comscore
Throbberlarge
The monkeys are working hard ...You are seconds away from an amazing list!
Regis St. Louis
Created byRegis St. Louis
A full-time travel writer since 2003, Regis has...

Samba: The Sound of Rio

Featured Guide
The simmering soundtrack of the city is samba, whose addictive beats spill out of old-school dance clubs, tiny neighborhood bars and massive Carnaval rehearsal halls. No matter what draws you to Rio — the beaches, the people, the laid-back lifestyle — no visit to the city is complete without a night or two of samba. There are dozens of ways to experience these uniquely Brazilian rhythms: whether dancing the night away in a classic gafieira (dance hall) in Lapa, heading to a samba school for late-night parties in the build-up to Carnaval, or catching samba da mesa (informal improvisational samba) played at an outdoor bar in a less touristy part of the city. 
Loading

Rio Scenarium

Probably the most photogenic nightspot in Brazil, Rio Scenarium is a sprawling three-story club packed with treasures from the past. Inside a 19th-century mansion, chandeliers, oil paintings, baroque statues, and countless other antiques set the scene for a memorable night of samba. If you've...

Beco do Rato

On a narrow alley in Lapa, well off the beaten track, this neighborhood charmer serves up high-energy samba bands to a buzzing crowd. Arrive early to grab one of the outdoor tables and catch the improvisational jams that draw sambistas from all across the city. Don't let the crumbling neighborhood...

Semente

When it comes to samba, Semente should be at the top of your list. This Lapa icon draws some of Rio's top samba singers, and the groups that perform here aren't averse to experimentation. The small attractively designed bar is better suited for listening than dancing, making it a good alternative to...

Bip Bip

One of the few great samba destinations in the Zona Sul (the southern, beachside districts of Rio), Bip Bip hosts legendary samba de mesa, informal samba played around a table. The setting is humble — just a tiny space with no seating, nor drinks apart from a fridge full of beer — but when the musicians...

Pedra do Sal

In a ramshackle neighborhood north of downtown, Pedra do Sal is a classic slice of Rio culture. In fact, it was on this spot that many credit the birthplace of samba (back in the latter half of the 19th century). Today this open-air live music event, free and open to all, features samba musicians...

Trapiche Gamboa

Although it's not in Lapa, where most of Rio's samba clubs are located, Trapiche Gamboa is well worth the effort of heading off the beaten track. This appealing club has an easy-going feel, where samba musicians gather around a long table, playing impromptu jams amid whirling couples and admiring...

Salgueiro

Beginning in September, Rio's escolas de samba (samba schools) open up their weekly rehearsals so everyone can come out and dance, while supporting their favorite schools in the process. Among Rio's many schools, Salgueiro is one of the best for foreigners. It's safe and easy enough to get to by...

Carioca da Gema

Carioca da Gema was among the first samba clubs to return to the formerly derelict neighborhood of Lapa when it opened back in 2000. Today, dozens of nightspots line the nearby streets, but this buzzing garifieira (dance club) still draws a loyal following. The warmly lit space, feel-good samba and...

Clube dos Democráticos

One of the great dancehalls of old, Clube dos Democráticus is set inside an 1867 ballroom. Follow the line up the marble staircase and enter onto a large, high-ceilinged space dominated by a massive dance floor and a long stage, where some of the city's top samba bands hold court. Most people are here...

Rio Samba Dancer

If you're new to samba, it's worth signing up for a class before heading out to the dancehalls of Lapa. Helio Ricardo runs this small school in Copacabana and he receives high marks for his crash courses that teach aspiring sambistas the basics in just one lesson. In addition to one-hour group and...