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Lapa RJ Travel Guide

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Gangsters, musicians and samba composers, pimps, prostitutes and poets. Those and assorted other hipsters populate the neighborhood of Lapa and drive Rio de Janeiro's lively bohemian culture.

In the 1930s, famous figures such as composer Noel Rosa and former outlaw and drag performer Madame Satã frequented the area, which owes its name to the mid-18th-century church Igreja Nossa Senhora do Carmo da Lapa do Desterro, in Largo da Lapa square.

After a period of decline, the area has made a comeback, with music venues, bars, and taverns that cat cater to varied clienteles with the sounds of samba, choro, and MPB (popular Brazilian music).

Avenida Mem de Sá has several houses that offer excellent music, chope (draft beer), and snacks.

Besides nightlife, the neighborhood's main historical attractions are concentrated around Largo da Lapa and on Rua dos Arcos, Rua do Passeio, and Rua do Lavradio.

You can get to Lapa by car or bus along Avenida Mem de Sá, Avenida República do Paraguai, and Avenida Augusto Severo.

Map of Lapa

Map of Lapa in Rio de Janeiro


Most of the almost 300-yard-Iong Aqueduto cia Carioca, also known as Arcos da Lapa (Lapa Arches), was built during the first half of the 18th century.

To solve the city's chronic water supply problem, the aqueduct connected the Carioca River to the hills of Santa Teresa and Santo Antonio, bringing water from the Carioca River to a large public fountain in the Largo da Carioca (Carioca Square).

The Count of Bobadela oversaw its completion in the 1750s, when he was governor of Rio de Janeiro.

In 1896 it became a viaduct for Carioca Curvelo streetcars, offering visitors a bird's-eye view of Largo da Lapa (Lapa Square), where many cultural events are held. Largo da Lapa, Centro.


Many seminal events in the recent history of Brazilian pop music have taken place at the Circo Voador. In 1980s Brazilian rock legends Barão Vermelho, Blitz, Legião Urbana, and Kid Abelha all debuted here and like Regina Casé and Luis Fernando Guimarães performed here.

In the 1990s it was an obligatory stop for bands and musicians such as Planet Hemp, O Rappa, Cidade Negra, Chico Science and Lenine.

Its stage has launched theatre groups such as Intrépida Trupe and Teatro do Anonimos and hosted dance performances by Carlinhos de Jesus, Jayme Arocha and Déborah Colker.

It reopened in 2004 after an eight year hiatus and renovation.

Some traditional events are still held here, including the dance Domingueira Voadora on Sundays, and the Cine-Circo short film screenings. See  for program details (in Portuguese). Rua dos Arcos, Lapa.


The large cultural center located next to Circo Voador, with seating for 5,000, is pivotal in the Brazilian music world.

It features an eclectic program of shows in its enormous arena that includes a stage, dance floor, and stadium seating. During Carnival, thousands of people come to watch the rehearsals of the Monobloco samba group.

The center also offers a range of workshops and serves as the headquarters for companies such as Intrépida Trupe, Teatro do Anonimo, and Vídeo fundiҫão.

Installed in an old oven factory that was once saved from demolition by public protest, it has two floors with spaces of different sizes and styles, and four small theatres. It also hosts parties and fairs, and has served as a film set. Rua dos Arcos, 24, Lapa.


Teatro Odisséia inhabits mansion built in 1907 and features one of the most diverse lineup of shows and music in Rio de Janeiro.

It hosts both new performers and established groups and singers.

Some shows (rock, pop, baião, samba, coco, and fórro, etc.) are held on the first floor, where there is a dance floor.

There is a mezzanine on the second floor with tables and chairs for less participatory performances. A space for exhibitions and theatrical performances occupies the third floor.

There are also parties with Carnival and maracatu groups or DJs.

The house menu includes bar food with an innovative twist rolinhos de moranga e carne seca (shredded beef and pumpkin rolls), served with curd cheese and mango chutney. Avenida Mem de Sá, 66, Lapa.


Rua do Lavradio, a street with many antique shops, hosts the monthly Rio Antigo Fair, which offers a vast array of furniture, decorative items, paintings, old carpets, and other curios.

Music and dance performances, as well as photo exhibits, pepper the event. Visitors can also appreciate the beautiful faҫades on the meet's houses, many of which are now bars and restaurants. The street was once a popular meeting place for politicians and artists. Rua do Lavradio, Centro.


