Samba Dance Clubs in Rio de Janeiro
Hear Live Music and Dance the Night Away!
The Samba Dance Clubs (Gafieiras) in Rio de Janeiro Brazil are congregated in the Bohemian district known as Lapa. Lapa is the neighborhood adjacent to Centro and is undergoing a serious music and cultural revival. The once decayed and crime ridden area has come back to life with the renovation of 19th century buildings into Samba Dance Clubs, live music venues, restaurants, and bars.
The cobbled streets of Lapa are usually quite crowded with Cariocas, tourists, and taxi cabs. Partiers spill out onto the street in front of most clubs and bars. It's a well lit area and near the Arcos do Lapa (The ancient Lapa Aqueduct. A younger crowd and street vendors dominate the scene at night.
Lapa is still a bit of a sketchy area, therefore you should stick to the main thoroughfares where people are usually present on the streets until the wee hours of the morning. Police presence is strong here and there are generally few problems. Tourists get into trouble when they venture off into the side streets, or they get drunk and let their guard down. If you are concerned about crime, you can take a taxi from your hotel directly to one of the Samba Dance Clubs of your choice. Taxis always wait at the curb in front of the clubs ready to whisk patrons home or back to their hotels in Ipanema and Copacabana.
There are a large number of Samba Dance Clubs in this area with more opening every year. You could hit a different one every night of the week if you really wanted to. The Samba Dance Halls are usually built within the walls of very old buildings that once were used as warehouses for storing goods shipped in and out of Rio.
The typical club will charge a small cover to enter and provide a ticket or drink card for each patron. Drinks and food are entered by the servers and you pay on the way out. If you lose the drink card be prepared to pay a hefty minimum charge!
Every Samba Dance Hall will have a stage for the musicians with a large dance floor in front of it. In some clubs, such as Carioca da Gema, the dance floor is essentially the entire place. Rio Scenarium has three floors with an open center area to view the band and dancing patrons below.
The Samba bands in Lapa are usually locally well known and are very accomplished. There is no doubt that the best Samba in the world is played live in Rio de Janeiro every week. Samba is often associated with Carnival and drumming and marching. The Samba played in these clubs is quite different, the bands include horns, drums, all sorts of percussion, and a small acoustic guitar known as the Cavaquinho.
The basic Samba dance steps are not hard to learn, and even if you don't learn the basics, just shuffle with your partner and the rest of the crowd and you'll fit right in. Usually the best dancing couples will gather directly in front of the stage. Tourists tend to hang back and begin to cut loose after having a few Caipirinhas (Brazil's version of the Margarita). To learn more about the dance steps, read the
Samba de Gafieira Wikipedia entry.
Our Favorite Samba Dance Clubs
Carioca da Gema
Location - Avenida Mem de Sá 79, Lapa. Tel- 55 21 2221 0043. Admission US $7. Open 7 days a week.
Gema means "egg yolk" in Brazilian Portuguese, and the Carioca or Rio native is hence the "yolk" of the Rio de Janeiro egg. Carioca da Gema is a smaller and more intimate club and was one of the first Samba Dance Clubs to open in Lapa.
The dance floor is the entire main room with the band stage at the front. There are tables which fill up fast upstairs, in the back rooms and in a small indoor/outdoor area. Servers roam the dance floor bringing drinks so you can essentially spend most of the evening dancing and resting with drinks between dances. many people dance with drink in hand.
Carioca da Gema is a laid back, unpretentious club that has fantastic bands that will play music until 3am on weekends.
For more information please visit the Carioca da Gema website.
Location - Rua do Lavradio 20, Lapa. Tel- 55 21 2221 0043. Admission US $8. Closed on Mondays.
Rio Scenarium is the largest and most famous Samba Dance Club in Rio de Janeiro and perhaps the world. Set in a large, ancient converted warehouse, the club has 3 floors and is filled with antique furniture, lamps, couches,and tables. The band plays on the ground floor in the center of the building which is open to viewing from the upper floors.
There are two shows on weekdays (starting at 7:30pm) and three shows on Fridays and Saturdays (usually starting at 10pm).
This place holds up to 2000 people and also has a nightclub attached to it where DJs spin discs to the delight of hundreds of younger party goers.
Rio Scenarium is a favorite tourist destination with many people arriving and leaving by tour booked vans from the hotels. It's a great place to spend an entire evening, as they have an extensive and pretty decent food and drink menu.
Insider's Tip - If you plan to make an evening outing here and/or are with a group of 4 or more, it's best to call ahead and make a table reservation. Rio Scenarium actually prefers guests to make a reservation, and this way you are guaranteed a table for the entire evening. Ask for a table on the 2nd or 3rd floor close to the center.
For more information please visit the Rio Scenarium website.
Location - Rua do Riachuelo 91, Lapa. Tel- 55 21 2252 4611. Admission US $5. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Democraticus is located in a 19th century mansion. Ascend to the second floor by the marble staircase, and you will find the the band playing on a long wide stage in front of a large dance floor.
If you want to see some excellent Samba dancing, then Democraticus is the place to go. Cariocas who are serious about Samba crowd the dance floor on the weekends. There are less tourists here than in other clubs, but the friendly locals will make you feel right at home.
Insider's Tip - For a great evening, first have dinner at Bar do Minheiro in Lapa and then hit Democraticus or Carioca da Gema. These 2 Samba clubs are the real deal.
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