Rio de Janeiro needs no introduction and it is definitely a dream destination for many travellers. However, some areas in the Marvellous City have gained their own international recognition and have become the darlings of tourists and residents. Find out what to do in Ipanema, this super cool neighbourhood, full of charm and a wonderful beach!
Located in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro and neighbouring Copacabana, Leblon and Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, Ipanema has its own identity and a style that is quite unique.
I have to confess that I only got to know everything this charming neighbourhood has to offer very recently, relative to the time I’ve spent in Rio de Janeiro.
After all, I have always lived in Barra da Tijuca, which lies in the West Zone of the city. So, I used to visit Ipanema only sporadically and as a “tourist”.
However, since April 2019 I have been splitting my time between the two regions. Thus, nowadays I can say, without any doubt, that spending long periods in this neighbourhood is a delight, as I love the countless leisure possibilities that Ipanema has to offer.
So, as a happy resident of the neighbourhood, I want to share with you some of the fascinating things Ipanema has to offer and give you the best tips to enjoy it by spending little money and having a lot of fun!
Ipanema: a little bit of its trajectory
If you enjoy the history of the Imperial Period in Brazil, you may know that the city centre was the area where the cultural and political life used to be concentrated until the end of the 19th century.
As a consequence, many of the most astonishing mansions in Rio, as well as the headquarters of those in power and some of the old theatres and cafes were located in the surroundings.
However, in 1894 José Antônio Moreira, the Count of Ipanema, founded Villa Ipanema in the region that later became known only as Ipanema, starting the real estate expansion in the region.
In the 1960s, two illustrious friends launched the neighbourhood into worldly fame, when composing “Garota de Ipanema” (The Girl from Ipanema).
The beautiful song has already been recorded by countless internationally renowned artists. Moreover, it is a hymn to the beauty and charm not only of the Girl, but of the entire neighbourhood.
Nowadays, Ipanema launches trends, defines fashion and agitates the cultural life of the city. It also offers a diversified cuisine, ranging from the most casual establishments to the most sophisticated restaurants.
In short, Ipanema offers multiple attractions for all tastes, ages and budgets in a vibrant and democratic setting that delights everyone.
Top things to do in Ipanema
It is certain that the great attraction for those who visit the neighbourhood is Praia de Ipanema (the Ipanema Beach). Nevertheless, there are many other options that do not depend – exclusively – on the weather conditions.
The neighbourhood’s festive and bohemian lifestyle does not let life fall into boredom, as there is always movement on the streets.
So, don’t worry too much about picking the ideal season to visit Ipanema, as you will find things to do in Ipanema all year long.
So, don’t worry too much about picking the ideal season to visit Ipanema, as you will find things to do in Ipanema all year long.
From early risers to night owls, no one is left optionless. For the former, leisure and sports on the sands of Ipanema are always a healthy and delicious alternative.
And for the latter, many bars and restaurants will be busy and crowded long after midnight. In addition, Ipanema also has some nightclubs. So you will never run out of things to do!
However, it is a reality that the majority of visitors won’t be able to stay more than some days in Rio. So, if that’s your case, here is a list of the unmissable experiences in Ipanema:
- Enjoy the Ipanema Beach
- Watch the sunset from the Arpoador Stone
- Take a selfie with the statue of Tom Jobim
- Visit the Hippie Fair of Ipanema
- Discover the Girl from Ipanema Park
- Enjoy the eclectic restaurants of Ipanema
- Exercise at Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon
- Visit the Cagarras Archipelago
- Eat a local snack at one of the Ipanema street markets
- Get to know Nossa Senhora da Paz Square
- Visit the parish of Our Lady of Peace
Ipanema beach is unquestionably the “cherry on the cake” of the neighbourhood, since its 2.6 km of length provides not only one of the most beautiful landscapes but also offers many types of experiences and gatherings.
The Ipanema Beach is informally “divided” into three sections or stations (“Postos” 8, 9 and 10), which end up grouping people with similar styles and interests in their sections.
It is true that the beach is really democratic and whichever the place you choose to call yours will be okay, but the truth is that beach goers end up choosing their “point” according to what gives them the biggest sense of belonging and the one where they will find the audience they want to meet.
Having said that, Posto 8, Posto 9 and Posto 10 will offer different atmospheres, for all ages, tastes and expectations.
However, along its entire length, there will be a consensus: the practice of sports. Cariocas love to get together with their friends to exercise (in fact, I truly believe this is the secret for the perfect bodies in a scenario that begs for a cold beer!).
Then, you will come across groups of friends playing “altinha*”, futevôlei**, football, frescobol** and all the variations of “bol” you can imagine.
