema. The first open air fashion shows in Brazil happened here, at Blu-Blu in
the 70's. This is where the famous Velloso Bar was located. Tom Jobim and
Vinícius supposedly composed the song Girl from Ipanema here - the lyrics were
written on a napkin, according to legend. Later Velloso would be renamed Bar
Garota de Ipanema, and the street named after Vinícius. Tom Jobim ended up as
the name of Rio's International Airport. This whole street is full of
interesting bars, shops and eateries. Do not miss Toca do Vinícius, a shop that
has everything Bossa Nova - from rare CD's to literature and memorabilia.
One of Rio's prettiest green plazas, with well-manicured lawns, a beautiful
art-deco centerpiece, small pond with ducks, and countless cast-iron statues.
The Peace Square is a haven of tranquility right on the main street. Arrive
early and take part in the tai-chi-chuan practice, watch the babies and children
arrive with their mothers and babysitters. The farmer's market on Friday morning
is another non-touristy way to enjoy the routine of locals. This square is
surrounded by excellent restaurants, nightclubs, shopping, a gym, beauty salon
for pets, you name it. Take your time and explore the surroundings, visit the
small but beautiful church, stop for a gourmet coffee, a fresh-squeezed juice,
or an unforgettable meal. You will probably come back for more later.
Unfairly considered by some the Peace Square's poor cousin, General Osório
is also a spot you do not want to miss. Its fountain, though badly in need of a
restoration, is a masterpiece by master Valentim. The hippie
fair happens here on Sundays, and this is where Banda
de Ipanema gathers for Carnival. It is surrounded by discount stores,
restaurants, supermarkets, a post office, etc. From here you have a view to the
popular community of Cantagalo, that stretches all the way to Copacabana.
This may be the most attractive commercial street in Rio - especially if you
are not a fan of hyper malls. The street is lined up with banks, bars,
restaurants, travel agencies and some of Rio's best boutiques. There are also
many specialty shops, hotels, gyms, night clubs, 24-hour bookstands,
drugstores... you will find everything could be looking for, and then some.
Basically all streets that start at Lagoa and run towards to the Beach are
worth exploring. Each one has its own characteristics and attractions. Walking
from one end to the other is a fun way to discover why people who live in
Ipanema would not consider moving elsewhere. If you have time to do only two or
three, we suggest Garcia D'Ávila, Vinícius de Morais and Farme de Amoedo.
While most of Ipanema features a healthy mix of residential and commercial
buildings, some streets running parallel to the beach are still mostly
residential. They feature a number of 4-story buildings, and many houses still
stand - despite the soaring prices of real estate. Barão de Jaguaribe,
Nascimento Silva and Redentor are good examples, with a similar profile.
Baixo is a term locals use to define areas that concentrate a number of bars
and cafes, attracting a young crowd. Baixo Quitéria is on Rua Maria Quitéria
(between streets Prudente and Visconde). Baixo Farme revolves
around Bar Bofetada on Rua Farme de Amoedo, almost at the corner of Barão da
Torre. Take a seat at one of the tables, and enjoy delicious appetizers as you
chat away. Or just grab a drink, and leaning on a car people-watching. Learn a
phrase or two in Portuguese to break the ice, and do not be shy. Talking to
strangers, making new friends and flirting are some of the reasons Baixos exist,
after all. For gays and lesbians the best alternative is Rua Teixeira de Melo,
with lounges and dance clubs.
Even if you are traveling on a budget an afternoon window-shopping in Ipanema
is always fun. It could even be considered a cultural activity, if you need any
excuses. There are too many options but if your time is short here are some
musts. Bikini boutiques like Salinas, Blue Man and Bum-Bum (they also carry bathing suits for guys). Clothing stores born in Ipanema that
became national chains: Farm, Chocolate (women), Richard's,
Wollner (men), and Company (family). Major jewelers on Rua
Visconde de Pirajá like H. Stern, Amsterdam Sauer. Signature
purses and handbags at Glorinha Paranaguá. Fashion underwear for men
at Foch. Fine leathers at Frank e Amaury. Shoes at Mariazinha (women) or Mr. Cat (men). The possibilities are really endless...
Exploring art galleries is another fun way to get an insight into the local
culture. There are two major art galleries in Ipanema you do not want to miss.
Bolsa de Arte is on Rua Prudente de Morais near Farme de Amoedo. Galeria de
Ipanema is on Aníbal de Mendonça, right on the beach block. Both feature
paintings and art objects by major Brazilian artists. The hippie
fair at General Osório Square on Sundays is great if you are looking
for naïf paintings of tourist sights, wooden sculptures, handicraft, or exotic
Although there are no mammoth malls in Ipanema, Rua Visconde de Pirajá is
lined up with commercial buildings with two or three stories with shops, beauty
salons, and the like. Forum and Ipanema 2000 are among the most sophisticated.
The upper floors are taken by private practices, offices, and lots of fashion
wholesalers. Buyers from other states are frequently seen dragging huge shopping
bags from buildings like the Visconde de Pirajá 580. You will find pieces very
similar to what the fashion boutiques below have on display, for half the price
(minus the prestigious label, of course).