Downtown Rio de Janeiro – Best Tips of Centro Rio
Downtown Rio de Janeiro is my personal favourite part of the city. The zone is full of things to see, do & eat! The area is also relatively small, so it´s possible to visit the places on foot. On this post, I will talk about the Downtown area in general, and give some good tips of places everyone should visit while staying in Rio!
Info about Downtown Rio de Janeiro
Maybe you have heard some stories about Rio´s central area, since it has a shady reputation between travellers and locals. But how is it actually like there? Is it dangerous? Safe? Something in between? Well, downtown centro area is full of businesses, so during working hours (weekdays around 9am – 6pm, saturdays 9am – 2pm) it is full of people. And a good rule is, when there is a lot of people, the area is safe for you as well. Outside business hours you´re not going to find anything open and the streets are empty.
Central area of Rio is the zone full of history and colonial buildings that hide fascinating stories behind. To hear these stories, join us to a Rio Free Walking Tour of Downtown and Lapa . You will learn about Rio´s rich history and Brazilian culture, and have a better understanding of your surroundings. We meet at Carioca metro station, exit letter C and you will find us on a red t-shirt (From Monday to Saturday at 10:30)!
Culture in Centro Downtown Rio de Janeiro
The zone is packed with musems, libraries, theaters and exhibition centers. Many of these attractions are either free, or charge a small entrance, so they fit to any budget! Majority of museums in Rio also offer free entrance for public once a week, normally Tuesdays or Sundays!
Cinelândia is Rio’s biggest concentration of cultural attractions. This is the square where the Fine Arts Museum, the wonderful Municipal Theater and National Library are located.
If you like theater or alternative movies, head to Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (website in Portuguese) or easier CCBB. It´s actually one of the most visited cultural exhibition centers of the world! The plays and movies cost something between R$5 to R$15, and the exhibitions are free of charge.
Another, less known but definitely worth a visit, attraction is Caixa Cultural. They show a great variety of independent movies, exhibit art and sometimes host live music events!
The Royal Portuguese Gabinet of Reading, is a must-see for everyone who likes to read. A library from the 19th century contains the largest collection of Portuguese literature outside of Portugal. Besides books, you can observe cultural items like Portuguese paintings. Did I mention the magnificent neo-gothic architechture style of the building? The library was considered the 4th most beautiful of the world!
Only have time for one museum in Rio de Janeiro? My recommendation is the National History Museum. The museum is inside of an old fortress, located close by the XV Square, on the shore of Guanabara Bay. The long-time exhibition explains the history of Brasil since indigenous tribes until nowadays. You will learn about the Portuguese colonialists, and the development of Brazilian society. The Museum also hosts temporarily changing exhibitions.
Shopping in Rio Downtown
Thinking about souvenirs? Or something for yourself? Which are the best places in centro downtown to shop? Rio´s center zone has several either temporary or permanent street markets, that sell for example artesanians, clothes, antiques and electronics. Check out these markets below:
The Market of Antiques is set up every Saturday on XV Square. Every week the collectors of antique items gather here to sell all kinds of interesting old stuff. You can find books, film cameras, home decorations, clothes, shoes, pocket clocks, furniture…pretty much anything that is old!
Lavradio Market is only organized the first Saturday of each month. So if you´re lucky enough to be in Rio during first weekend of a month, don´t miss this! Lavradio is a street in Lapa, where you will find traditional restaurants, art galleries and design shops. During the event, the street is closed for traffic and is only accessible for pedestrians. In this market you can find good quality art and handicrafts, independent clothing brands, vintage items, traditional brazilian music instruments…Lavradio Market is also very important gastronomical and cultural event. Samba and capoeira shows, local bands performing and little food stalls.
SAARA Market is something very different from the ones mentioned above. First of all, it´s open everyday between Moday and Saturday, so you´re more flexible to visit. The market is located by the metro stop “Uruguaiana” and is divided in to different blocks, that are all focused on selling different items. In Saara, you can find pretty much anything you can imagine for a cheap price. Go here if you´re looking for Havaianas, beach clothing, little souvenirs, electronics, fake branded clothes or carnaval costumes, you name it!
Gastronomy of Rio’s Downtown
Brazil is an enormous country, and the culinary varies a lot in different parts of it. Rio is a melting pot of cultures and habits, which mirrors to gastronomical variety as well. I listed here a few things that I recommend you to try while in Rio!
Friends of street food, and especially spicy street food, attention! Acarajé is a famous snack which is from the state of Bahia, North-East Brazil. Looks like a hamburguer, but the mass is made out of smashed beans, and fried in palm oil. Then add chili, dry shrimps and vatapá. Wait what? Vatapá? Yes, Vatapá is a spicy sauce made out of ginger, garlic, tomatoes, chillies, corn flour and cashew nuts. The best Acarajé of Rio, in my opinion, is sold in a white tent on Carioca Square (in Downtown Rio de Janeiro). It is called Acarajé da Cida, you can find them from Monday to Friday around 11AM to 7PM.
Don´t know exactly to eat? Head to one of the”per kilo buffet” restaurants. The idea is grab food from buffet to your plate, then weigh it to discover the price. Prices vary between R$30 to R$60 per kilo. These buffets have great variety of food, and are a good option for vegetarians. These buffets are normally open only during lunch time, and you can find them everywhere around downtown Rio de Janeiro! We also take you to a nice (and cheap) kilo at the end of Downtown & Lapa free walking tour.