The entire shore of Ipanema beach is also ideal for a walk, a run, or for cycling. There are even stations for bike rental in many parts of the neighbourhood.
* Altinha is a circle of people playing ball without letting it fall on the sand.
**Futevôlei or footvolley is the Brazilian version of volleyball without using hands to play. Instead, players are allowed to use their feet, chest and head to touch the ball.
*** Frescobol is a tennis-like game usually played without a net and with wooden paddles.
Located on the stretch of the beach closest to Praia do Arpoador and in a region already half bordered by the Copacabana neighbourhood – hence the name “Copanema” – Station 8 (a.k.a. Posto 8 by Cariocas*) brings together a cooler group, looking for the ideal strip of sand to make friends and flirt. Do not think, however, that there will only be young people around. All age groups are welcome!
*Cariocas is the name given to the native Brazilians born in Rio.
In the stretch from Farme de Amoedo street – more specifically between stations 8 and 9 – lies the most popular point LGBTQI + on the Rio de Janeiro coast.
On this stretch of beach, every form of love is welcome and everyone takes care of their own life, letting the rest of humanity do the same thing.
There is no way to miss it: the countless rainbow flags scattered over the stalls on the strip of sand welcome anyone who wants to enjoy the sun.
It is my favourite spot on Ipanema beach, because diversity really finds its place over there.
Posto 10 is the most elitist section of Ipanema beach, not only for its proximity to the Leblon neighbourhood but also for the location of the emblematic Country Club located at Vieira Souto Avenue (between Aníbal de Mendonça street and Henrique Dumont avenue).
It is the favourite area among the residents of this part of Ipanema, especially those who go to the beach accompanied by family and children, since the waters are calmer and the strip of sand is less crowded than those next to stations 8 and 9, which are absolutely crowded on the weekends.
During the summer, station 10 hosts a huge number of shows that take place next to the canal that divides the beaches of Ipanema and Leblon. The presentations range from classical music concerts to the most established artists of the moment.
The statue of Tom Jobim
Inaugurated in 2014, twenty years after the death of the renowned artist, the statue of Tom Jobim is located near Arpoador Beach, at the very beginning of Avenida Vieira Souto.
It is not uncommon to find some artistic and musical performances around the statue. Especially on weekends and evenings.
There is a kiosk very close to the statue, where every now and then, a musician presents himself singing the Bossa Nova songs that immortalised the singer and composer.
Girl from Ipanema Park
When you are strolling on the left hand side of the beach, a good option is to take the opportunity to visit the Girl from Ipanema Park, which is right in front of Arpoador Beach.
This park, which is part of the environmental protection area of Pontas de Copacabana and Arpoador, offers several free leisure options.
Among them, a multi-sport court, a skating rink and a bike path, which heads towards Copacabana.
Arpoador Beach is on the left corner of Ipanema Beach and the interesting thing is that it marks the “end” of the neighbourhood beach, since it is not possible to access – directly – Copacabana beach from that point.
It is also the surfers’ favourite spot, as the highest and wildest waves can be found over there.
However, the greatest charm of Arpoador beach is doubtlessly the end of the afternoon, when locals and tourists get together to enjoy the sunset.
The sunset at Arpoador Beach
Enjoying the sunset at Praia do Arpoador is a practice that emerged back in the summer of 1968/1969, when the journalist Carlos Leonam, impressed by the beauty of a sunset, decided to applaud the event.
He was immediately followed by the friends who accompanied him. Among them, some famous names from the cultural scene in Rio.
What to do in Ipanema besides going to the beach?
Well, until now I have only mentioned the leisure options that the beach provides, but Ipanema has a lot more to offer.
One of the great attractions in the neighbourhood is, without any doubts, its varied trade, which goes from the traditional street fairs to the most famous national and international luxury brands.
The sophistication of the Quadrilátero do Charme
The Quadrilátero do Charme* is the piece of Ipanema that is located between the streets Aníbal de Mendonça and Joana Angélica. This perimeter brings together great fashion names such as Hermès, Louis Vuitton, H. Stern, Sauer, Ellus, Adidas, Sobral and Gilson Martins (two Carioca brands I am absolutely passionate about!) among others.
In fact, at the Ipanema boutique of Gilson Martins, a designer born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, you can even customise your own bag. I’ve actually had the opportunity to do it and I talk about the experience in another blog post, for those who are interested.
* a group of streets in the heart of Ipanema, where the most famous and trendy shops are located.
Traditional fairs and popular trade
I just love this communal aspect of Ipanema to cater to all types of audiences. You can spend a small fortune on a product from one of the top brand stores in the Quadrilátero do Charme. Or, you may spend very little money on an item found in the traditional fairs or in popular stores.