The Lapa branch of the Image and Sound Museum (there is another in Praҫa Rui Barbosa 18) houses the museum's administration section and the sound collections available for research.

Highlights include rare recordings collected by MPB (popular Brazilian music) researcher Lúcio Rangel, archives of the Radio Nacional and the Musician Jacob do Bandolim Collection (the country's most important private collection on the history of chora).

The Música Popular Brasileira (MPB) Collection includes works by Chiquinha Gonzaga, Noel Rosa, Ari Barroso, Pixinguinha, João Gilberto, Tom Jobim, and Nara Leão.

The pioneering Depoimentos Collection comprises spoken word recordings of the stories of personalities from the arts, science and technology, radio, sports, politics, and Afro-Brazilian religions.

The recently renovated museum's material is currently being digitalized, and a new exhibition space has been added for the Radio Nacional material. Guided tours and research support are available but must be booked in advance. Rua Visconde de Maranguape, 15, Lapa.


At the end of Rua Teotonio Regadas (behind Sala Cecília Meireles), a beautiful set of stairs Selarón Stairs connects the neighborhoods of Lapa and Santa Teresa.

Stunning mosaics of colorful tiles cover the stairs. Brazil based Chilean artist Jorge Selarón, who brought the tiles from different countries, has been working on the project since 1994. Rua Teotonio Regadas, Lapa.


Cecilia Meireles Music Hall boasts the best acoustics among all of Rio's chamber music halls.

The 1896 building was originally intended to be a confectionery, then later housed the famous Grande Hotel da Lapa and, in 1948, the Cine Colonial, a film house.

In 1965, when the Brazilian Academy of letters bestowed the Machado de Assís Award upon Cecília Meireles, the venue was inaugurated as a music hall bearing her name.

It has been hosting some of Rio's best classical music ever since. It commands a view of Rodolfo Bernardelli's iron and granite Lampadário Monumental in Largo da Lapa; the monument is one of the neighborhood's landmarks.

A number of renovations have improved the space over the years, adding the Auditório Guiomar Novaes, which hosts concerts by young artists, and the Espaҫo Ayres de Andrade, for small receptions. Largo da Lapa, 47, Centro.


Dom João VI donated an 18th-century chapel and seminar to Carmelite monks, who rebuilt the church in 1827 and renamed it Nossa Senhora do Carmo da Lapa do Desterro Church.

Mestre Valentim sculpted the throne of the statue of Our Lady of Carmel inside, along with statues of the apostles.

Surrounding these works are other treasures, such as canvases believed to have been painted by João de Souza. Next door is the Capela do Divino Espirito Santo chapel, dating from 1773. Largo da Lapa, Centro.


Brazil's oldest and most traditional music school, University of Rio de Janeiro Music School, occupies a 1922 building with unusual architecture.

Framed by the Passeio Público Garden, and within view of the Arcos da Lapa Aqueduct, the building has three halls that host concerts and musical performances from a variety of genres.

The Leopoldo Miguez hall, which was inspired by the Salle Gaveau in Paris, is the largest. It holds up to six hundred spectators in addition to a 1950s Italian organ with 5,000 tubes.

The other halls - Sala Henrique Oswaldo and Sala da Congregaҫão - each seat a hundred. Rua do Passeio, 98, Centro.


In 1783, Governor Luís de Vasconcelos e Sousa commissioned this garden near the Largo da Lapa over a landfilled marsh.

According to legend, he did it to please a beautiful woman who lived nearby. It was the first leisure area open to the public in Rio and Mestre Valentim designed it, although it was redone in the 1860s by landscaper Auguste Glaziou, who introduced winding paths interspersed with lakes and small bridges.

Over time, storms, demolitions, and other construction work have disfigured the garden, leaving only the old gate, the alligator fountain and pyramids by Mestre Valentim, a lead sculpture of child by an unknown artist, and the winding paths. This area is not well policed and should only be visited in groups or with a guide. Rua do Passeio, Centro.


The bars that occupy Lapa's narrow old houses on Avenida Mem de Sá and Rua do Lavradio, host choro, MPB (popular Brazilian music), and samba shows - often several on the same night.

The bohemian atmosphere is complemented by the ice-cold chope (draft beer) and lively dancing.

Saturday nights on Avenida Mem de Sá are very busy, and the queues and ebullient crowds spill out into the streets. Book in advance if you can and arrive early, especially if you want a table.