Every Friday, at Nossa Senhora da Paz Square, for example, there is an open market with a huge variety of vegetables, fruits, fish, etc.
The traditional Hippie Fair of Ipanema, takes place at General Osório Square.
Considered the largest arts and crafts gallery in the world, the fair has been open every Sunday of the year, since 1968, attracting tourists and residents.
The Ipanema Hippie Fair is so striking in the Rio de Janeiro scene that it has already become a Cultural Heritage of the city.
You will find a huge variety of items in the dozens of stalls over there: jewellery, handicrafts, clothes, accessories, art objects, etc.
In the centre of the square, you can find very nice paintings produced by the local artists, which portray the Marvellous City and other Brazilian scenes in a fantastic profusion of colours.
The coolest thing about this fair is that the prices are absolutely affordable and you can find everything for any taste.
Gastronomy in Ipanema
Ipanema has a huge range of gastronomic options: from cafés to snack bars, from the very simple to the most refined restaurants.
For quick meals you will find several establishments, since there is an affordable alternative in practically every street corner around the neighbourhood.
You will be able to choose among big chains, such as Mc Donald’s and Subway, or even among the casual jewels of the neighbourhood like “Bar Popeye“, which is more than 50 years old (and easy to miss when passing by, but which has very loyal customers!) or Rio de Janeiro’s juice and vitamin chains, such as Big Nectar or Polis Sucos.
Alternatively, if you fancy enjoying some quality Portuguese food, you can opt for Adegão Português (on Vinícius de Moraes street), Manoel & Juaquim (on Barão da Torre street) or Mercearia da Praça (on General Osório square). However, if you like Japanese cuisine, bet on Gurumê (at Aníbal de Mendonça street).
Keep in mind, though, that these are just a few suggestions, because the real pleasure comes from venturing into the neighbourhood and choosing a charming little place to experience some of the most appreciated flavours, even for the locals.
Cultural Life in Ipanema
Ipanema does not have such an intense cultural life, when compared to those in Lapa or the city centre, for example.
Ipanema does not have such an intense cultural life, when compared to those in Lapa or the city centre, for example. Nonetheless, the neighbourhood has two cultural centres of great importance to the city, in addition to a cinema and some theatres.
Laura Alvim House of Culture
In the middle of Vieira Souto avenue – the most coveted square meter in Ipanema – and facing the beach, the former residence of doctor Álvaro Alvim has been transformed into a cultural centre.
The mansion was donated by his daughter, Laura Alvim, to serve as a cultural centre. It has an art gallery, a small museum and a movie theatre It also has a charming café.
Oi Futuro Ipanema
The elegant two-story building is located next to Praça General Osório. It has a multifunctional auditorium that can function as a theatre or cinema. In addition, it has a bar and event venues, where courses, workshops and exhibitions take place.
Despite being relatively small, the Ipanema theatre is a municipal public space with an extensive cultural and artistic agenda.
Opened in 1968 and with a capacity for 222 spectators, the theatre was an important stage for young playwrights, directors and theatrical companies from the 1970s.
Acquired by the City of Rio de Janeiro in 2012, it underwent restoration works and is currently part of the Municipal Theatre Network of the Department of Culture.
Nightlife in Ipanema
The nightlife of Ipanema owes much to the bars and restaurants, as well as a few nightclubs, such as Galeria Café and DNA Social Club.
There are numerous options of bars for snacks and a cold draft beer, among them the traditional Belmonte, Bar do Adão and Garota de Ipanema (where Tom and Vinícius wrote the famous song).
However, there are many other options, without the appeal of the big names, but with delicious delicacies and good beer, too. Honestly, the alternatives for any pocket size and taste are numerous in Ipanema.
If you want more sophisticated options, the region closest to Nossa Senhora da Paz Square (including Barão da Torre, Garcia D’Ávila, Maria Quitéria and Joana Angélica streets) is the ideal place.
In the vicinity of Praça General Osório (including Teixeira de Melo, Vinícius de Moraes and Farme de Amoedo streets), there are the most affordable options, but no less interesting.
Real fun at any time
Inarguably, Ipanema is a cosmopolitan neighbourhood that caters to any type of public.
Thus, it is able to entertain both the early riser, who appreciates the natural beauty of the beach at sunrise, and the night owl, who buys bread for breakfast after leaving the nightclub.
Its leisure possibilities are countless, since the neighbourhood offers easy access to other charms of Rio de Janeiro, such as Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon and Copacabana, for example.
In short, Ipanema is strategically located to enjoy Rio, whatever your style, budget or age. Come and enjoy all the wonders that this little piece of Rio has to offer!