Located under the Arcos da Lapa, this little bar draws top musicians such as Ronaldo do Bandolim, Márcio Bahia, and Yamandu Costa, who play on weeknights after midnight.

The menu is modest. Its products are all made at Landless Peasants' Movement (or "MST") settlements.

It carries beer produced in the hills behind Rio (Itaipava) and a soft drink made in the interior of the state (Mineirinho), but doesn't serve many oft he country's big-brand soft drinks or beers. Rua Joaquim Silva, 138, Lapa.


Singer and cultural producer Luciane Menezes created this venue to showcase Brazilian popular culture, focusing on ciranda, jongo, boi, coco, maracatu, forró, samba, and choro.

The second floor is reserved for DJs, who play Brazilian music. The menu includes a selection of snacks and draft beer. Dance workshops are also held here.
Avenida Mem de Sá, 61, Lapa.


Housed in a magnificent 1898 mansion, Estrela da Lapa opened in 2005. Architect João Pedro Bailly restored the heritage-listed building, harmoniously combining old and new elements, including old German tiles and art nouveau counters.

Its spaces (bar, dance floor, and pavilions) host different kinds of music, such as samba, MPB, jazz, and blues.

The menu offers appetizers and innovative new versions of traditional regional dishes. Avenida Mem de Sá, 69, Lapa.


After opening in 2000, Carioca da Gema quickly became one of the main venues on Rio's bohemian circuit, thanks to its excellent musical program, which features top samba and choro musicians.

The menu offers some Brazilian classics, such as the tasty caldinho de feijão (bean broth), and carne seca (seasoned, shredded beet).

The decor is simple and friendly and there are photographs scattered throughout the premises of favored patrons, including some famous personages. Avenida Mem de Sá, 79, Lapa.


Brazilian show-business legends such as Carmen Miranda, Donga, Pixinguinha, and Villa-Lobos performed here in music nights organized by the previous owner, choro musician João

Pernambuco. Reopened in 2001 after renovations that restored the building's original features, Sacrilégio is still one of the best places in Rio to hear samba and chorro. Tributes to the greats of Brazilian music comprise the backbone of the extremely danceable program, as well as performances by top samba musicians and groups. Avenida Mem de Sá, 81, Lapa.


This hundred-yea r-old bar has always sat in an old two-story house on the corner. It serves some of the best chope in town and traditional German food.

The main room has high ceilings and antique furniture, including a beautiful bronze keg. Avenida Mem de Sá, Lapa.


This traditional restaurant stays open well into the wee hours, and is a meeting place for musicians, artists, and journalists at the end of the night.

Nicknamed Capelinha (Little Chapel), it was inaugurated in 1923, but its original location was later demolished and it reopened at its current address in 1969. The house meets every standard for a great tavern, with good service, tasty snacks, cold chope and a relaxed atmosphere. It serves such dishes as cabrito (kid goat) with broccoli rice. Avenida Mem de Sá, 96, Lapa.


This samba club was established in 1867 and is based in a beautiful, if not terribly comfortable, heritage-listed 1930 art deco-style house. Regulars pack in for the excellent samba, gafieira, and forró nights. The club fills up quickly, spawning a huge queue outside, so arrive early to get a table. Rua Riachuelo, 91, Lapa


Housed in a three-story building, this popular venue receives approximately 2,000 people each weekend. They flock to hear top samba, chorro, and gafieira groups and much on a variety of snacks and Brazilian dishes. The house also functions as an antique shop during the day, with nearly 10,000 pieces for sale or lease. At night, the antiques form part of the ever-changing decor, adding a unique charm to the place.

For samba and chorro lovers, greats such as WaIter Alfaiate, Luis Carlos da Vila, and the Henrique Cazes Quartet perform here on a regular basis. Early on Tuesday nights there are chorillho, MPB, and samba shows, while Saturdays bring everything from forro e maracatu. Rua do Lavradio, 20, Lapa.


Housed in an early-19th –century mansion, one of Rio's most complete cachaҫa bars offers over 100 labels of Brazil's traditional white rum from all over the country. To accompany the cachaҫa, order caranguejos (crabs, which can be chosen from a tank) or some of the house's other famed seafood dishes, such as bobó de camarão, moqueca capixaba or moqueca baiana (Bahian-style stews). Head upstairs to enjoy samba, chorro and gafieira music. Rua do Lavradio, 23, Centro.

Lapa travel guide and tourism information such as festivals, maps, activities and attractions in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Brazil Travel Guide

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